Your voice matters in Washington, US senators tell California elected officials

Mar 20, 2024

By Brian Hendershot, Cal Cities Advocate Managing Editor

Cal Cities leadership and over 170 city officials took their advocacy to Washington last week as part of an annual Congressional City Conference and advocacy day organized by the National League of Cities. California officials discussed a range of topics with federal lawmakers, such as climate change, homelessness, fiscal sustainability, and public safety.

Leading the delegation was Cal Cities President Daniel Parra (Fowler, Mayor), First Vice President Lynne Kennedy (Rancho Cucamonga, Mayor Pro Tem), Second Vice President Gabe Quinto (El Cerrito, Council Member), Immediate Past President Ali Sajjad Taj (Artesia, Mayor Pro Tem) and Executive Director and CEO Carolyn Coleman.

Cal Cities officers met directly with key lawmakers, including Representatives Pete Aguilar, Salud Carbajal, Jim Costa, John Garamendi, Linda Sánchez, Adam Schiff, and David Valadao, as well as Senators Laphonza Butler and Alex Padilla.

The two senators had a clear message for the city officials who trekked thousands of miles to Capitol Hill: Your voice matters. Keep coming back and make your voice heard. Tell us your story. Tell us what’s working, so we can support those successes and replicate them. 

What did city leaders discuss?

Climate resiliency and disaster preparedness are at the top of the list this year for many city leaders. The group urged Congress to speed up its efforts to prepare, reduce, and adapt to climate change — especially in vulnerable and under-resourced communities. City officials drew attention to issues with the state’s long-term water supply and the need for more coordination on wildfire mitigation.

City officials called for an infusion of resources and legislation to reduce housing costs and homelessness. They argued Congress should expand successful federal programs and voiced concerns about a possible cutoff to reimbursements for COVID-19 emergency shelters. California cities could lose out on $300 million in reimbursements if the proposal goes through.

Fiscal sustainability was also top of mind. City leaders called for a speedier appropriations process to provide certainty to cities and the people they serve. They urged Congress to not claw back money approved for local programs and reauthorize a workforce training program

The delegation called for help on several public safety challenges. In California, police retention and recruitment issues are exacerbating crime rates. Similarly, cities need more funding to address the substance use crisis head-on. As part of this, the group asked for more funding for the Community Oriented Policing Services hiring program or the SUPPORT Act.

“Local government was too hard”

Cal Cities also hosted its popular evening reception, which featured NLC President David Sander (Rancho Cordova, Mayor) and its signature shrimp platter. Sander had earlier introduced the keynote speaker for the conference: President Joe Biden. 

Biden joked he only ran for Senate because “local government was too hard.” He went on to quip: “You all think I’m kidding. They know where you live, they think you can solve every problem, and hold you accountable for everything. So ‘God love you’ as my mother would say.”

Other speakers at NLC’s conference included Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Transportation; Julie A. Su, the Acting Secretary of Labor; and U.S. Representative Salud Carbajal from California’s 24th District.

Additional contributions by Rachel Vincent, director of strategic communications and marketing.