Cities all over California have faced major challenges in recent years, with shrinking revenues, tighter budgets, and massive cuts in services.
To top it off, a 2010 scandal in the Southern California city of Bell threatened to impact the reputations of other cities across the state. That’s when two organizations decided to take action.
The California City Management Foundation & League of California Cities are highlighting what cities do well, through Strong Cities | Strong State, focusing on the successes and innovative ideas that keep cities livable and keep California strong.
Ken Pulskamp, city manager of Santa Clarita and member of the League of Cities Board of Directors and California City Management Foundation, told CA Fwd Radio that much of the good work is thanks to strong governance, a topic most Californians don’t think about, until it directly affects them.
Listen to the interview here:
“They just take for granted that they put their garbage out on the curb and it goes somewhere,” said Pulskamp. “They flush the toilet and it goes somewhere. They don’t realize there is a local government that is responsible for making sure that all of these services that people use day in and day out are delivered efficiently, in a cost-effective manner, and in a way that serves the public.”
The issues may not be as exciting as other hot-button issues that command the attention of the public and news media, but Pulskamp says governance issues impact the public the most.
“It’s very unsexy until you need a police officer or firefighter and the response time is too long, or you go to a park and find out that it’s been closed,” he said. “Then, all of a sudden, people storm council chambers throughout the state and have a tremendous amount of passion for these issues.”
Cities all over the state have been getting innovative to make best use of limited resources and improve their communities. Many city leaders also recognize how important it is for them to let their voters know what is going on.
In Bell, “none of that would have happened, had they had transparency. None of it would have happened had they had a local newspaper that was holding them accountable, so the community knew what was going on at their city hall.”
Pulskamp also stressed how important it is for cities, counties, districts, and the private sector to talk to each other and work together.
“We all serve the same public,’ Pulskamp said. People “typically don’t know and don’t care who’s providing each of these services. They just want to make sure they get the best service possible.”
“Nothing really big happens in communities anymore because of one entity,” he said. “The truly great things that happen around California are when the private sector and multiple levels of government come together with the community and get a lot of support. Then, you have really great programs.”
To listen to the CA Fwd Radio Show podcast, go to cafwd.org/radio.