Article Features Tracy Petrillo

The League of California Cities Annual Conference

In 1898, officials from 13 cities came together to form the League of California Cities. They traveled by train and ferry, riding on 55 miles of double track cable car lines operated under 10 separate franchises in the city of San Francisco, and they bought a choice steak dinner at the Palace Hotel for a dollar.

Mayor James Phelan of San Francisco said, “We should come together at least once each year to formulate our needs and relate our experiences for the benefit of all.” And so it began.

Today, as a valued tradition, nearly 400 cities throughout California send delegates to the League’s annual conference to learn with and from one another. More than 2,000 attendees will convene Wednesday, Sept. 6 through Saturday, Sept. 9, 2006, at the San Diego Convention Center. This is the one educational program that brings together elected and appointed officials, city staff and all departments to serve the grassroots interests of local municipalities. This year’s theme, “All Politics Is Local,” articulates the continued call to action to get involved and work together toward our common goals. Each annual conference is a special combination of training, dialogue and networking events.

Speakers and Highlights

The daily General Sessions present League achievements during the past year and update attendees on important issues and legislation that will directly affect cities. The keynote address during each General Session motivates and inspires collaborative work and a strong service ethic. This year’s keynote speakers bring an interesting mix of stimulating perspectives to the conference.

Kevin Carroll, author of Rules of the Red Rubber Ball: Find and Sustain Your Life’s Work, who will present the opening day keynote on Wednesday, Sept. 6, titled, “Rediscovering Play: Bringing Fun and Passion to Your Work.” With simple yet delightful storytelling, Carroll explains how he channels his childhood passion for sport and play into a universally appealing blueprint for life and work. He says, “Everybody has to find that one thing that gets you excited about a new day.” On Thursday, Sept. 7, the keynote speaker will be John Avlon, author of Independent Nation: How the Vital Center is Changing American Politics and past speechwriter for Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Avlon has received rave reviews at several other state municipal league conferences and is looking forward to visiting California, his favorite state.

We hope that the closing General Session on Friday, Sept. 8, will include our state’s gubernatorial candidates and other key legislative highlights.

New Formats

Select from more than 60 breakout sessions to inform, instruct and enhance your ability to perform your civic duties. New learning formats will be offered this year, including open discussion forums to engage audience participation and sharing, as well as a new Exhibitor Speaker Theater on the Expo trade show floor, where attendees can browse new products and services provided by 250 exhibitors.

Networking Opportunities

A great selection of networking events are included. The Institute for Local Government will again offer an optional, ticketed “lunch and learn” symposium (see “How to Talk About Government”). This year, San Diego will offer a Host City Crawl reception through the Gaslamp area for paid registrants on Thursday, Sept. 7, prior to a new Citipac gala fundraiser later that evening. On Friday, Sept. 8, many divisions will offer optional breakfast meetings, in addition to special caucus and League Partner events scheduled for that evening.

Participate in Policy Development

Policy development is a key part of the League’s legislative effectiveness. Policy committee meetings and the General Resolutions Committee meeting will be held at various times throughout the conference. The conference wraps up with the General Assembly voting at the Annual Business Meeting. It’s critically important for all cities to participate in this process by registering their voting delegate to attend the annual conference and actively engage in the voting process.

Special Activities for First-Time Attendees

As succession planning is a key concern to many cities throughout California, this event showcases the opportunity and value to grow in city government careers. First-time attendees are treated to special pre-conference mailings, presented with an informational session onsite and matched with mentors to help them connect and enjoy their first annual conference. Engaging younger members, staff and officials will lead to a better future for all Californians, so each city is requested to provide this training experience to one new attendee each year. The results will be measured locally and statewide, as we continue this strong tradition that began in 1898.

Don’t Miss This Great Professional Development Event!

Do your part to continue a legacy of service as a member of the League of California Cities; join your peers and colleagues this September in San Diego. Registration is now open online at The pre-registration deadline is August 11.

What Your Peers Say About the Annual Conference Experience

“Every year at the annual conference, I learn lots of new things, meet lots of new people and see lots of good friends and colleagues. I always return to my city with a greater sense of the importance of our work as city officials.”
— Ralph Qualls Jr., director of public works, Cupertino

“I attend the League’s annual conference because community development is impacted by more issues than just land use. These include such things as public finance, the general economy, legislation and court decisions. The annual conference allows me an opportunity to learn what other cities are doing and how they are coping with conditions statewide.”
— Don Fleming, community development director, Soledad

“I especially enjoy the Helen Putnam Award booths where the winning cities display their creative, innovative and successful community programs that we all might be able to take back to our cities and replicate. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”
— Dale Pfeiffer, director of public works, Vacaville

“Attending the annual conference is a great opportunity to hear, in a relaxed setting away from some of the day-to-day pressures, about the latest trends in the public works field, and get a heads up on the new legislation that will affect our ability to do our jobs. The conference is a great opportunity to network with other professionals in the field, where sharing common experiences and outcomes allows those less experienced to learn from the failures and successes of the mentors.”
—Steve Castellanos, director of public works, La Cañada Flintridge

“[It’s a good opportunity to] connect to new ideas and best practices, mentor and be mentored by colleagues, learn alongside practitioners outside your profession that you work with every day to deliver services, and get in touch with hot legislative issues at the League annual conference!”
 — Colleen Nicol, city clerk, Riverside

“The League’s annual conference is a great opportunity for parks, recreation and community services professionals to ‘get to the table’ and work together on citywide issues to make our cities stronger.”
— Craig Bronzan, director of parks and recreation, Brentwood

“I attend to reconnect with the many outstanding people engaged in community building across California, to collect new thinking on best management practices and to be refreshed in the company of my peers in the profession.”
— Rod Gould, city manager, Poway

“How to Talk About Government”
The Institute for Local Government’s Second Annual Luncheon Symposium
Thursday, Sept. 7, 2006, 11:15 a.m.–12:45 p.m.
Room 30A/B/C at the San Diego Convention Center

Speakers from the Demos Center for the Public Sectorand the FrameWorks Institute will present current research on the public’s often skeptical attitudes about government, and discuss how local officials can enhance trust and confidence through more effective communication with constituents about the public purposes of government.

The cost for this special luncheon symposium is $40. Registration must be made on the annual conference registration form or online at

A later afternoon session, “Communicating the Government’s Role to the Public: A Post-Symposium Discussion,” will provide an additional forum for discussing the public’s view of government and how effective communication about government can be integrated into public officials’ daily work to promote greater public confidence and effective policy-making.

This article appears in the August 2006 issue of Western City
Did you like what you read here? Subscribe to Western City