Cal Cities delivers in first board meeting of 2021 with bill positions, new initiatives, swearing in of new members, and a conversation with Gov. Gavin Newsom

Feb 17, 2021

The League of California Cities Board of Directors gathered virtually for a two-day meeting last week to review progress on Cal Cities’ 2021 Strategic Advocacy Priorities and Strategic Growth Plan goals, learn about new organization initiatives, vote on policy positions, and discuss with the Governor pressing issues facing California’s cities.

Cal Cities President and El Centro Mayor Cheryl Viegas Walker kicked off with a recap of meetings that board officers, the executive director, and Cal Cities staff had so far in 2021 with both state and federal lawmakers, working to advance our strategic advocacy priorities as developed in December 2020 by the Cal Cities membership and League Leaders, and approved by the board. Members also received an update on draft legislation out of Washington, D.C. that includes $350 billion in relief for states, city, counties, tribes and territories with no minimum population requirement.  

Gov. Gavin Newsom joined the meeting virtually to discuss his Administration’s priorities this year and answer questions from Cal Cities board members about emergency relief for cities from the state, support for small businesses, increasing housing supply without stripping cities of their local authority vaccine distribution, and wildfire prevention and preparedness.

The Governor committed to increasing the speed at which COVID-19 vaccines would be administered throughout the state with a goal of 4 million people vaccinated every week as the goal with the only limitation being the supply. Getting students back in school, providing $2.7 billion in stimulus checks to Californians, and quadrupling small business grants to $2 billion were also top priorities for his administration. The Governor thanked cities for the work they had done spending tens of millions of dollars to support small businesses during the pandemic.

As far as emergency relief to cities for continued response and recovery, the Governor acknowledged that cities hadn’t received the support they needed, and after a deal is reached at the federal level, the state will review any additional need and see how it can provide support to local governments.

The Governor also committed to working with cities to address the crises of housing and homelessness in California communities. The Governor suggested that the state’s efforts in this area are not intended “to take over local planning, but help to incentivize and accelerate housing production and affordability.” Cal Cities will continue to advocate with both the Administration and the Legislature to protect local control.

Cal Cities staff provided updates on current legislation before the state Legislature that impacts cities, including housing bill SB 9 (Atkins) and SB 55 (Stern). Read more about Cal Cities’ policy committee recommendations for bill positions and the board’s vote. 

The board also held a special election to fill two at-large vacancies, confirming the presidential nominations of Palm Springs Mayor pro Tem Lisa Middleton and El Cerrito Mayor pro Tem Gabe Quinto. The following new board members were also welcomed and sworn in: 

  • Redlands Police Chief Chris Catren
  • San Jose Council Member David Cohen
  • Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer
  • El Centro Council Member Edgard Garcia
  • San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria
  • Modesto Council Member Tony Madrigal
  • Antioch Council Member Lori Ogorchock 

Several exciting new initiatives were also announced at the board meeting designed to make Cal Cities even stronger than it is today. President Viegas Walker announced members of the Cal Cities Advancing Equity Advisory Committee, a new committee charged with developing recommendations for the organization’s future work supporting city efforts to advance equity in their communities. The committee will have a very important role in the coming months helping Cal Cities identify best practices, tools, and resources to support local efforts in this area. The committee’s recommendations will go before the full board for approval.

Viegas Walker also announced members of a Public Safety Task Force, which will start work on the development of recommendations to modernize the approach to delivering public safety services in communities. The Public Safety Task Force will review and recommend updates to Cal Cities’ public safety policy and guiding principles, which will be delivered to the Public Safety Policy Committee for consideration in April.  

Progress on Cal Cities’ Strategic Growth Plan was shared with the board including the framework to evaluate the organization’s governance system, including the leadership selection process, and the timeline for the launch of a new brand identity for Cal Cities. In fact, the short name Cal Cities, launched in November, was the first public step in the new brand identity rollout.