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2012 Annual Conference Wrap-Up

September 13, 2012

This year’s Annual Conference & Expo was held in San Diego on Sept. 5 – 7. Sessions covered a wide variety of topics. As expected, some of the “hot topic” sessions focused on pensions and pension reform, economic development and post-redevelopment tools, municipal finances and bankruptcy, and social media.

 

There were also a new series of CityTalks, held in 20 minute format sessions, covering topics like homegrown economics, how to effectively use volunteers to enhance city services, business plans for public enterprises, sharing data for transparency, and street financing techniques.

Opening Session

The League’s opening session began ceremoniously with a presentation of color guard and a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem by Mr. Rosie Carter.

Presiding League President and Mountain View Mayor Mike Kasperzak in his opening remarks focused his comments of this year’s theme “Cities Guiding Healthy Government” encouraging city officials to get their cities involved in the Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) campaign and participate in an early morning organized walk/jog before attending sessions.

The 2012 Helen Putnam award winners were also announced, before a Stockton Vice Mayor Kathy Miller gave a touching tribute to Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge, who received the Past Presidents’ Lifetime Achievement Award.

The opening session concluded with keynote speaker Malcolm Kushner who gave a rousing presentation called “Leading with Laughter: How to Use Humor to Relate, Motivate and Communicate.” The presentation gave tips and advice on how to use humor to capture the attention of even unfriendly audiences. The presentation included video clips and former presidents who effectively used humor in a variety of situations. The basic message: If you can get them to laugh, you can get them to listen.

Economic Development and Post-Redevelopment

Update on Unwinding Redevelopment Under AB 1484

On Thursday, League staff provided an early morning report on the progress of AB 1484, the redevelopment budget trailer bill. Dan Carrigg, legislative director, and Patrick Whitnell, general counsel, provided information and perspectives on the complex agency dissolutions process.

After the dissolution of redevelopment in February, and the subsequent loss of the California Redevelopment Association, the League has stepped in the provide information on this complex and often frustrating process. The session provided timelines for successor agency compliance with AB 1484, as well as a detailed explanation of the process. The presentation slides are available on the League’s website.

This year, the League Task Force on Next Steps for Economic Development Tools was dedicated to exploring other methods that could be used to fill the void left by the dissolution of redevelopment. One bill that the committee explored, and ultimately supported, was SB 214.

SB 214 (Wolk) would revise the underutilized existing Infrastructure Financing District law to allow the tool to be more helpful for cities. AB 214 is the most complete bill which addresses the complex problems which have prevented cities from using this tool in previous years. City officials are encouraged to send request for signature letters to Gov. Jerry Brown on SB 214. A sample letter has been posted on the League’s website by typing “SB 214” into the search box. 

The League will continue to hold working group meetings and facilitate discussions with the Department of Finance. While many disputes have arisen throughout this process, it is hoped that they can be resolved without litigation. However the League board of directors has authorized staff to pursue legal recourse should it be required.

Pensions

Public Pension Reform in California

In a very timely session following the recent passage by the Legislature of AB 340 (Furutani), the pension reform Alan Milligan, chief actuary for CalPERS, Daniel Borenstein a columnist and editorial writer for the Contra Costa Times, and Irwin Bornstein, former fiscal officer from the city of Mission Viejo and former League Board member, participated in a panel offering background and perspectives on pension reform. Following the conference, on Sept. 12, Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 340, the pension reform legislation into law.

The League has prepared a comparative analysis of AB 340 as it aligns with existing League Pension Policy.The League also covered the passage of this legislation on the last day of session in a story explaining some of the key details of the proposal.

Milligan started off the panel noting that there may be needed cleanups and clarifications in order to implement the proposal. He provided a general overview of the pension reform legislation including the cap on pensionable income, increased retirement ages, new cost sharing authority as well as other important reforms.

Daniel Borenstein was critical of the pension reform legislation noting his disappointment in the lack of plans to address the governance structure of the CalPERS Board of Administration as well as other retirement boards that resulted in the current pension crisis as well as the lack of efforts to address vested rights for current workers.

Irwin Bornstein focused his remarks on what cities can do now to address pension reform. Bornstein asked city officials to consider implementation questions regarding current pensions and potential gaps, health programs, previous compensation increases, defined benefit programs, and other obligations.

Municipal Bankruptcy

Stockton: Report from the Front – AB 506 and Its Aftermath

During a crowded League Partners’ Speakers Theater John Holtzman, partner, Renne Sloan, Holtzman Sakai LLP, and Katherine Miller, vice mayor, Stockton discussed AB 506. The law, enacted last year, is currently being used in the city of Stockton’s municipal bankruptcy proceedings.

Holtzman provided a brief background on municipal bankruptcy and Stockton’s history while Miller offered her observations as Stockton’s vice mayor. “What led to our decision to file was that it was the only way to prevent further cuts for our residents,” said Miller.

After being asked if the AB 506 process was working, Miller concluded “I hope we come out of bankruptcy stronger, and the conversations that come out of this will show that our employees, retirees, and citizens have given a lot to be part of the solution and that it’s only fair for our creditors to do the same. I’m optimistic we’ll get through this. We have a great council.”

Social Media

Cities Using Social Media

San Bernardino Director of Information Technology Lea Deesing, MPA and Fremont Communications Coordinator Cheryl Golden discussed several of the social media outlets available to cities but focused their discussion on the big four: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. As social media becomes a larger and larger part of the communications landscape, this session focused on how cities can use low-cost social media outlets to connect with residents.

Deesing discussed the process of creating San Bernardino’s social media policy and strategy and the trials and tribulations after launching.

Golden shared her experiences with setting a social media pilot program and encouraged city officials to think of social media as one of the tools in a communications tool kit. She explained the process of getting approval from the city manager and the readiness that is required to manage the two way communication necessary for a social media to be a successful tool.

Deesing and Golden stressed the benefits of developing separate social sites for the various departments of the city such as: police, fire, recreational services, economic development and public works to name a few examples. They also emphasized the importance of branding all of the various social media sites, using the city’s logo or a specially designed logo just for social media use that allows users to recognize the city sites and increase visibility and encourage further involvement.

Handouts and Presentation Materials

Some handouts and presentation materials from this year’s conference are available on the League’s website.



 
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