Article President's Message By League of California Cities President Daniel Parra

Effective storytelling builds trust and delivers results

As city officials, our number one responsibility is to the residents we serve. This is not a duty that we take lightly. City officials are the closest level of government to the people, and our residents trust that we will carry out actions that keep our communities vibrant and thriving.

One of the ways that we can maintain their trust and effectively advocate on their behalf is through storytelling. Effective storytelling allows us to strengthen our relationships with our residents. Through storytelling, we share with our neighbors the work that we do every day to improve their quality of life.

Storytelling is also a vital tool for advocacy at the state and federal levels. When we share stories with lawmakers about the opportunities or challenges in our cities, we are generating trust, inspiring people to get involved, and driving progress.

I was reminded of this power during my recent trip to Washington for the National League of Cities Congressional City Conference. During the conference, the Cal Cities Board officers and I met with Sens. Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler, California Congressional delegation members, and top federal administration officials to advocate for a wide range of topics that impact California cities — including climate change, homelessness, fiscal sustainability, and public safety.

We shared stories about what is going on in our communities. How Congress and the White House can work together to support cities and towns throughout the state. The message from Sens. Padilla and Butler was clear: Our voice matters. We must share with lawmakers at both levels good examples of what is working in our communities so they can support these efforts and help replicate them.

And we’ve had a lot of success at the federal level over the last few years because of this. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many cities were on the verge of economic collapse. Thanks to sustained advocacy and an unwavering commitment to sharing our stories, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act — a lifeline for cities in a time of unprecedented fiscal uncertainty. Just one year later, Congress passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which will bring $50 billion to the state. This will allow us to address crumbling infrastructure, create good-paying jobs, ensure access to high-speed, reliable internet, and invest in clean energy.

But now is not the time for us to lift our foot off the gas. In times of economic hardship and budget deficits, local government funding faces significant scrutiny. It’s up to us to tell our stories, counter the narrative, and talk about the good work cities are doing to support their communities.

This month’s issue of Western City is a prime example of powerful storytelling. I’d like to call special attention to “There’s no way roundabout it. Cities dominated this statewide award program,” which highlights the recent city winners of the Local Streets and Roads Project Awards. 

Officials in every city and town in California have a powerful story to tell about the vital services they provide to their residents every day. And it’s critical that we continue to highlight these efforts and instill trust in our residents.

As Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said at the NLC conference: “Seeing government deliver … helps give communities confidence to keep going.”