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2007 Annual Conference Review League Celebrates “Cities Shaping California’s Future”

Special thanks to the following California Association of Public Information Officials members who contributed to the on-site conference newsletter and this article, and helped staff the conference media room: Ann Erdman, public information officer, Pasadena; Brad Rovanpera, public information officer, Walnut Creek; Judy Franz, retired deputy city manager, Santa Monica; Mark Mazzaferro, public information officer, Vacaville; Mike Maxfield, public information officer, Yorba Linda; Scott Summerfield, principal, SAE Communications; Sue Schlerf, assistant city manager, Reno, Nev.; and Tom Manheim, public outreach manager, San Jose.

Approximately 2,000 city officials gathered in Sacramento’s Memorial Auditorium on Wednesday, Sept. 5, for the opening general session of the League of California Cities’ 109th Annual Conference. The session included addresses by keynote speaker Mark Sanborn, League President Maria Alegria and League Executive Director Chris McKenzie.

“The conference is an opportunity to witness the fruits of our labor and the successes we’ve had working together,” Alegria said. “Cities have taken the lead in shaping California’s future and our advances have set the tone for the nation and the entire world.”

League First Vice President Jim Madaffer announced the 2007 winners of the prestigious Helen Putnam Awards, given to cities that significantly increase service levels for their communities.

Executive Director McKenzie spoke about the League’s legislative efforts this year, including work on infrastructure, housing and climate change.

Mark Sanborn, noted author of The Fred Factor: How Passion in Your Work and Life Can Turn the Ordinary into the Extraordinary, remarked in his keynote address about the defining work city officials do.

“We talk about defining moments — graduations, marriage, the birth of a child — but those are actually memorable moments,” he said. “Right now, you do the important work. Those tasks are your defining moments.”

Seattle Mayor Nickels and Attorney General Brown Address Global Warming

Thursday’s general session featured keynote speaker Greg Nickels, mayor of Seattle, and remarks by California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. Speaking to nearly 2,000 city officials, Attorney General Brown centered his comments on issues of climate change, remarking that cities can make a difference in the battle against pollution.

“I want to rally local officials on ideas they have to reduce global warming,” Brown said. “The collective strength of the League membership can make a difference.”

Nickels spoke to the crowd about challenging U.S. mayors to meet the Kyoto Protocol emission reduction targets. So far, 667 mayors have signed on, representing 73 million Americans. This includes 102 California municipalities with 14.4 million residents.

“I think this [current emphasis on global warming] is an opportunity for the United States to recognize we have a common interest in preserving the environment and get beyond partisan bickering,” Nickels said. “I salute California for leading the way.”

Sir Ken Speaks About Creativity and Innovation

The closing session took a humorous turn when Sir Kenneth Robinson, an internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity, innovation and human resources and author of the book Out Of Our Minds: Learning To Be Creative, took the podium.

While many of his comments elicited laughter from the audience, his message couldn’t have been more serious: California is suffering a crisis of human resources analogous to the world’s climate crisis.

“We’ve taken an aspect of the Earth’s resources and used them and we haven’t seen the need to use other resources as well,” said Robinson, who moved to California six years ago from his native England. “This was not done deliberately, but systematically.”

Robinson contended that the same thing has taken place in our educational system, where creativity and imagination are being suffocated out of our classrooms and schools for the sake of fiscal savings. He believes nurturing those two attributes rather than squelching them will help provide the answers to our ongoing problems.

“Stratification of the arts in education is a metaphor for this problem,” Robinson said, adding that relegating the arts, music and dance to lower levels of importance in our educational systems is stifling young minds. “We need the power of imagination if we want any chance of engaging with the future in front of us.”

That’s why cities — and those who lead them — need to remain as open to new and unique ideas as possible, Robinson said.

“Cities have to be the hubs of innovation,” he said, before sharing a story of a little girl who was drawing a picture in class one day when her teacher asked what it was.

“I’m drawing a picture of God,” the youngster replied.

“But no one knows what God looks like,” the teacher said.

“They will in a minute,” the girl responded confidently.

Robinson said that innovation needs two things to be successful: imagination and creativity.

“Imagination is the ability to bring into your mind something that is not present, and creativity is putting your imagination to work,” he said. “Innovation is the process of putting them into practice.”

And if cities expect to survive into the next millennium, their leaders must create an atmosphere of creativity where the people of those communities can generate the ideas needed for success.

“California is blazing a trail about the need for sustainable development,” Robinson said. “The state is on the move, and your role is to help California sustain its creativity and innovation.

“It’s all about groups,” he continued. “Most innovation occurs in groups. Great ideas come from great groups. And great leaders create conditions where people can flourish.”

Robinson felt the theme for this year’s conference, “Cities Shaping California’s Future,” was appropriate.

“The problem isn’t that we aim too high and fail, but that we aim too low and succeed,” he said. “California has always aimed high and it needs to continue to aim high.”

Post Receives Past Presidents’ Lifetime Achievement Award

A. Alan Post, who spent 27 years as California’s chief legislative analyst and is a founding director of the Public Policy Institute of California, was honored with the League of California Cities Past Presidents’ Lifetime Achievement Award during the closing session of the League’s annual conference in Sacramento.

Post, now 93, was working in a bank and teaching when he got the call for public service in 1946. He became California’s chief legislative analyst, and retired in 1977 after working for five governors, from Earl Warren to Jerry Brown.

“It’s been a wonderful tour of duty,” Post said. “I enjoyed the theatre of the Legislature; I loved every minute of it. It’s an honor to receive this award.”

New Board Takes Office

As part of the closing general session, the new board of directors was sworn in. Jim Madaffer, council member for the Seventh District in San Diego, was installed as president of the League for 2007–08. Madaffer served as first vice president prior to his selection as president. Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo assumed the role of first vice president, and Rolling Hills Estates Council Member Judy Mitchell joined the League’s executive committee as second vice president.

This article appears in the December 2007 issue of Western City
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