Local News RoundUp
The Local News RoundUp is the League's daily news clipping service of articles related to California cities and local government.
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February 21, 2017
Lawmakers get roadmap to improve state’s highways (Central Valley Business)
Aging highways, aging local roads and transit systems, increased traffic congestion, increased demand for transportation alternatives, and increased goods movement – what’s not to like about transportation in California? The icing on the cake: there may not be enough money under current policies to address the problems, says the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office. It’s a big task. The report notes that the California Department of Transportation is responsible for maintaining and rehabilitating the state’s highway system, which includes about 50,000 lane‑miles of pavement, 13,100 bridges, and 205,000 culverts. The 2017-18 state budget proposed by Gov. Edmund Gerald Brown Jr. includes a transportation funding package that is estimated to generate an annual average increase in transportation spending of $4.2 billion over the next ten years, the LAO report says.
Housing for homeless vets approved in Carlsbad (San Diego Union Tribune)
Carlsbad will give a $4.25 million construction loan to a developer with plans to build 50 affordable apartments for low-income and homeless veterans in the city’s downtown Barrio neighborhood, the City Council decided this week. The apartments would be built by Affirmed Housing at two separate sites — one on Harding Street and the other on Oak Avenue, both just west of Interstate 5. Twenty-six of the apartments would be studios, and the rest would have one, two and three bedrooms. Total development costs for the Affirmed project are expected to be about $21 million, including construction costs of $10.4 million, according to a city staff report. Affirmed expects to get $9.5 million in federal tax credits and $1.7 million in state tax credits to make the project work.
Why the new Coastal Commission chief is a good bet to defend California's beaches (Los Angeles Times)
The year 2016, you may recall, was disastrous for the California Coastal Commission, beginning with the firing of beloved Executive Director Charles Lester by the politically appointed commissioners just as some huge development proposals were coming up for review. Lester’s staff was demoralized, coastal stewards were frosted, and many believed several commissioners were way too chummy with developers. It was a crummy way to mark the 40th anniversary of the Coastal Act, a citizen-inspired mandate for limited development, coastal protection and public access to beaches. The Times exposed commissioners who skirted rules governing private meetings, among other ethical lapses. Lawsuits followed and are still in play. The man who was asked to step up and be interim leader of the agency, in the midst of this drama, was Ainsworth, a steady hand and loyal soldier who had started at the bottom rung of the Coastal Commission staff in 1988. As the commissioners began their long search for a permanent executive director, Ainsworth wasn’t particularly interested in a job that had become so politicized.
Costa Mesa council to review proposed city employee contract with pay raises and lower pension contributions (Orange County Register)
The City Council will discuss a proposed contract Tuesday that would give some city employees pay raises while slashing the amount they contribute toward their pensions. Under the contract with the Costa Mesa City Employees Association, the city’s 236 workers would receive a 2.5 percent pay raise in the first two years and a 2.75 percent bump in the third and forth years. The employees would contribute 14 percent toward their pensions in year one. The amounts would be reduced to 13 percent in year two and 12 percent in years three and four. Members of the CMCEA currently pay 17.04 percent toward their pensions, which “is one of the highest that employees pay in the county,” said city spokesman Tony Dodero. The deal could cost taxpayers around $5.65 million more over the duration of the contract than the previous one, which expired in June, according to a city staff report.
Indian Wells retires unfunded pension obligation (Desert Sun)
Indian Wells is joining a handful of California cities in paying off its unfunded pension liability. The City Council on Thursday unanimously approved spending just under $1.2 million to pay off the obligation, saving the city about $200,000 per year in future pension payments, Finance Director Kevin McCarthy said. Nearly 90 percent of the money – just under $1.1 million – will come from the general fund while the rest will be taken from the golf resort, fire services, housing authority and Club Drive funds. CalPERS pension funds come from employee and employer contributions, plus the dividends coming from investment of that money. An unfunded pension obligation is the amount of future payment obligations that exceed the present value of funds available to pay them, McCarthy explained. California’s 130 state and local government pension plans showed about $234.3 billion in unfunded liabilities in 2015, the most recent numbers available from the state Controller’s Office. That’s down about $7 billion from 2014’s total $241.3 billion.
Local governments can create blueprint for more housing (Sacramento Bee)
Local elected leaders are acutely aware of the severity of California’s housing affordability crisis and our role in fashioning solutions. That’s why city leaders are actively involved in efforts to develop policy reforms that can create a blueprint for more housing construction. In recent weeks, academics, state officials and elected officials have offered opinions and potential solutions to increase housing supply. Many have been critical of local governments for the lack of construction in our communities. Some of these criticisms are fair, but many ignore the realities of the private housing market, the limited resources for affordable housing and the conditions that encourage or discourage new housing development.
How cities should take care of their housing problems (New York Times)
While President Trump talks repeatedly about fixing America’s inner cities, it’s a good bet that in the coming years, New York and other large metropolitan areas will need to be more self-reliant in solving pressing problems, especially low-income housing. After all, many big cities face a triple threat: Mr. Trump wants to cut funding to sanctuary cities; his nominee to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson, is unlikely to be a strong and creative leader; and the Republican Congress is eager to chip away at federal housing programs. In response, cities need local financing initiatives that make up for the coming reduction in federal assistance. Fortunately, there’s an already tested alternative: an annual luxury housing tax, levied on new high-end condos and rentals, which would feed a self-sustaining fund dedicated to develop truly affordable units. While no city has such a plan in place, this strategy has been tried right here in New York. The city has already channeled approximately $1 billion from luxury development for affordable housing into communities like Harlem and the South Bronx.
Here's what's driving lawmakers working to legalize recreational pot in 17 more states (Los Angeles Times)
When Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure in November to legalize recreational marijuana, Josh Miller saw this as a sign that his time had finally arrived. The Rhode Island state senator has a reputation among colleagues as a cannabis crusader — a battle that, so far, he’s lost. For the last three years, Miller introduced legislation to legalize recreational pot, and for the last three years, his efforts have died in committee hearing rooms. In the fall, three other states joined Massachusetts in passing recreational pot ballot measures: California, Maine and Nevada. Four other states — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington — have legalized marijuana through ballot initiatives as well.
CITY IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Council members represent Hemet in Sacramento (Valley News)
In January, Mayor Linda Krupa and Councilmember Bonnie Wright were reappointed to their League of California Cities’ Policy Committees in Sacramento. Mayor Krupa serves on the Transportation, Communication & Public Works Committee & the Community Services Committee, while Councilmember Wright serves on the Environmental Quality Committee. Both are integral parts to the League’s policymaking process. Both committees took the time to discuss the issues and concerns surrounding transportation funding, local communications, and how the quality of local environments will affect communities throughout California. The League’s policymaking process allows the issues facing California cities to be debated and the organization’s policy directions to be established. Close to 400 city officials serve on the League’s policy committees and add their collective expertise, wisdom and opinions to the policy debate that is the foundation of League policy. The recommendations from the policy committee are forwarded to the League board of directors.
Council to explore changing city’s form of governance (Mercury News)
Milpitas City Council next Tuesday is expected to mull a controversial subject that ran into strong resistance within the community — and at election year polls — more than 10 years ago. At the request of Councilman Anthony Phan, the panel will consider whether or not to authorize city staff spend more than four hours of staff time to investigate potentially changing Milpitas’ current general law city status to that of a charter city. According to the League of California Cities, general law cities like Milpitas are governed by state law, which describe as well as restrict the procedures and exercise of power for an individual city and its city council. Conversely, a charter city can offer a much broader scope of authority to its powers based on its own city charter. City charters typically require voter approval. Once approved, a charter city can establish unique criteria for city office holders, including vacating and terminating city office. State laws generally impose term limits for office holders in general law cities. In charter cities, council member compensation may be established to include salaries, expense reimbursements and benefits. Under general law cities, council member compensation also has a salary ceiling set by city population. Voters can approve a higher salary for council members. Similarly, council members in general law cities are usually provided the same benefits that are available and paid by a city to its employees, League of California Cities states.