Building the League’s Momentum
As I approach the end of my term as League president, I’m reflecting on our progress as an organization in recent years. In terms of shaping statewide public policy, the League’s expanding leadership role at the ballot box is our most significant accomplishment.
Four key things have helped guide our success. First, starting in 2001, we invested in building our grassroots capacity to influence key legislation and ballot measures. Second, we formed strategic partnerships with other local government, environmental, labor and business organizations. Third, we have focused on ethical leadership, expanding the training opportunities we provide to city leaders and emphasizing the importance of ethics. And finally, by setting strategic priorities, we concentrated our efforts on a handful of things we can do well instead of trying to do many things less effectively.
In a few short years, we have worked with others to:
Protect local revenues. In partnership with Governor Schwarzenegger, we created Proposition 1A to constitutionally protect local revenues from state raids; the proposition had the highest percentage passage rate ever of any statewide ballot proposition.
Protect local land use authority. The League continuously works to defeat legislation that would reduce local authority over land use decisions.
Defeat Prop. 90. This 2006 ballot measure would have destroyed local land use laws and environmental protections.
Pass infrastructure bonds. We worked very hard to help pass the 2006 package of statewide ballot measures that provide direct and indirect funding for infrastructure projects in cities.
Defeat Prop. 98 and pass Prop. 99. In June 2008, we were part of a coalition that defeated a deceptive attempt to limit local land use powers, and our efforts helped pass Prop. 99, which provides honest eminent domain reform.
The League’s emergence as a player in the state Capitol over the past several years is a direct result of our members’ hands-on involvement. Whether the issue is a ballot measure or working to pass or defeat legislation, our members consistently support our efforts by building local coalitions, holding press conferences, participating in editorial board meetings with the press, writing letters to the editor and calling, writing and meeting with their legislators.
In the case of ballot measures, our members have worked hard on their personal time to gather signatures, recruit community groups and raise campaign funds. Our city officials and colleagues throughout the state are the key to our success — day in and day out.
Progress in 2008
Each year, our board of directors sets strategic priorities. In 2008, our priorities have focused on advocating policies that support sustainable communities, help build a strong economy, protect our environment and advance social equity. We’ve made significant progress on these 2008 priorities:
Protect funding for vital community services. We continuously work to vigorously oppose efforts to erode funding for vital community services that keep California families safe from crime, support transportation mobility and economic growth, provide housing and important after-school recreation opportunities, ensure orderly development and protect the environment. Funding for local community-based services and programs should never be sacrificed again to meet state revenue needs.
Each year, the state budget crisis threatens cities as well. We will continue to oppose efforts that solve budget shortfalls by penalizing cities, but we will also support the state in working to enact some long-term solutions that will give it more fiscal stability. Consistent funding of state services (corrections, health care and social services) is directly related to ensuring safe and healthy cities.
Despite budget constraints brought on by past state budget problems, some cities have been able to create adequate reserve funds to sustain operations during tough times. But the existence of these reserve funds should never be an excuse for the state to penalize cities for good fiscal prudence.
Support green and sustainable cities. We have been working to lead in the development of state and local policies, strategies and programs to protect the environment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We’re doing this through more efficient and sustainable land use and building practices, increased energy efficiency and use of alternative/renewable energy resources, improved water supply and wastewater treatment system efficiencies, expanded public transit opportunities and innovations in other city operations.
This year we have seen critical decisions being made at the state level that affect land use and other areas, and the League has been at the table as those decisions were made. The enactment of AB 32 in 2006 gave the California Air Resources Board a heightened role in this area, and we will be working to harmonize that law with our traditional land use role.
Expand infrastructure investment. The League continues to support the implementation of the 2006 infrastructure bond program and the development of new funding sources and programs to meet — in a sustainable way — the infrastructure needs of our rapidly growing communities for water supply, wastewater treatment, public transit, streets and roads, stormwater management and other critical infrastructure.
While we made a great start with the 2006 infrastructure bond package, more remains to be done. Our state suffers from a lack of adequate infrastructure investment of nearly $500 billion. The League continues to remind our state and federal partners of the urgent need to expand the resources available for infrastructure investment and the importance to our economy of such investments.
Enact honest and responsible eminent domain reform. We achieved this by supporting the passage of Prop. 99 and defeating Prop. 98.
Your Participation Is Essential
The League will continue its ambitious agenda. We’ve learned that when we are focused and work together, we can achieve great things on behalf of the 479 cities in California. And while focused leadership has brought us tremendous strength and success, we cannot do it without you. It takes the regular and active involvement of city officials throughout the state to maintain our diligent efforts to protect local control. I encourage you to get actively involved with your regional division and your League department. In addition, our Latino, African-American, Asian-Pacific Islander and Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Local Officials caucuses are vital parts of the organization that offer valuable networking and training opportunities. Join a League policy committee, attend our educational events and the annual conference and be part of helping make California a better place to live.