Articles

Overview

Articles

Article Features Dan Carrigg

2009 Legislative Review

Article Features

2009 Annual Conference Review

More than 1,500 city officials attended the League of California Cities 2009 Annual Conference and Exposition held Sept. 16-18 in San Jose. Dozens of sessions and workshops focused on timely…

Article Everyday Ethics for Local Officials

Ethics and the Agency Auditing Function

Auditors can help elected officials and agency managers make sure that public resources are properly used. By conducting periodic audits, local agencies can underscore their commitment to ethics…

Article Features Bill Statler

Municipal Fiscal-Health Contingency Planning

Good times come and go. How can cities best position themselves to weather the bad times? One city’s approach involves having a fiscal-health contingency plan in place so it doesn’t face…

Article Legal Notes John H. KnoxMarc A. Levinson

Avoiding and Using Chapter 9

The stresses that can result in the drastic step of filing for bankruptcy protection are currently affecting many municipalities, but filing for Chapter 9 protection should be considered a last…

Article Sustainable Cities Yvonne HunterKen Loman

Financing Local Sustainability Efforts

Even in these difficult financial times, local agencies are undertaking a wide range of activities that promote sustainability. Regardless of the reason behind the activities, they have one thing…

Article City Forum James HamillMark Curran

California Communities STAR Bond Program Offers Cities a Cost-Effective Financing Tool

Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the federal government is providing a way for cities to issue taxable Build America Bonds and Recovery Zone Economic Development Bonds, which…

Article Executive Director's Message Chris McKenzie

Rebuilding California Requires Restoring Local Control of Local Revenues

This year, the dysfunction in our state governance became painfully evident as the Legislature and governor adopted budget after budget that failed to meet the test of responsibility in the eyes of…

Article President’s Message Robin Lowe

Public Safety Depends on Police, Fire — and More

City officials are grappling with the challenges of balancing their city budget while preserving the critically important services that are a central component of our quality of life. Clearly,…

Article Features Scott SummerfieldSheri Benninghoven

Managing More Effectively With a Strategic Communications Plan

Article Legal Notes Nicole Hoeksma GordonMargaret M. Sohagi

Shovel-Ready on a Shoestring: Tools for Efficient, Cost-Saving CEQA Compliance

Cities can take many simple steps to maximize the efficiency of CEQA review while maintaining legal defensibility, and streamlining the process can also save money.

Article Sustainable Cities Yvonne Hunter

The Co-Benefits of Sustainability Strategies

Sustainability strategies save money, conserve resources for future generations, improve public health, respond to climate change and make communities more attractive places to live.

Article Executive Director's Message Chris McKenzie

The Constitution Is Not “An Inconvenient Truth”

In the past few years, some state leaders have proposed budget “solutions” that are clearly unconstitutional and fly in the face of the intent of not only the voters but the Legislature itself.

Article City Forum Jennifer Persike

Helping Your Community Save Water

Article President’s Message Judy Mitchell

Vigilance Is Crucial

Regardless of how the state budget deficit is addressed, we have a long, hard road ahead of us to protect funding for local services in the years to come. City revenues continue to be on the table,…

Article Features

Coping with the Crunch: Utility and Water Savings

Cities are implementing a number of innovative strategies.

Article Features Don BenninghovenJim DahlLeslie Daigle

An Ocean of Opportunity

The Marine Life Protection Act gives cities a tool to protect both economic and natural resources.

Article Web Exclusive Yvonne HunterDana Papke Waters

Carbon Calculators: Definitions and Related Resources

Article Legal Notes Michelle Marchetta Kenyon

How Cities Can Manage Legal Costs Without Increasing Risk

City attorneys are exploring ways to provide more cost-effective legal assistance while maintaining the level of service expected by the city.

Article City Forum Heidi Sanborn

Too Much Waste Costing Too Much Money: It’s Time for Product Stewardship

Despite recycling efforts, waste generation continues to increase.

Article Sustainable Cities Yvonne HunterDana Papke Waters

Calculating Carbon Emissions

Is it better to invest in high-efficiency fluorescent lamps or a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system if you can’t do both?

Article Features Eric Mchenry

How GIS Can Save Money and Increase Efficiency for Cities

Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software to automate the notification process reduced the amount of staff time needed to do the job by 90 percent. And that’s just one of several recent…

Article Features Michael Siminovitch

Tips for Your Community: How to Save Lighting Energy

The California Lighting Technology Center at the University of California, Davis, puts the goals of green design and energy-efficient lighting into practice and offers local governments a number of…

Article President’s Message Judy Mitchell

Regional Effort Helps Communities Save Money, Energy, Water and the Environment

City officials are searching for ways to improve municipal efficiency, conserve resources and stretch the public’s dollars. In Southern California, a regional collaboration has found a way to do…

Article Features John F. Shirey

Is the State Eating Its Seed Corn? How Cutting Redevelopment Kills Jobs

Investments by redevelopment agencies represent one of the state’s most meaningful economic development programs.

Article City Forum Troy BrownAnton DahlerbruchMarcia L. GodwinJulie C.T. Hernandez

Cultivating Diversity in Municipal Management

Article Legal Notes Michael EstradaDebbie Cho

Using Design-Build Can Save Money on Public Construction

The Legislature recently granted California cities expanded authority to use the design-build project delivery method.

Article Sustainable Cities Margo Reid Brown

Building a Green Economy: The Recycled Market Development Zone Program Provides Help and Resources

The RMDZ program provides affordable loans and technical assistance that can help a manufacturing business through the challenging formative stages of developing new recycled-materials products.

Article Executive Director's Message Chris McKenzie

Reforming California’s Governance: Is It Time for a Grassroots Revolution?

Amid mounting evidence that the state government is hopelessly dysfunctional, various groups are putting together a reform agenda.

Article Features Kyra RossBill HigginsJennifer WhitingMeghan Mckelvey

What the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Means for Your City

The federal economic stimulus funding is on a fast track. Here’s what you need to know about what’s available and how to apply.

Article Features Greg CoxJim MadafferJohn Ohanian

Help Starts Here: 211 Connects Residents With Resources

Article City Forum Anne C. Fairchild

Unusual Recipe Averts a Staffing Crisis

Thoroughly screened and well-prepared interns were quickly able to help staff meet heavy workload demands in the City of San Luis Obispo. Now the city has a pool of highly trained and certified…

Article Everyday Ethics for Local Officials

The Gift That Keeps on Giving: Changes to the Gift Rules, PART 1 OF 2

In 2008, the Fair Political Practices Commission modified the Political Reform Act’s gift rules. One of these changes – the increase in the limit on the annual monetary value of gifts local…

Article President’s Message Judy Mitchell

Hard Times: Why We Must Protect Funding for Vital Community Services

It’s critically important for city officials to continue reminding our state leaders that without these essential services, that quality of life will decline precipitously.

Article City Forum Patricia Lock-DawsonRonald O. Loveridge

The Santa Ana River Trail and Parkway Builds a Path to Success

For the first time ever, the three counties that surround the Santa Ana River have joined forces with 14 cities and the private sector to complete the crest-to-coast trail.

Article Legal Notes Richard Lam

Clean It or Lien It: Dealing with Foreclosed or Abandoned Properties

What are the viable options to protect the safety of neighborhoods where foreclosed homes are abandoned and become unsightly invitations to unlawful activity and sources of health risks?

Article Executive Director's Message Chris McKenzie

Sustainable Communities: An Urban Imperative

The League has set its strategic sights for the second year in a row on “supporting sustainable communities.”

Article Features Souri Amirani

New Approaches for Urgently Needed Road Maintenance

Thinking outside the box, using new technologies and leveraging funding opportunities are innovative strategies that cities can use to address deteriorating streets and pavement.

Article City Forum Dorothy Johnson

Developing New Talent in Public Works

Article President’s Message Judy Mitchell

It’s Time to Get Back to Basics

The League’s strategic goals for 2009 include promoting economic stimulus and infrastructure investment.

Article Features Dan Carrigg

2008 Legislative Highlights and Recognition

The legislative year was dominated by a three-way battle among the governor, Democrats and Republicans over how to close a $24 billion deficit spanning two budget cycles.

Article Legal Notes Nikki Hall

Addressing ADA Accessibility Issues in the Public Sector

Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 has been in effect for nearly two decades, many public entities are not yet in compliance with its accessibility requirements.

Article Executive Director's Message Chris McKenzie

Commonplace Miracles of Local Democracy

Voters are overwhelmingly reinvesting in their local governments, local infrastructure and local services by approving ballot measures that authorize tax increases and bond issues for public…

Article Features Patricia E. HealyAlma Flores

Santa Ana Uses Inclusive Approach to Develop Ethics Code

Article President’s Message Heather Fargo

Looking Ahead to the New Year

The coming year holds new possibilities and challenges, including the need for budget reform at the state level. At the national level in preparation for a new president, the U.S. Conference of…

Article City Forum Terrence Murphy

Tax-Exempt Lease-Purchase Financing Options for Local Governments

Local agencies use this solution to leverage time and resources.

Article Features John Laird

Two-Thirds Budget Vote Has to Go

Article Features Fred Silva

California’s Two-Thirds Legislative Vote Requirement and Its Role in the State Budget Process

What does the two-thirds requirement mean for California’s budget process?

Article Executive Director's Message Chris McKenzie

The League at 110: Focused on Local Control – and Always Looking Ahead

Protecting local control requires flexibility and responsiveness to the needs and desires of the electorate on issues that demand substantive, thoughtful public policy – without sacrificing local…

Understanding Local Government: Three Resources on Municipal Finance

Three publications cover the nuts and bolts of fiscal management and revenue resources.

Article Sustainable Cities Kathleen Les

Moving Toward Fuel-Efficient and Alternative-Fuel Fleets: 10 Questions Local Officials Should Ask

Increasing fuel prices and tightening budget constraints have many local officials exploring a transition to fuel-efficient and alternative fuel vehicles.

Article Legal Notes Benjamin D. Winig

Lost In Translation: Local Public Agencies and Translating Official Documents

A look at the federal and state laws related to translation requirements.

Article City Forum Stephen D. LodgeRobert Davis

Operation Meltdown

Article President’s Message Heather Fargo

Keeping Cities Strong

Article Special Series Al Savay

The Public Engagement Toolbox

Al Savay, AICP, is community development director for the City of San Carlos and can be reached at asavay@cityofsancarlos.org.


Meaningfully engaging the public requires planners and government officials to develop a public participation toolbox that can be used in a wide variety of situations. Local governments may use several effective approaches, depending on whether the project is an ongoing planning initiative or a public input process.

Article Features Gus CaravalhoCraig ChavezDavid Pierce

Inspiring Leadership: Next Generation Update – A New Opportunity

Article Sustainable Cities Kathleen Les

Greener Buildings Help Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Communities are increasingly embracing green building measures.

Article President’s Message Jim Madaffer

Building the League’s Momentum

In terms of shaping statewide public policy, the League’s expanding leadership role at the ballot box is its most significant accomplishment.

Article City Forum Larry Owens

Santa Clara Builds a Solar Community

Under the umbrella of the neighborhood Solar Program, Santa Clara is creating a solar community.

Article Legal Notes Timothy H. IronsElizabeth M. Del Cidattorney

SB 97: The “Other” Global Warming Act

Article Features Scott SummerfieldSheri Benninghoven

Telling Your Story Through Effective Media Relations

Article Features Frederick C. DockJoaquin T. Siques

Traffic, Transit, Technology and the Rose Parade

Article Features Joanne HallRob Wilson

Pleasanton Saves Time and Money Through Technology

Work that preciously took up to two days to complete is now finished in a matter of minutes, thanks to software that integrates computerized maintenance management systems with geographic information.

Article Features Lillian Henegar

Sustainable Redevelopment Builds Better Communities

By promoting urban-centered growth and restoring contaminated areas to viable use, redevelopment helps preserve the environment and open space while reducing sprawl and commute times.

Article Executive Director's Message Chris McKenzie

Why the League Supports Honest and Responsible Eminent Domain Reform

The League and its coalition partners are working to build support for Proposition 99 and to educate voters about the great harm that Prop.98 could do to our communities.

Article Legal Notes Christi Hogin

Building Green With Carrots and Sticks

Cities are increasingly using regulations and incentives to develop new greener building practices that reduce development’s short-and long-term environmental impacts.

Article City Forum Laurence Wiener

Tips for Reading an Environmental Impact Report

Laurence Wiener is an attorney with Richards, Watson & Gershon and can be reached at LWiener@rwglaw.com.


The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) was conceived in the 1970s to promote the goal of ensuring that local government decision-makers understand the environmental impacts of their decisions. To implement this goal, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research developed CEQA implementation guidelines, which stated that Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs) should be no more than 150 pages and written in plain language that can be readily understood by decision-makers and the public.

Article Features Ken LomanCharles Summerell

Planning for Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions

Ken Loman is a policy consultant for the California Climate Action Network, a program of the Institute for Local Government (ILG), and can be reached at kloman@ca-ilg.org. Charles Summerell is a program analyst for ILG and can be reached at summerc@ca-ilg.org. Special thanks to the following individuals who contributed to this article: Betsy Strauss, special counsel to the League; Beth Gabor, public information officer, Yolo County; Jill Boone, sustainability consultant to the City of San Mateo; and Nancy McKeever, PLACE3S program manager, California Energy Commission. For more information about ILG’s climate change program, visit www.ca-ilg.org/climatechange.


An increasing body of scientific research links greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions with rising land and ocean temperatures, changes in storm and rainfall patterns, seasonal temperature variations, rising sea levels and other evidence of climate change.

Article Features Brian HeatonBill Higgins

The Housing Element Process: How California Cities Are Faring

Brian Heaton is former communications specialist for the League. Bill Higgins is the League’s housing and land use legislative representative and can be reached at bhiggins@cacities.org.


At first glance, drafting a new housing element may not seem that complicated. The housing element requires a city to plan for its fair share of housing for each income category: very low, low, moderate and above moderate. The city must identify the land where this housing will be located. To the extent that communities cannot complete this inventory, they must develop a program so that all the land will be identified and appropriately zoned by the end of the five-year planning period.

Livermore’s Advance Team Expedites Planning

The City of Livermore won an Award for Excellence for this project in the Internal Administration category of the 2007 Helen Putnam Award for Excellence program. For more information about the award program, visit www.cacities.org/helenputnam.

Article Features Jude Hudson

Planning with Fire: Balancing Growth and Safety in Fire Hazard Areas

California’s catastrophic fires raise a number of questions about fire safety and land use planning.

Fairfield Improves Quality of Life for Residents With Special Needs

The City of Fairfield won an Award for Excellence for this project in the Housing Programs and Innovations category of the 2007 Helen Putnam Award for Excellence program. For more information about the award program, visit www.cacities.org/helenputnam.

Hemet Involves Landlords to Revitalize Neighborhood

The City of Hemet won an Award for Excellence for this project in the Housing Programs and Innovations category of the 2007 Helen Putnam Award for Excellence program. For more information about the award program, visit www.cacities.org/helenputnam.

Article Executive Director's Message Chris McKenzie

Sustainability Offers the Biggest Bang for Your City’s Buck

Increasing energy efficiency and promoting sustainability reduce a community’s carbon footprint and also provide long-term cost savings of taxpayer dollars.

ILG Launches Local Government 101 Project and Seeks Your Ideas

Does your city want to help its residents understand how local government works? Are you frustrated when people complain about how city revenues are raised and spent? Do you wish you had an easy way to explain the Brown Act and Public Records Act to the public and your newly elected and appointed officials?

Article Legal Notes Michael JenkinsHelyne MesharHernan Molina

Domestic Partner Rights in California

Michael Jenkins is a partner with the law firm of Jenkins & Hogin and serves as city attorney for the City of West Hollywood and several other Southern California cities; he can be reached at MJenkins@localgovlaw.com. Helyne Meshar is principal of Helyne Meshar & Associates and legislative advocate for the City of West Hollywood; she can be reached at HMeshar@aol.com. Hernan Molina is deputy to West Hollywood Mayor John Duran and can be reached at HMolina@weho.org.


It has been three years since California’s Domestic Partner Law was enacted. This article traces the law’s history, explains California cities’ role in its development and implementation and includes specific recommendations to ensure that your city is in compliance with the law.

Article City Forum Terrence Murphy

New Programs Provide Funds for Street and Road Improvements

Two new programs for California local governments leverage current sources of funding to finance road improvement projects.

Article Features Darrell Steinberg

SB 375 Explained

Senator Steinberg (D-Sacramento) offers insights into the thinking behind his bill.

Article Features Eva Spiegel

Legislators from Local Government Weigh In

The 2007-08 Legislature is a special class because former local government officials now constitute a majority in both the Senate and Assembly. When these new members took office in January 2007, they brought fresh ideas and a local perspective to statewide policy-making.