Article Executive Director's Message by Carolyn Coleman

League Strategic Priorities Set a Course for 2020

Every day, city leaders throughout the state — rural, urban and suburban alike — are working hard to improve the quality of life for their residents. The complex challenges facing these leaders require innovation and collaboration at all levels of government.

To help address these challenges for communities, city leaders meet annually and set the League’s strategic priorities to strengthen our cities as vibrant places to live, work and play. 

December 2019 Meeting Establishes Direction for the Coming Year

The League board of directors, joined by leaders from each of the League’s divisions, departments, policy committees and diversity caucuses, convened in Napa in early December to reflect on city accomplishments in 2019, discuss current challenges and establish the League strategic priorities that will help the organization continue to serve as the leading voice of California cities in 2020.

More than 100 League leaders attended and participated in the priority-setting workshop, which included presentations on the organization’s progress on its 2019 priorities, a recap of the 2019 legislative session, an overview of the current status of 2020 ballot initiatives, and a special presentation from John Myers, Sacramento bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times, that previewed the priorities of the administration and Legislature in the coming year.

Discussions Focus on Critically Important Issues

As part of this immersive, collaborative workshop, participants examined many pressing issues that affect Californians. League leaders discussed the challenges cities face in addressing the housing affordability issues and production shortages in their communities. As these challenges continue to grow and the Legislature and administration work to find solutions to address these problems, it remains critically important to ensure that funding and tools are made available to spur the construction of housing at all affordability levels.

During the workshop, attendees conducted a robust conversation about how to provide additional services for those who are experiencing homelessness in our communities. Participants agreed that strong partnerships and additional resources for navigation assistance and emergency shelters, as well as mental health services and substance abuse treatment, are urgently needed.

Attendees also agreed to continue collaborating with stakeholders to raise awareness of the growing fiscal stability challenges that California cities are facing, which include rising public pension costs. They also recognized the importance of addressing California cities’ public safety concerns and securing additional resources needed to meet critical community challenges.

Strategic Priorities

The League board of directors approved five strategic priorities for 2020:

1. Improve the supply and affordability of housing. Provide cities with financial tools to increase construction of housing, particularly for vulnerable populations, reform state regulatory barriers and ensure cities retain flexibility based on the size, geography, demographics, impact mitigation and land-use needs of each community.

2. Advocate for increased funding and resources to prevent homelessness and assist individuals experiencing homelessness. Secure additional resources and flexibility to provide navigation assistance, emergency shelters and permanent supportive housing and strengthen partnerships with stakeholders to ensure mental health, substance abuse treatment and wrap-around services are available for adults and youth at risk or already experiencing homelessness in our communities.

3. Address fiscal sustainability to deliver essential services and meet pension obligations. Raise awareness among stakeholders about the fiscal challenges cities face and work collaboratively to secure new revenue tools and flexible prudent policies to ensure cities are able to provide essential services to their residents while maintaining their ability to meet pension obligations.

4. Strengthen community and disaster preparedness, public safety and resiliency. Improve community resiliency to disasters and environmental threats and strengthen infrastructure stability and control through expanding partnerships, including those with state and federal agencies, and securing additional resources and support for climate change adaptation, planning, preparedness, response, recovery and sustainability in our cities.

5. Address public safety concerns of California cities.

  • Reform recently enacted criminal justice laws — enacted by both statute and initiative — that have eroded public safety protections of California residents through the passage of the California Police Chiefs/California Grocers Association-sponsored criminal justice reform measure eligible for the November 2020 state ballot, or by equivalent reforms achieved through legislative action;
  • Protect public safety by reducing access to firearms by the mentally ill; and
  • Support additional tools and resources to address critical community challenges such as homelessness, mental health, domestic violence, drug rehabilitation, human trafficking and workforce development for ex-offender re-entry.

I am thankful for all of our city leaders who participated in our priority-setting process. We stand ready to work collaboratively with Governor Gavin Newsom, the Legislature and other stakeholders to accomplish these strategic priorities in 2020. Mark your calendars now to attend Legislative Action Day on April 22, 2020, in Sacramento, where you can help us achieve these priorities. I urge you to join us in our ongoing efforts to build a better future for our residents and our cities. To learn more, visit

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the League of California Cities