League of California Cities logoIllegal fentanyl, affordable housing, homelessness, and changes to the General Assembly process dominated the League of California Cities Board of Directors meeting last week in Sacramento.

The meeting started with an update on the state’s three-pronged response to the fentanyl crisis — law enforcement, accountability for manufacturers and sellers, and harm reduction — from Michael W. Redding, special assistant attorney general for the California attorney general. In turn, Board members shared the experiences of their communities struggling with this spiraling crisis.

Although Redding was unable to comment on legislative attempts to reduce fentanyl poisonings, he reaffirmed his department’s commitment to working with cities to reduce overdose deaths. “[We are] absolutely interested in partnering at the local level,” Redding said.

Nearly 6,000 Californians died from a fentanyl overdose in 2021. Even small doses of fentanyl can be deadly according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New housing, homelessness, environmental and public safety bill positions

After an update on Cal Cities’ advocacy efforts — including new survey data on cities’ response to the homelessness crisis — the Board took support if amended positions on four measures: SB 4 (Wiener)AB 1567 (Garcia)SB 867 (Allen) and SB 638 (Eggman).

SB 4 would allow schools and churches to build certain housing projects on their properties by right. Cal Cities is seeking amendments that allow cities to maintain their height and parking standards.

The remaining three measures collectively propose $20 billion in bonds for safe drinking water, wildfire prevention, drought preparation, flood protection, and extreme heat mitigation. Cal Cities is seeking changes that increase the available investments for local governments.

The Board adopted support positions for SB 963 (Schiavo)AB 1321 (Bonta) and AB 15 (Dixon). SB 963 would help prevent foster youth from becoming homeless. AB 1321 would provide academic, occupational, and other “cradle-to-career” services in certain communities, such as Promise Neighborhoods. AB 15 would make state records about an inmate’s release date and what the inmate did to earn any release credits a matter of public record.

The Board directed Cal Cities to not take a position on SB 769 (Gonzalez), which would require some members of all local legislative bodies to receive at least two hours of fiscal training every two years.

Cal Cities’ housing agenda

The Board also directed Cal Cities to move ahead with a campaign that showcases the work cities are doing on housing and proactively drive a housing advocacy agenda that responds to the statewide crisis and respects local decision-making. Going forward, Cal Cities is also planning a series of stakeholder meetings — both regionally and at the state level — on broad solutions that protect local control and boost affordable housing.

Changes to the 2023 General Assembly

Based on member feedback received following the 2022 General Assembly, the Governance Committee made a series of recommendations to the Board of Directors to improve the member experience during future General Assemblies.

The Board unanimously adopted these changes, which include increasing process transparency, improving voting efficiency through an electronic voting tool, moving the General Assembly to Friday morning to allow for more time for discussion, and encouraging full and free debate through updated General Assembly voting and discussion procedures.

Members will receive information that will fully explain all the changes in advance of the next General Assembly in September.

Member engagement remains strong

Interest in Cal Cities’ educational events is exceptionally high, with members relishing the ability to meet and learn in person. All but one of Cal Cities 2022-23 statewide conferences has sold out. Cal Cities also received nearly 200 session proposals for the approximately 35 available session slots at the 2023 Annual Conference and Expo, the second highest amount since 2008.

The next Board meeting is July 13-14 in Newport Beach.