ILG Launches Local Government 101 Project and Seeks Your Ideas

Does your city want to help its residents understand how local government works? Are you frustrated when people complain about how city revenues are raised and spent? Do you wish you had an easy way to explain the Brown Act and Public Records Act to the public and your newly elected and appointed officials?

In response to popular demand, the Insti tute for Local Government (ILG) has launched a new project, Local Government 101, to help the public understand how cities and counties work. The project draws on ILG’s Collaborative Governance Initiative and its work on local government civics education in the 1990s. It’s also part of ILG’s efforts to promote public trust and confidence in local government.

The Local Government 101 project provides four services:

  1. Presentations and Handouts. ILG often receives calls from local officials who have been asked to make presentations to service clubs, schools, citizen academies and advocacy groups about what local government does and how it functions. Local Government 101 will provide sample handouts, PowerPoint presentations and other materials that officials can download from the ILG website and adapt to meet their immediate needs.
  2. Community Group Training. Advocacy groups that want to influence decisions at the local level often approach ILG for help. These groups want to know how to engage constructively and effectively in the local decision- making process. City officials wishing to assist community groups will also find the training materials useful.
  3. New Officials Orientation. Local agencies use a number of ILG’s resources to help orient newly elected and appointed officials. For example, ILG provides materials related to eth ics, open government and land use. There are gaps, however, in what ILG has to offer local agencies. The project effort will close those gaps with an orientation and new materials.
  4. Professional Training. Consultants and others who provide services to local agencies frequently want a better understanding of how their clients work. For example, individuals who offer mediation services to local gov ernment could benefit from training or educational materials that explain local government powers and limitations.

A preliminary collection of ILG’s existing materials is available online at  

Tell Us About Your City’s Programs

Many cities and counties have already developed materials to help their residents understand their community, and including such materials will enrich the Local Government 101 project. Consequently, ILG is asking for your help. If your agency has developed materials that would be effective for one of the services mentioned here (or perhaps one we haven’t yet thought of), ILG staff welcome the opportunity to learn about it and incorporate it into its resources for cities and counties throughout the state. ILG will acknowledge all contributions.

Please send all materials, thoughts and suggestions to ILG at or Institute for Local Government, 1400 K Street, Suite 301, Sacramento, CA 95814.

This article appears in the March 2008 issue of Western City
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