Municipalities: Uniquely Positioned to Shape the Future

Early this month, our AmpliFund Public Sector team attended the League of California Cities Annual Conference and Expo in Los Angeles. The league is an association of California city officials working together to exchange information and combine resources to influence policy decisions that affect cities.

California federal fundingIn addition to being the home to one-eighth of the U.S. population, California was also the recipient of $48.8 billion in federal grants in 2014, or 9% of all federal grant dollars awarded this year. This makes the League of California Cities highly influential in the administration and management of municipality resources.

Why Mayors Can Change the World

A variety of themes emerged, but the conference can be largely summarized by its keynote address, delivered by political theorist, TED Talk speaker and recent author of “If Mayors Ruled the World,” Dr. Benjamin R. Barber.

His keynote, named after his 2013 book, argued that mayors and municipalities are uniquely poised to shape the future of their constituents and overcome the challenges nation-states face. Below we highlight key themes that emerged from his keynote and other sessions throughout the three-day event.

1. Municipal leaders are locals.

Municipal leaders experience day-to-day life within their jurisdiction. This helps them keep a finger on the pulse of their area and stay in tune with the frustrations and challenges of the people.

As a result, they more effectively address local problems and enact change. They also experience a more real-time feedback loop with the local population, creating stronger accountability between governmental leaders and citizens.  

2. Mayors must be pragmatic.

Running a city leaves no time for ideologies, theory or lengthy debate. As Barber noted, potholes must be filled and sewers must be mended. Mayors are pragmatists and problem-solvers. Positioned at the smallest level of government, municipalities are doers—creating, fixing and advancing public policy.

Many sessions were tactical and actionable in focus. “Beverly Hills Customer Service Initiative” and “Panhandling & Prayer: Regulating Conduct Under Recent Case Law” are two examples of sessions focused on the real-life examples and applications of municipality governance.

3. Civic challenges extend beyond borders.

Barber asserted that public problems often extend beyond the borders of cities, states and countries. A number of sessions throughout the conference reinforced this “21st century interdependence.”

“Government to Governance: Forming Successful Public-Private Partnerships,” “Cooperative Agreements Between Public Agencies – Risks and Rewards” and “Shared Resources to Attract, Retain and Grow Talented Employees” are some of the sessions at the conference that addressed the importance of partnership, resource-sharing and coordinated approaches to solving broader civic issues.

There was standing room only at Thursday’s “Fire Department EMS Cost Recovery” session, which focused on why it can be advantageous for local governments to provide emergency medical services through their fire departments, taking into consideration current and upcoming cost recovery opportunities as a result of federal legislation.

This theme echoed the Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) 2014 Summer Conference. As disparate cities, counties and public and private organizations work together, they must consider the operational infrastructure necessary to coordinate efforts; secure and distribute funds; and aggregate performance data.

To learn more about how municipality resources are being influenced by forces at the federal level, download our free whitepaper “The Changing Landscape of Grant Reporting.”

 Grant Reporting Whitepaper

What unique opportunities or challenges do municipalities face? How can they better effect change in their communities?

Image source: USAspending.gov