A Look at the League’s 2017 Strategic Priorities
Dan Carrigg is deputy executive director and legislative director for the League and can be reached at email@example.com.
Each year the League’s board of directors and leaders of its divisions, departments, diversity groups and policy committees select several strategic priorities to help focus the organization’s work in the coming year. The 2017 priorities developed by the League’s leaders are presented here with some brief context for cities.
- Increase Funding for Critical Transportation and Water Infrastructure. Provide additional state and federal funding and local financing tools — such as reducing the vote threshold for local initiatives — to support California’s economy, transportation (streets, bridges, trade corridors, active transportation and transit) and water-related needs (supply, sewer, stormwater, flood control, beach erosion, etc.) including maintenance and construction. Support appropriate streamlining of stormwater regulations and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to avoid duplication and reduce litigation.
Existing funding mechanisms designed to maintain state and local transportation and other infrastructure and accommodate a growing population have not kept up with demand. Our network of streets, roads and bridges is deteriorating, and addressing such shortfalls is critical to our economic future. Local governments face additional challenges in funding infrastructure due to constitutional provisions requiring two-thirds voter approval. These limitations are more restrictive than those that apply to state investments or school construction and have the perverse effect of making sprawling greenfield development (where there are few or no voters) easier than repairing infrastructure in infill areas where most residents live.
- Develop Realistic Responses to the Homelessness Crisis. Increase state and federal funding and support to provide additional shelter and services to California’s homeless individuals, and advance the recommendations of the joint California State Association of Counties-League Homelessness Task Force.
The homelessness crisis is related to the lack of affordable housing (addressed in the next priority). It is also a symptom of larger economic issues and an insufficiently coordinated social services network in which veterans, people with mental illness and others fall through the cracks. Cities and counties are working together to address this complex issue locally, but expanded state assistance with this chronic problem is needed to provide shelter for those in need. For more details, see the Homelessness section of the “2016 Legislative Year in Review.”
- Improve the Affordability of Workforce Housing and Secure Additional Funds for Affordable Housing. Increase state and federal financial support, reduce regulatory barriers, and provide additional incentives and local financial tools to address the affordability of workforce housing and increase the availability of affordable housing.
California faces many affordable housing challenges, which have been compounded by the elimination of redevelopment agencies and over $5 billion in funding since 2011. The state has never had a significant permanent source of affordable housing funding, and proceeds from the 2006 housing bond have long been expended. Despite a significantly improved state budget assisted by a multibillion dollar annual infusion of income tax from high-wage earners, local communities have essentially been left on their own to respond.
And other factors — many of which are beyond the control of cities — are affecting housing construction trends and affordability. The economic recovery since the last recession, when many middle-income families lost their homes to foreclosures, has principally occurred in high-tech industry in coastal areas. Manufacturing and blue-collar jobs have not fully rebounded, and the expanding service sector jobs pay less. Mortgage underwriting standards have tightened and college graduates are burdened with debt, further reducing market demand. Moreover, during the recession some housing builders went out of business, limiting supply. These and other factors have contributed to a lag in housing construction.
Policy responses in California must start with restoring a sufficient source of affordable housing funding. For a more detailed discussion, see the Housing section of the “2016 Legislative Year in Review.”
- Address Public Safety Impacts of Reduced Sentencing Laws, Protect Local Priorities in the Implementation of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), and Preserve City Rights to Deliver Emergency Medical Services. Provide tools and resources cities need to respond to recent changes in statewide criminal sentencing policies. Protect local priorities during development of regulations and legislation to implement the AUMA. In addition, continue to preserve city rights to deliver emergency medical services (Health and Safety Code 1797.201).
Since 2011 California has been releasing large numbers of prisoners, resulting from court orders to reduce state prison overcrowding and the realignment of some felons to county jails to reduce state costs. Subsequently two initiatives passed: Proposition 47 (2014) reduced penalties for some crimes, and Prop. 57 (2016) increased parole opportunities for certain felons who may have a history of violence. Collectively these changes mean that many more individuals who would otherwise be in jail or prison are now on the streets. City police and elected officials are increasingly concerned about the public safety impacts of these decisions and lack of adequate safety net protections that cause local residents to bear the burden of risk. Effectively implementing the AUMA and delivering emergency medical services are other major priorities.
Infrastructure, assisting homeless people, improving affordable housing and protecting public safety are critical to maintaining and improving the quality of life in our cities and state. We welcome your ideas and suggestions as we tackle the work ahead in 2017. To learn more, visit www.cacities.org.