Cal Cities Board advances key initiatives; takes action on priority bills during May meeting

May 18, 2022

The League of California Cities Board of Directors gathered for a two-day board meeting after last week’s City Leaders Summit to review progress on the 2022 State Action Agenda, vote on policy positions, and consider recommendations to further the organization’s governance work.

Cal Cities President and Walnut Creek Mayor Pro Tem Cindy Silva opened the meeting by highlighting the importance of events like Cal Cities’ May 13 news conference, which was organized to coincide with the City Leaders Summit, and drew close to 100 city officials. Local leaders rallied outside the State Capitol to advocate for $1.6 billion dollars towards programs that achieve shared housing supply and greenhouse gas reduction goals, as well as toward reimbursements to cities for unfunded mandates.

Silva emphasized that when city leaders speak with clarity, unity, and volume, their voices will be heard.

Board takes action on pension divestment, housing, and legal cannabis bills

Following an update on several priority bills in the Legislature — including measures related to zoning standards, local transportation plans and funding, mental health services, organic waste recycling, and climate change resiliency — the Board voted to:

  • Oppose two bills calling for CalPERS’ divestment, SB 1328 (McGuire) and SB 1173 (Gonzalez) due to their potentially significant fiscal impact on cities. SB 1328 would require CalPERS to divest from all companies with business operations in Russia or Belarus. SB 1173 would prohibit CalPERS from renewing or making any new investments in fossil fuel companies and require them to liquidate any related investments before July 1, 2030.
  • Oppose unless amended AB 2053 (Lee), which would create a new state agency, the California Housing Authority. The agency would be able to produce and acquire housing without adhering to local density, height, design review, and other development standards.
  • Support, if amended, AB 2295 (Bloom). The bill would allow school districts to build housing on their property if certain requirements are met. Amendments would allow cities to uphold parking standards, traffic mitigation standards, and other local zoning regulations.
  • Support SB 1326 (Caballero), a bill that would allow the lawful import and export of cannabis to other states with legal cannabis laws.

The Board also adopted a new policy that will ensure cities have a role in advocating to support expanding access to behavioral health services statewide, especially unsheltered individuals.

Ballot measures: single-use plastic initiative to be reconsidered in July; California Business Roundtable measure removed from 2022 ballot

The Board also heard from two groups representing the support and oppose positions for the California Plastic Pollution Reduction and Recycling Act ballot measure. The measure would require CalRecycle to adopt regulations that reduce plastic waste and place a tax of up to one cent on all single-use plastics. The tax would be allocated to recycling and environmental programs, including local recycling and composting programs. Both presentations acknowledged that lawmakers are currently pursuing a legislative alternative, SB 54 (Allen), which Cal Cities supports in concept.

Following the presentations, the Board ultimately voted to reconsider the ballot measure during the July Board meeting after the legislative efforts have concluded.

The Board also received an update on the ballot measure proposed by the California Business Roundtable, the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act. It was announced that the initiative failed to meet the minimum signature requirement to be placed on the November 2022 ballot and will now target the 2024 ballot.

This is good news for cities as the measure would have undermined the rights of local voters and the ability of cities to deliver critical services to residents. Thanks to the strong opposition from cities and other coalition partners, the measure lost momentum to qualify for the 2022 November ballot.

State pension fund CEO highlights challenges and changes

The Board also welcomed California Public Employees' Retirement System CEO Marcie Frost, who talked about the state pension fund and the recently hired Chief Investment Officer. Frost also discussed her perspective on pending divestment bills and their potentially negative impacts to the discount rate and employer pension costs. Frost noted that the fund has a net loss due to previous divestments and that the state’s pension fund is somewhat protected by inflation but is not immune to market volatility.

Governance and education updates

The Board also heard about Cal Cities’ recent successful educational events, including the sold-out City Attorneys Conference and Planning Commissioners Academy, and the inaugural City Leaders Summit with more than 200 registrants. 

Additionally, the Board received a live demonstration of the new Advancing Equity Community Forum, received updates about upcoming conferences, and gave valuable feedback about Cal Cities’ outreach efforts to candidates running for state and local offices this campaign cycle.

Following an update by the Cal Cities Governance Committee on efforts underway at Cal Cities to deepen member engagement and improve the membership experience, the Board approved recommendations to enhance Cal Cities’ governance system. The changes involve the Board nominating process and committee composition, large city board seats, and the composition of standing Board committees. 

Organizational updates

Another important takeaway from the meeting was Cal Cities’ fiscal health, which remains strong. The Board approved the annual audit report, which was determined to be clean, meaning the auditor did not find any issues with financial records.

Additionally, the Board authorized Cal Cities to sponsor the California Cooperative Liquid Assets Securities System (Cal CLASS), a new local government pooled investment program. The Board also approved the appointment of Lancaster Finance Director George Harris II, and a second city official yet-to-be appointed by the Cal Cities Executive Committee, to serve on Cal CLASS’ initial Board of Trustees.

The Board also congratulated Norman Coppinger, deputy executive director of finance and operations, and Jill Oviatt, director of communications and marketing, for their service to Cal Cities. Coppinger and Oviatt will retire this year, at the end of December and July, respectively. Both are actively involved in the recruitment process and are dedicated to ensuring a smooth transition.