We had a chance to sit down with several members of the Assembly Local Government Committee to discuss their perspectives on Local Government, being involved, and what it’s like to work in state government. Join us as we sit down with Assemblymember Richard Gordon from Los Altos.
1. What is your top priority as a member of the Local Government committee?
My top priority is to support legislation that gives greater flexibility and greater transparency to local governments. My focus is on making sure state legislation doesn’t harm local government.
2. What do you think is the most critical issue facing local governments right now?
I think that local governments have huge infrastructure needs that are difficult to meet. The nature of the tax structure makes it difficult to raise the funds for these infrastructure projects. The requirements of Prop 218 make it difficult to convince local citizens to invest in needed infrastructure.
3. What do you think is the biggest single thing local governments can do for their citizens?
Local government leaders and elected officials have a luxury that I don’t — they are much closer to their constituents. I am much more removed because I spend much of the week in Sacramento. Because of this proximity, local leaders have a great capacity to meet the needs of their communities — recreation services, public safety, infrastructure — in a variety of ways. Local governments can respond more quickly and more directly to their constituencies and their needs.
4. What does 2016 look like for cities in relation to state government? Any new laws cities need to be aware of?
Currently, we are having a special session on infrastructure. A key component to any infrastructure decision is that local governments need to share in those new resources.
Looking ahead to 2016, depending on where you are, different issues will have greater impacts. But no matter where you are, water will be an issue – this climate is the new normal. We are hopeful that an El Niño winter to help with rain, but that still will not change that water, conservation, and water efficiency will be key issue areas at the local level.
5. What message do you have for the cities in your district?
In much of California, the economy is recovering. In my particular district, our economy is booming, and with that comes housing prices that are continuing to rise; that means an awful lot of people are being priced out of the housing market. For example, for every 1 tech job that is created, 4 service jobs are created — people who work at Starbucks, the dry cleaner, the grocery store. Where will these people live?
We must work on transportation so that people can get to and from work and home easily and successfully. More broadly, my key message to cities would be to keep in contact with those at the state level of leadership. Meet in offices, show us the projects you are working on, and be involved. When push comes to shove, strong relationships are needed as we work on projects together.
6. What should city leaders be focused on in the coming year?
I think that water conservation and efficiency are critical no matter where you live in California. Depending on where you are in the state, you will be facing other issues as well. For example, in the Central Valley, unemployment is still very high, and in coastal areas, where employment is high, they are dealing with work/life issues and how housing and transportation needs can best be met in their communities.
7. With 2/3rds of Legislators coming from a Local Government background, what would you share, or what advice would you give, to those local leaders that are considering running for higher office?
I think that those considering running for higher office need to consider two things; (1) Are you doing your current job well?; and (2) Are you thinking beyond the boundaries of your immediate jurisdiction?
Both of these actions broaden your perspective, broaden your network and give you a vision beyond your immediate area. I am one of 80 here in the Assembly. 2/3rds come from local government. At the capitol, we have to protect our local constituents while also looking out for the best interests of California. If you have practiced thinking about state issues and impacts, it makes that transition to higher office easier.
Any final thoughts?
As a member of the Assembly, it is important for me to keep in mind that every constituent is served by local government. I want to work with local governments and be involved in our communities. Together, we can best serve and connect with constituents.