One year ago, League of California Cities President and El Centro
Mayor Cheryl Viegas Walker shared her thoughts about the role of
city leaders in a time of unparalleled challenges and
uncertainty, as well as her vision for the future. Now, as her
term draws to a close, she looks back at the successes of the
The immediate and secondary impacts of climate change can be felt
deeply in our communities, but we as city leaders have a
responsibility to our residents and future generations to
mitigate these impacts as much as possible. Cities are leading
the way in finding innovative strategies to protect their
communities from climate change and cultivate healthy and
As COVID-19 positivity rates continue to decline and vaccination
rates increase, California city leaders are shifting from
around-the-clock pandemic response to developing plans for
long-term economic recovery. The resurgence of local economies is
key to our nation’s recovery from a devastating yearlong
pandemic, and as city officials map out equitable recovery
efforts in their communities, inclusive economic development
strategies must be a core component of these long-term
The decisions that we make every day as city leaders, especially
housing and land use decisions, cannot be made in a vacuum. All
city services and programs must be viewed through a lens of
equity, and this new Advancing Equity Advisory Committee will
play an integral role in identifying how cities can recognize and
eliminate disparities in our systems.
In December 2020, city leaders who serve in leadership positions
for the League of California Cities divisions, departments,
policy committees, and diversity caucuses convened virtually for
the annual League Leaders program, to chart the organization’s
priorities for 2021. Developing member-driven and -informed
strategic advocacy priorities is key to the effectiveness of Cal
Cities’ advocacy efforts on behalf of cities.
It’s helpful to remember that leadership isn’t always about
remaining stoic and displaying optimism. Allowing yourself to be
vulnerable is both human and acceptable, especially in
relentlessly difficult circumstances.
The impacts of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis
police officer and the injustices his death exemplifies are being
felt on our streets, in our businesses, and in every city and
town in California, across the country, and throughout the world.
When early reports of infection showed California was among the
states with the highest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases,
local and state leaders stepped up, taking action to slow the
spread of the virus and protect vulnerable populations.
Attracting new businesses, retaining employers, and providing
opportunities for a skilled workforce are essential to fostering
a healthy economy in our cities. California cities are using
diverse approaches, programs, and tools to help support economic
development and thriving communities.
Communication and collaboration are cornerstones of the ability
to lead, and the League’s positive relationships with legislators
are key to cities’ successes in the Capitol. Cultivating open
two-way communication with our state leaders is essential to
protecting the interests of cities and our residents.
The shortage of affordable housing is a crisis for cities
statewide and the focus of a League 2019 strategic goal. The
League’s hard work on this issue was boosted by an executive
order from Governor Newsom earlier this year.
Approximately 100 League leaders participated in the goal-setting
process. This provides an opportunity for city leaders to reflect
on the prior year’s work, discuss current challenges and
establish League priorities, as the organization continues to
serve as the leading voice of California cities.