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Articles

Article Sustainable Cities Steve Sanders

Built to Last: Charting a Path to a Sustainable Economy

Two very different cities offer remarkable examples of pioneering efforts to chart a more sustainable economic future.

California’s Green Economy Links Economic Development and Sustainability

The continued expansion in core green industries, such as energy generation and efficiency, recycling and waste, clean transportation, water and wastewater, offers cause for guarded optimism.

Article Executive Director's Message Chris McKenzie

What Comes Next?

In the wake of the elimination of redevelopment agencies, city officials and legislators are wondering, “What comes next?”

Article City Forum Eva Spiegel

Key Milestones Ahead in 2012 Legislative Session

One of the most critical periods for legislative action is between now and the first week of July. Learn how you can support the advocacy efforts of California cities.

Gonzales Grows Green: An Innovative Economic Program

Gonzales offers an excellent model of an economic development program that focuses on sustainability and builds trust and understanding.

Article President’s Message Mike Kasperzak

Act Now to Create a Healthier Community

As local officials, we grapple with a lot of challenging issues and tough situations, and we don’t always agree on the best thing to do. But once in a while we come across something that makes…

Article City Forum Charlotte Dickson

HEAL Cities Campaign Supports Healthy Communities

Obesity and related diseases threaten the health of cities’ most vulnerable populations, particularly children and youth. As part of an effort to address obesity, California cities are participating in the Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Cities Campaign and adopting land-use, economic development and employee wellness policies that support health.

Article Legal Notes Martin Kosla

Strategies for Curtailing Frivolous Lawsuits

State and local governments can be targets for vexatious litigants, individuals who file “do-it-yourself” lawsuits and represent themselves in court.

La Mesa Gives Seniors a Lift

The Rides4Neighbors program provides a variety of flexible transportation options for eligible senior residents.

Understanding Changes to the Gift Rules

A variety of changes to the gift regulations took effect Jan. 1, 2012. The goal was to simplify the gift regulations and make them easier to understand, while reinforcing the principle that public…

Article Features Gary Gallegos

Trailblazing a Sustainable Path

A new era of transportation planning has dawned in California as metropolitan planning organizations throughout the state work to comply with Senate Bill 375.

Article Sustainable Cities Jessica Aviña Tong

Operation Mulch-a-Lot: Long Beach Chips Away at Blight and Green Waste

Long Beach has a creative use for vacant city lots that offers several added benefits.

Resources for Involving the Public in Land-Use Planning Decisions

Land-use planning can present difficult and divisive issues for communities. A local agency’s land-use planning decisions literally affect people where they live.

Article Executive Director's Message Chris McKenzie

The Power of Groupthink: The New Denial

Groupthink is a phenomenon in which the group members form individual opinions that match the group consensus rather than critically evaluating information.

Article City Forum Eva Spiegel

Celebrating 30 Years: The Helen Putnam Award for Excellence Program

This year marks a milestone for the League and California cities.

Hayward Uses Murals to Fight Blight

Hayward’s Mural Art Program offers an outstanding example of a local effort that has helped reduce crime, build public-private partnerships, enhance community pride and save taxpayers’ money.

Article Features Dan Carrigg

Tips for Building and Maintaining Relationships in a Term-Limited Legislature

City officials should consider changes brought about by term limits.

Article President’s Message Mike Kasperzak

Social Contract Is the Cornerstone of Effective State-Local Relations

Maintaining our social contract with state legislators is easier when we first make an effort to understand their perspective and work style, rather than just expecting them to vote a certain way.

Article City Forum Eva Spiegel

Protect Local Control by Supporting CitiPAC

A strong and well-funded political action committee is essential to deterring initiative efforts that would cut funds for local programs, weaken local decision-making or transfer state…

Article Legal Notes Lan Wang

Project Labor Agreements: What You Need To Know

Cities and other public entities are generally required to put significant contracts out for competitive bidding and to award the contract to the lowest responsible bidder. Sometimes a decision is…

Cathedral City Takes a Smart Approach to Water

A grant program helps homeowners eliminate their thirsty landscaping and use a drought-tolerant xeriscape approach instead.

Article Everyday Ethics for Local Officials

The “Front Page” Test: An Easy Ethics Standard

As an elected official and public servant, your actions and words are often subject to intense public scrutiny. Thinking about how the average constituent on the street will perceive your actions…

Article Sustainable Cities Yvonne HunterSteve Sanders

Regional Partnerships Provide Leadership

Partnerships among public, private and nonprofit groups are nothing new, and examples abound. However, innovative partnerships that build capacity to address sustainability, energy efficiency,…

Resources for Leaders in Difficult Times

While there is no easy answer to the difficult decisions local leaders must often make, a number of strategies can make such work easier. A key element of the Institute for Local Government’s…

Article Executive Director's Message Chris McKenzie

League Board and Leaders Chart Strategic Path for 2012

A group of 130 League leaders and board members met recently to set the organization’s priorities for the coming year.

Article City Forum Samantha Caygill

California Civic Leadership Institute Expands to Engage More Local Leaders

Now in its eighth year, CCLI gives local leaders an in-depth understanding of the critical and complex issues affecting the state, including water, transportation, energy and housing. The program…

Article Features Dan Carrigg

2011 Legislative Year in Review

The stage was set for 2011 when California voters approved Proposition 22 by a margin of 61 percent in the November 2010 statewide election. Once Governor Brown proposed to eliminate redevelopment…

Article President’s Message Mike Kasperzak

Moving Toward “We”

Article City Forum Thomas E. Shanks

Rebuilding Trust in Local Government

Article Sustainable Cities Yvonne HunterSteve Sanders

Sustaining Your Sustainability Programs

Investing in sustainability leads to healthier communities and improved economic vitality while saving money, conserving natural resources and protecting the environment.

Intergovernmental Collaboration Through Joint Use of Facilities

Local agencies throughout California are employing joint-use agreements as a tool to stretch taxpayer resources as far as possible in service to shared constituents.

Article Executive Director's Message Chris McKenzie

“Realignment” in Any Other State Would Be Called “Community Corrections”

The California corrections realignment plan is sweeping and aggressive. Instead of trying to accomplish a decline in prison population over a gradual period, the California plan is largely driven…

Article City Forum Dan Carrigg

California Expands Efforts to Collect Taxes From Internet Sales: Local Agency Revenues to Benefit

Not collecting taxes on sales provides out-of-state online retailers a significant price advantage over instate “bricks and mortar” businesses. As online commerce continues to grow, a solution…

Article Features Rod Gould

The League Steps Up on Pension Reform

Pension costs for most California municipalities are likely to increase 25 percent or more in the next three years. If sizable increases in pension costs are not mitigated, many cities will be…

Article President’s Message Mike Kasperzak

Maintaining Our Momentum

Article Everyday Ethics for Local Officials

The Ethics of Public Language

This column is a service of the Institute for Local Government (ILG), whose mission is to promote good government at the local level. For more information and to access ILG’s resources on public service ethics, visit www.ca-ilg.org/trust.


Seek Professional Advice

Although the Institute for Local Government endeavors to help local officials understand laws that apply to public service, its informational materials are not legal advice. In addition, attorneys can and do disagree on the best interpretation of the complex rules related to public service ethics. Officials are encouraged to consult an attorney or the Fair Political Practices Commission for advice on specific situations.

Article Features Ahmos Netanel

Protecting Consumers and Enhancing Public Safety

A voluntary statewide certification program for massage professionals complements local governments’ rules and regulations.

Article Sustainable Cities Yvonne HunterTerry AmslerSteve Sanders

Involving Youth in Your Agency’s Sustainability Activities

Article Executive Director's Message Chris McKenzie

Get Ready for the Big “Trickle Down”

A major change in the role of the federal government is beginning, and it will have dramatic consequences for state and local governments.

Article City Forum Dan Harrison

League-Sponsored Financial Solutions for California Cities Provide Significant Savings

These services offer convenient investment and favorable returns, low-cost financing and discounted purchasing.

Article President’s Message Jim Ridenour

Acknowledging Our Accomplishments

We have made significant progress during a year filled with obstacles and difficulties.

Article Features Brian Moura

San Carlos Takes a Different Approach to Cost Cutting

The city needed a new strategy to solve a $3.5 million structural budget deficit.

Article Executive Director's Message Chris McKenzie

Is the Bell Tolling for Pension Reform?

Rapidly rising pension costs threaten the delivery of public services, compromise budgets and will push some cities to the brink of fiscal collapse.

Article City Forum Eva Spiegel

Plan Your Time at the Annual Conference Now!

It’s time to start thinking about how to make the most of this educational opportunity.

Article Features Yvonne Hunter

Evaluating Green Fleet Options

Cities and counties throughout California are considering adopting policies and programs to “green” their fleets by purchasing fuel-efficient and alternative-fuel vehicles.

Article Web Exclusive

Santa Cruz Police Department Launches Consumer-Focused Phone App

The Santa Cruz Police Department, working with two recent graduates of the University of California, Santa Cruz, has developed what is believed to be the first consumer-focused law enforcement iPhone application in the country. The free mobile application is available via iTunes and the Apple store. The app’s development was funded by a federal grant.

Article Legal Notes Joan L. CassmanCecilia M. Quick

Declaring a State of Emergency: What You Need to Know

Fiscal Oversight: Ask the Right Questions

One of the most important responsibilities for local officials is overseeing their agencies’ finances. What can elected officials do to exercise careful fiscal stewardship over taxpayer resources?

Article Legal Notes Patrick Whitnell

Proposition 26: An Executive Summary for The Layperson

Much effort has been expended trying to explain and analyze the purpose and effect of Proposition 26, the so-called “Stop Hidden Taxes Initiative.” This article provides the non-expert with…

Article Features Eva SpiegelJude Hudson

Why Now Is a Smart Time to Consider Updating Your General Plan

At first glance, updating your city’s General Plan may not seem like a high priority. However, there are several compelling reasons why now is an excellent time to begin updating your General Plan.

Article City Forum Karen Avilla

Making the Most of Your Banking Relationship

Revisiting our banking relationships offers a painless way of recovering and generating revenue for our cash-strapped cities.

Article Legal Notes Hilda Cantú Montoy

Understanding The City Attorney’s Role

Article Features Frank Benest

10 New Rules for Elected Officials in Times of Economic Meltdown

Local governments are experiencing permanent fiscal stress that undercuts their ability to respond to the big issues of the day. These rules provide helpful guidelines for local leaders.

Article Sustainable Cities Ken LomanYvonne Hunter

Working With Energy Utilities to Finance Energy-Efficiency Improvements

Local agencies throughout California are striving to reduce costs, even as the demand for services grows. Improving efficiency helps agencies do more with their existing resources and can offer a…

New Resources to Help Involve Your Community

The institute releases materials for local agencies about involving the public in local budgeting, working with local clergy and congregations, and public engagement stories.

Article Executive Director's Message Chris McKenzieKen Pulskamp

The New Transparency in Local Government

Article City Forum Lisa G. Rosenblum

Sunnyvale’s Investment Increases Efficiency and Improves Library Services

It’s ironic but true: During tough economic times as library budgets are being cut, public library use increases. Sunnyvale used technology to overcome this challenge.

Article Features Web Exclusive David SanderShelly Blanchard

Rancho Cordova’s Remarkable Transformation

Article Features Dustin McDonald

Effective Advocacy: What City Officials Need to Know About Pursuing Federal Grant Funding

A much larger share of federal spending is being distributed in the form of competitive grant funding through executive branch departments and agencies.

Article Features Terry Amsler

Cities Engage Residents in Budget Planning

Local officials throughout California are finding new and more participatory ways to involve residents in local budgeting processes.

Article President’s Message Jim Ridenour

Fighting to Protect Our Communities’ Economic Health and Quality of Life

The impact of state raids on local funds threatens not only the economy but also the vital community services and residents’ safety and quality of life.

Article Features J. Scott TiedemannJack HughesTodd Simonson

What You Need to Know About Regionalizing Public Safety Responsibilities

As public agencies explore cost-saving measures, one option is regionalizing public safety services by consolidating, contracting or sharing services with neighboring agencies.

Article Sustainable Cities Terry Amsler

Involving Youth in Local Planning

Terry Amsler is program director of the Institute for Local Government’s Public Engagement and Collaborative Governance program and can be reached at tamsler@ca-ilg.org. Greg Keidan, program coordinator of the Public Engagement and Collaborative Governance program, also contributed to this article.


More and more frequently, young people are being asked — and are asking — to play a larger role in discussions and decisions about local land use and other plans in their community. A growing number of California cities are involving youth in planning processes as local officials discover the capacity of young people to participate and the value of their insights.

Article Executive Director's Message Chris McKenzie

It’s STILL the Economy: Proposition 22 Will Protect Hundreds of Thousands of Jobs

State government says it is serious about job creation but kills jobs in the private and public sectors by raiding and borrowing local government funds. Proposition 22 offers a solution.

Article City Forum Francesca WrightConnie Busse

Using Safe Routes to School

Article Legal Notes Steven L. Dorsey

Making Contracts Stick

Article Features Web Exclusive Kathy Espinoza

Danger Lurking at Your Keyboard

Article Features

Annual Conference Preview: Conference Offers a Multitude of Opportunities

More than 1,500 city officials will gather in San Diego form Sept. 15-17 for three days of educational sessions, social media training, policy discussion and more.

Article Features

A Word From Outgoing League President Robin Lowe

Lowe summarizes the League’s challenges and successes during the past year.

Article Features Scott SummerfieldSheri Benninghoven

Crisis at City Hall: Planning Ahead Can Make The Difference, Part 2

Article Features Scott SummerfieldSheri Benninghoven

Crisis at City Hall: Planning Ahead Can Make The Difference, Part 1

Article Sustainable Cities Julia Lave Johnston

Partnering to Build Better Communities

The Strategic Growth Council offers technical assistance and administers grant funding for local governments.

Article Executive Director's Message Chris McKenzie

Obsession Can Be a Virtue in Protecting Local Revenues From the State

While public support for our ballot measure is strong, we have to ask ourselves whether we are prepared to devote the effort, resources and focus to this priority to ensure success in November.

Article Features Kyra Ross

Understanding the New Water Conservation Mandates:

The state’s newest water conservation requirements for local governments will affect virtually every community in California.

Article President’s Message Robin Lowe

Finding Strength in Shared Values and Diversity

Our shared values of local control and self-determination affect the breadth and depth of our organization’s leadership in every action we take. The policy-making process and procedures we employ…

Article City Forum

U.S. Communities: The Gold Standard for Cooperative Purchasing

While many purchasing cooperatives offer services, the League sponsors only one: U.S. Communities. Since 2001, the program has saved public agencies more than $1.3 billion. Several key elements set…

Article Features Greg Keidan

Using Keypad Polling to Enhance Public Meetings

It can be a challenge to design public meeting that allow a large and diverse group of residents to collaboratively identify and offer their preferences or recommendations to decision-makers in a…

Article Executive Director's Message Chris McKenzie

Jobs and the State’s Inability to Connect the Dots

California’s economy is in the worst shape since the Great Depression, and the state is shutting down its only viable source of economic development.

Article City Forum John Pilger

Sunnyvale Dramatically Accelerates Capital Improvement Projects

Innovative thinking helped Sunnyvale speed the execution of about 30 projects with a total value of $60 million. A winning combination of low bids, grants and a streamlined administrative process…

Article Legal Notes Michael JenkinsLauren FeldmanSonia CarvalhoJeff Dunn

Addressing the Issue of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

The two articles presented here examine the legal standards and practices under which cities may enact local laws either to ban or regulate dispensaries.

Article President’s Message Robin Lowe

Enough Is Enough! Join the Fight to Save Vital Local Services

Ongoing state raids and state borrowing of local revenues continue to jeopardize the services that Californians need most. Borrowing local taxpayer and transportation funds exacerbates budget…

Article Features Charlotte Dickson

Lower Your Costs by Adopting an Employee Wellness Policy

Obesity-related health care and physical inactivity cost California $41 billion annually. In their role as employers, cities can affect two leading components of health: nutrition and exercise….

Article Sustainable Cities James W. AndrewCharles A. Long

Keys to Successful Mixed-Use and Infill Development

Cities use a variety of strategies to overcome the challenges associated with mixed-use and infill development.