Article President’s Message Heather Fargo

Keeping Cities Strong

First of all, I want to thank you for all your support as I start my presidency of the League. And I especially want to thank you for everything you do to serve the people of your cities as you provide the services your residents need and expect from local government.

The challenges we face in our cities can be overwhelming, but together we can learn from and support each other. It should comfort you to know that the League has become a major player in representing the collective interests of all cities throughout California. I will do my best to continue to strengthen the League on behalf of California’s cities.

Strong Cities, Strong State, Strong Nation

The theme I chose for the League’s 2009 annual conference reflects my belief in maintaining the independence and strength of our cities. That theme — Strong Cities, Strong State, Strong Nation — is intended to communicate that we cannot have a strong state or nation without strong cities. In order for us to retain our strength and do even more for our residents, we must have the support of our state and federal governments. As an organization, we must remain focused and clearly communicate our needs to our state and national leaders. We are willing and capable partners in making our cities safer, rebuilding our infrastructure, strengthening our economy and facing the challenges of climate change.

With the successful passage of Proposition 1A in November 2004, we have shown that we can successfully fight to protect our revenue and keep the state from taking our money. We have also demonstrated that we can protect the tools we feel are critical to running cities, with the successful defeat in June 2008 of Prop. 98 and the passage of Prop. 99 to save local land use powers. And we have shown we can successfully negotiate on behalf of cities with our ongoing efforts on SB 375. We have made new friends and partners in each of these efforts. And we have positioned cities and city leaders to be in leadership roles on statewide issues that affect local government.

Protecting Local Services

One of the biggest disappointments and missed opportunities of 2008 was the second year of cuts to public transportation. Just when high gas prices caused a surge in demand for transit, the Legislature and governor took away critically needed transportation funding, forcing reductions in service. This is a move that hurts our residents and environment alike.

The governor and the Legislature have both been huge advocates for the allocation of Prop. 1C money intended to fund housing using smart growth principles. Why would we make this investment and leave out the critical piece — the appropriate funding of public transit?

As leaders in local government, we have many adventures ahead of us. I look forward to working with you as we collectively face new challenges and maximize new opportunities.

This article appears in the October 2008 issue of Western City
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