Saturday, October 19, 2019

• League of California Cities Convention 2019: Brief Recap

Before attending city meetings in 2013, I'd never heard of The League of California Cities, which was formed about 120 years ago.
From the LoCC website on its history:

A coincidence of events resulted in creation of the League of California municipalities in 1898. It began with a letter from young Ben Lamborn, city clerk of Alameda (population 17,000), to the more than 100 cities in the state. Mr. Lamborn had been instructed by his council to inquire about other cities' experiences with a new mechanical device (a road roller). Drafting his letter, he found that the road roller question took less than the top half of the paper. So, "to make it look better," he filled up the page with additional questions. Name of city? Population? When incorporated? Officials? Etc.

For the rest of the history, please use this link.
In short, it's a group of cities that have banded together in efforts to help preserve the "local control" desires of cities and towns against the one size fits all approach that all too often permeates Sacramento's governance. 
The current map of LoCC divisions.
Instead of giving you the textbook version (which would be lengthy and boring) let me just give you my understanding after 10 months on the job... which undoubtedly will be much different as the years go by and I continue to learn.

The League provides valuable training on a myriad of pertinent topics that have direct effect on how a city is run. 

Sure, it's easy to spout off about how this should be done, or that should be done, until you win the election and find out that if you even step on one of the lines (much less go outside of them) you will soon find out what a ton of (legal) bricks feels like as they crush you with ease.

Back in January I attended the New Council Members training, which was in Irvine. That came with a laundry list of don'ts... and barely a smattering of dos.
This is an easy question to answer. 
First, what kind of stupid question is this? If you have ever asked such a question in your day to day life, please don't seek any position in which people are supposed to put their trust in you... and that includes dog catcher. Second, well, there really is no second... other than you'll be looking at a ton of trouble if you think such things don't apply to you.
Ethics training, sexual harassment (avoidance) training are two things that must be taken and retaken at least every other year.
The arrow points to where I was during a new council member training course.
The various League divisions have bi-monthly meetings. 

The point of which is to update the members of legislation that is working its way through the capital, and to further strengthen relationships between local cities. I've attended all the meetings this year, which occur on Mondays... and often require a great deal of driving to be part of them.
Rearing and ready to go!

The long awaited "brief recap" of the recent convention
Wednesday morning offered many sessions starting with one for council members and mayors. This was followed by a Riverside Division lunch and information session. Then there was the opening General Session where members from all over the state spent two hours listening to various speakers. 

The last presentation of the day I attended was entitled: The Sixth Council Member, Social Media. 

This seemed like a reworking of the training I had back in January where it touted the value of social media, while also coming with plenty of examples of how public officials can land in hot water if they try to quash the rights of the public in such forums. I was hoping for fresh ideas on how to further use social media to engage the residents... perhaps next year. ☺

Thursday started early with the topic Re-imagining Modern Policing in California. From there we had a chance to traipse through an expo that had countless new ideas for cities to consider adopting (next year I'll take some photos to give you an idea of it).

The second day's General Session included a speech by LA's Mayor, Gil Garcetti. (Without getting political) I can say that he is a polished orator, and he did talk about homelessness in his city. In the end, I can tell you that I'm glad I'm 90 minutes away from his city, and that I like the approach that our police have been taking on the issue, far more than his.

The next topic to learn more about was called Achieving an Accurate Count in the 2020 Census. An accurate count is necessary, and as we get into 2020, this will become more of a topic on the local level.

A new subgroup for rural cities is being formed, and I attended the inaugural meeting. The idea is that larger cities are the ones that seem to get most of the oxygen in politics, and the hope is that if the rural cities come together, they (we) might have a chance to get more attention when we need it.

Since this was the first meeting, some cities attended that were small, but far from the intent of the group. Los Altos and Palo Alto were hoping it was based on population, and if you know anything about their demographics, they aren't hurting for representation in Sacramento. 

It was understood that there are three basic rural categories. One attendee summed it up as Large, Medium and Small. I was sitting with a council member from Lindsay (Population 13K, Median Household Income $30K and Median Home Value $133K) and they are the true definition of "rural", located in Tulare County. 

Many of the other cities represented in the room were similar to Wildomar... a little bit country, and the rest... well, let's put it this way... having a freeway down the middle sort of puts the kibosh on that bucolic feeling that Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about. We're only rural when compared to a metropolis like LA, SF, SD or even Long Beach.

Other than joining the email list, getting to see how many attended (the room was packed. I'd guess there were more than 100 represented) and being ready to respond to calls for action, there wasn't a lot more that happened in the short time span allotted. 

At this point in the day, there were meetings held by several special interest caucuses (African American, Asian Pacific, Latino, etc). I could have returned to the expo for more free pens and stress relief balls, or attend one. 

I opted for the latter and attended the LGBTQ Caucus meeting. Not a lot happened during it. After introductions, they chose the next year's secretary and VP. 

Last for the day was Preserving Community Identity. That's a tough one when your city doesn't have a long standing identity that the residents recognize, but I did learn a lot about Norco, as one of their council members spoke about how they preserved their community identity.

The conference ended Friday early afternoon and two of the bigger topics were gone over back to back: Hidden Cost of Tackling Homelessness and How Are You Managing Adult Use Cannabis? 
The comparative costs of homeless people on communities.
The current homeless crisis in the country, and especially in California, has taken decades to arrive at, and there is no easy fix on the horizon. 

I'm not going to give you my long winded reasoning on what I think have been the major contributing factors, but suffice to say, suggesting that we put the homeless in wood chippers and feed them to the coyotes isn't an option (an infamous suggestion by the self stylized President of Wildomar — if you aren't familiar, count yourself blessed).

One way or another, this will be costing the taxpayers money to handle, and hopefully solve at some point. In the meantime, based on the information, and then the questions from the other city council members, I can tell you that we in Southwest Riverside County are far better off than many other jurisdictions. I'm so glad that we brought in SWAG along with electing a new sheriff. 

Then there was cannabis... which most of you know, we're in the 4th quarter of coming up with an ordinance here. I wish that you could have heard some of the presentation. A key take away was moving away from calling it "the black market" to simply, the unregulated market. 

It was put forward that creating regulations for cannabis will NOT be inviting cannabis into the city... because it's already here. It's a matter of looking to regulate what has been present all along. That is something that needs to be considered, no matter how much you hate the hippie lettuce. 

The only thing left on the conference agenda was lunch (who actually eats arugula? I thought I liked everything, but that stuff is bitter as can be) and the closing ceremonies. The outgoing League president made way for the 2020 president, as a few more board members were chosen too.

►                •                ◄

Last note, there were dozens of classes that overlapped. I'm guessing that they repeat now and then so that everyone will have a chance to attend most of them over time, or at least the ones that apply to their city. It was a very busy two and a half days... and that's not counting the driving. 
Some people can accumulate two feet worth of those badge add-ons. You can tell by my hair that I was ready to return to the friendly confines of Wildomar by midday Friday.
It was a great experience and I hope to be able to use the information to be a better representative for the people of Wildomar. 
•                •                •

Someone who loves a neighbor allows him to be as he is, as he was, and as he will be.  
– Michel Quoist

Based on that, Wildomar Rap must love each of you as much as a favorite aunt.

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