Article President’s Message Mike Kasperzak

Maintaining Our Momentum

As I begin my term as League president, I’ve been reflecting on the phenomenal amount of hard work done by our members over the past year. We owe you all a debt of gratitude. Your efforts have set the stage for the lawsuit that the League has filed with the state Supreme Court regarding the State of California’s violation of Proposition 22. Kudos to our Immediate Past President Jim Ridenour as well for his leadership on this critical issue.

City officials and League staff throughout California worked tirelessly in 2010 to build support for Prop. 22. Despite the fact that it passed with 61 percent voter approval, our cities have been under attack for the past year as state leaders blatantly disregarded Prop. 22’s provisions. The lawsuit represents a key milestone in our work to defend home rule and Prop. 22, and the League will keep you informed of its progress through our electronic newsletter, California Cities Advocate.

“Strong Cities | Strong State” Profiles City Successes

In the meantime, I would like to invite your participation in “Strong Cities | Strong State,” an innovative effort designed to communicate the importance of city government in California residents’ everyday lives and the people at work delivering critical municipal services. Using the website as its centerpiece, the program is promoting city success stories accompanied by profiles of elected city officials and city managers working together to build and maintain a high quality of life for California city residents. Strong Cities | Strong State is a joint effort of the California City Management Foundation and the League.

The Strong Cities program provides a first of its kind platform for showcasing California cities’ success stories, highlighting their accomplishments and emphasizing specific city services and community characteristics. Moreover, Strong Cities promotes the innovation and experience of city officials in delivering key services at a time when this expertise is vitally needed by state leaders struggling with fundamental issues of governance. Strong Cities | Strong State will help position cities as vital, necessary and equal partners in building a better California.

The Strong Cities | Strong State campaign features profiles of individual cities, and its goal is to highlight all California cities over the coming 18 months. Profiles include photos, video and other media articulating how each individual city has been working to provide essential services and elevate the quality of life for its residents. Success stories range from public safety initiatives to educational partnerships, infrastructure improvements to community engagement strategies and more. If your city isn’t already featured in this program, visit and contact your League regional public affairs manager to get started.

Join the Effort to Build Healthier Communities

Continuing the theme of strong cities, city officials throughout California are also actively involved in programs and activities to help improve the health of their communities, and I encourage you to learn more about these if your city isn’t already participating.

Healthy Eating, Active Living Cities Campaign

The Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Cities Campaign is a partnership between the League and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy. The campaign works with cities in California to adopt policies that will improve opportunities for physical activity and support access to healthy food for all residents. These policies address:

  • Land Use — Planning, zoning and infrastructure investment can positively affect the health of residents;
  • Healthy Food — Cities have powerful planning, economic development and public relations tools for attracting and supporting retailers of healthy food; and
  • Employee Wellness — Cities can reduce health-care costs by helping workers to become more active and shed extra pounds.

The HEAL Cities Campaign offers training and technical assistance to help your city move forward on health issues. To learn more, visit

A Guide to Planning Healthy Neighborhoods

Another helpful tool for local officials is available from the Institute for Local Government (ILG), whose mission is to promote good government at the local level with practical, impartial and easy-to-use resources for California communities. ILG offers a publication titled Understanding the Basics of Land Use and Planning: Guide to Planning Healthy Neighborhoods. The guide:

  • Identifies the reasons for local leaders to be concerned about the relationship between health and the built environment;
  • Offers options for transforming that concern into a vision for a healthier community; and
  • Provides strategies and examples of how to translate that vision into action.

It also includes tips to help local officials consider which strategies and resources for planning healthy neighborhoods best fit their community. The publication is available at

The Let’s Move! Initiative

The national epidemic of childhood obesity spurred First Lady Michelle Obama to launch the Let’s Move! initiative, which comprises five elements:

  1. Creating a healthy start for children;
  2. Empowering parents and caregivers with information and resources;
  3. Providing healthy food in schools;
  4. Improving access to healthy, affordable foods; and
  5. Increasing physical activity.

Combining comprehensive strategies with common sense, Let’s Move! is about putting children on the path to a healthy future during their earliest months and years. The initiative’s goal is to eliminate the childhood obesity epidemic within a generation, thus reducing the health risks of obesity — diabetes, heart disease, asthma and more — as well as the related health-care costs. Let’s Move! seeks to involve parents and caregivers, elected officials from all levels of government, schools, health-care professionals, faith-based and community-based organizations and private sector companies. To learn more, visit

The League Stands Ready to Assist You

While it’s imperative for us as an organization to remain vigilant in defending local control, at the same time the League provides tools, resources and information to help cities with the issues that confront us all. The current economic environment has created unprecedented challenges as city officials contend with sharply reduced revenues and the resulting need to make severe cuts in essential services. Cities are implementing innovative programs to consolidate service delivery and share services. City officials are finding ways to adapt to “the new normal,” and the League plays a key role in helping to provide resources that support their efforts.

These resources include a broad array of training and educational programs (, materials from the 2011 Annual Conference & Expo posted online (, best practices and tools from ILG on topics ranging from ethics to sustainability ( and the opportunity to share challenges and solutions with your peers at League division meetings (

The League stands ready to assist you in your efforts to preserve and enhance the quality of life for your city’s residents. I welcome your suggestions and comments and look forward to working with you in the coming year.

This article appears in the October 2011 issue of Western City
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