2008 Annual Conference Review
Special thanks to the following members of the California Association of Public Information Officials (CAPIO) who contributed to the onsite conference newsletter and this article and helped staff the conference media room: Sheri Benninghoven, consultant; Ann Erdman, City of Pasadena; Margaret Magee, City of Long Beach; Tom Manheim, City of San Jose; Sheryl Musicant Stewart, City of Lakewood; Lee Peterson, City of Long Beach; John Pope, City of Long Beach; Sue Schlerf, City of Reno; and Scott Summerfield, consultant.
Approximately 2,000 city officials gathered in Long Beach from Sept. 24-27 at the 2008 League of California Cities Annual Conference and Exposition, where dozens of sessions and workshops focused on timely topics and opportunities to share solutions abounded. Attendees also toured the Expo, where more than 200 companies showcased products and services designed to help cities increase efficiency and save money. On Friday, Sept. 26, the new 2008-09 board of directors was sworn into office. On Saturday, Sept. 27, city officials gathered at the League’s Annual Business Session to vote on proposed changes and additions to League policy. The following items highlight just a few of the many speakers and presentations that made the conference a success.
Schwarzenegger Fires Up Crowd
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger fired up about 1,500 city officials on Thursday, Sept. 25, addressing issues from the state budget to redistricting. Describing the long road that led to the passage of the 2008-09 state budget, Schwarzenegger said that although Democratic and Republican legislators were at odds, neither side could come up with solutions. “They seemed casual about it,” he said, “as if there was no emergency, no deadline.”
Schwarzenegger committed to continuing to crusade for budget reform, including future financial consequences for legislators if the budget is not passed by the June 15 constitutional deadline.
He closed by urging support for Proposition 11, a November 2008 ballot measure that would grant authority for establishing electoral district boundaries to a new bipartisan commission. Describing the current process, he said, “Politicians choose the voters instead of the voters choosing politicians. There’s no competition and no incentive for performance. If an Olympic swimmer goes to the starting line but there are no other swimmers, why should he bother to try to break any records?”
Lifetime Achievement Award-Winner Harriet Miller Offers Sage Advice
Each year, the League’s past presidents recognize an individual whose contributions as a public servant have been extraordinary. This year’s honoree, Harriet Miller, exemplifies a lifetime of public service and community involvement. First elected to the Santa Barbara City Council in 1987, she was elected mayor in 1995 and served until her retirement in 2002. Miller served on the board of directors of the League of California Cities and the National League of Cities and as board president of the Institute for Local Government.
Miller chaired the committee that ultimately recommended the creation of the League’s 16 regional public affairs managers and campaigned tirelessly for the program’s adoption. These changes propelled the League forward to influence major statewide policies, especially through ballot measure advocacy.
In accepting the Past Presidents’ Lifetime Achievement Award, Miller offered the following advice to local elected officials:
- Learn to listen, and really care about your community.
- Work to understand your constituents’ problems, and try different ideas to solve them.
- Don’t carry grudges.
- Know that you will always learn more from your failures than from your successes.
- Don’t try to hog all the credit — if you do a good job, you’ll be remembered.
Cynthia McCollum Gives National Update
National League of Cities (NLC) President Cynthia McCollum reported on NLC’s legislative effort over the past year, which focused on transportation infrastructure, energy efficiency, public safety, immigration reform, housing and community development.
In response to the mortgage foreclosure crisis, NLC asked Congress to support legislation that would strengthen and stabilize America’s housing finance system by reforming the mortgage process, curbing predatory lending and providing foreclosure mitigation assistance. McCollum said, “Just before adjourning for the 2008 summer recess, Congress passed and the president signed a landmark housing finance bill intended to stabilize the housing market and bring nearly $4 billion in funds directly to cities that are hit hardest by the mortgage crisis.” While this action was overshadowed by the banking industry crisis, McCollum pointed out it was worth noting that enactment of the housing finance bill was truly a victory for NLC and cities throughout the nation. She added, “What was most remarkable about the passage of the housing bill is that it actually happened. For too long, Washington has been deadlocked in partisan fistfights, unable or unwilling to find common ground on important issues. That they broke their deadlock to actually address a real problem in our cities and towns is worth noting.”
McCollum applauded the effort and said, “There’s no such thing as a red or blue pothole, and the sewer line doesn’t care which party is in control. When we see our national leaders finally setting aside ideology and taking positive action on a crisis that demands attention, we need to recognize their actions. In the case of the housing finance bill, Americans can be proud of both sides of the aisle and both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue for coming together to get the job done.”
For more information about NLC, visit www.nlc.org.
Lessons From Lincoln for Today’s Elected Leaders
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin left annual conference attendees with a great deal to think about following her keynote address on leadership. Goodwin, whose most recent book focuses on Abraham Lincoln’s unusual and highly effective leadership style, emphasized that his management attributes can serve as a model for today’s political leaders. She outlined Lincoln’s 10 most important leadership traits:
- Listening to opposing points of view;
- Learning on the job and acknowledging mistakes;
- Sharing credit for success;
- Sharing blame for failures of subordinates;
- Knowing one’s own weaknesses;
- Channeling emotions in a positive way;
- Relaxing to replenish energy;
- Connecting with victims during crises;
- Staying true to convictions in spite of possible political fallout; and
- Communicating goals.
Goodwin also noted Lincoln’s tremendous capacity to work hard, his motivation in the face of adversity and his ability to never make permanent enemies. In fact, his Cabinet was filled with former rivals who Lincoln soon realized could help him make great strides during his presidency. Goodwin, who has closely tracked and written about many presidencies since serving as a White House intern decades ago, left no doubt that today’s leaders would do well to emulate Lincoln’s style.