Article by Jill Oviatt

League Launches Initiative Showing City Projects Making a Difference in Their Communities

Jill Oviatt is director of communications and marketing for the League and can be reached at joviatt@cacities.org.


Every day, local leaders work to make their cities better places in which to live, work, and play. They approve projects to increase affordable housing, address homelessness, improve streets and roads, spur economic growth, and deliver essential services to protect residents.

Stories about these local projects and initiatives may be celebrated at city council meetings, in a press release, or sometimes covered by a shrinking local media, but often these stories are not shared at all.

New Magazine Section Highlights Success Stories

That’s why the League is launching #LocalWorks, an initiative to shine the spotlight on examples of local actions that are making a positive difference in their communities.

This section of Western City is now called #LocalWorks and will be dedicated to telling stories of city-initiated or partner projects that make local leaders most proud — efforts that bring value and a higher quality of life to their residents.

League President John F. Dunbar kicked off #LocalWorks at the February 2020 board meeting in Yountville with a #LocalWorks example of a regional partnership in Napa County to address a serious workforce housing shortage in the area.

Five cities and the county came together to design a solution, and each jurisdiction put a measure on the November 2018 ballot to increase the transient occupancy tax on hotel visits to raise money for affordable housing projects.

This story was told through an animated video and shared on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and the League website.

“We have 482 cities and therefore that many avenues to tell California city success stories,” Dunbar explained to board members during the meeting. “It’s time for all of us to make sure we are telling our #LocalWorks stories to show that local government works, and let’s share those stories far and wide.”

Collectively, California cities are creating hundreds, if not thousands, of projects each year that directly or indirectly improve the lives of their residents. While many people often lament that other levels of government do not always seem to work, California cities can show powerfully through #LocalWorks that local government works.

Focus on Housing and Homelessness

Given the pressures on cities to plan and zone for more affordable housing and address the state’s homelessness crisis, the initial focus for #LocalWorks will be on collecting stories about successful affordable housing and homelessness initiatives. Housing and homelessness are two of the League’s five 2020 Strategic Priorities, which also include fiscal and pension sustainability; community and disaster preparedness and resiliency; and public safety. City projects that fall under those priorities will also be a focus for #LocalWorks stories.

However, many other types of city projects also deserve to be highlighted and shared. Consequently, #LocalWorks will also be a platform for successful city projects that could include infrastructure and public works, economic development, parks and recreation, and more.

Grass Valley’s Story Kicks Off the Effort

A new year-round turf field in the City of Grass Valley offers a perfect example of a #LocalWorks success story that shows an innovative way to provide high-quality recreation resources, while also managing costs. California droughts heavily impacted Grass Valley’s playing fields and parks, resulting in uneven dirt surfaces and high costs to water and maintain turf and landscaping. The city heard the cry of unhappy residents and proposed a 1-cent sales tax to fund police and fire services, road improvements, and parks. After voters approved the tax, the city partnered with the Grass Valley School District to create a $1.5 million all-weather 84,000-square-foot sports field for school and public use. This story was shared on the League’s newly created Instagram account, its Facebook page, and the League website.

As these stories are gathered and catalogued, one story will be chosen for publication each month in Western City. “Affordable Housing: More Than a Mandate in San Marcos” features a housing project in one of San Diego County’s fastest growing cities and will appear as the first #LocalWorks story in the May 2020 issue.

How Cities Can Participate in #LocalWorks

Many cities have already produced stories that are just waiting to be shared. These may be in the form of press releases, videos, and newsletter stories, or posted on a city’s website. Such stories may have been covered by the local media or included in a department staff report to the city council.

Cities are encouraged to submit their stories or story ideas directly to Western City (email editor@westerncity.com), to the city’s regional public affairs manager at the League (find yours at www.cacities.org/regionalmanagers), or to the League’s communications department (email communications@cacities.org). After the story is received, it will be catalogued and assessed to determine the best medium and platform for telling it.

It’s also important to emphasize that #LocalWorks is not a campaign. Rather, it’s a new way to spotlight the great work being done by cities — not only to show that local government works, but also to share best practices with other cities for improving services and community resources.

It’s time to get the word out to the public and state and federal governments that cities are doing the work every day, and they have phenomenal examples to show for it. #LocalWorks.