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Connecting California's Regions to the State and Each Other
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CalRegions Email Newsletters Archive

Volume IV, Issue 2 - March, 2003


INFRASTRUCTURE POLICY REFORM & COMMUNITIES

Contents

I. A Terrible Opportunity: the State Fiscal Crisis and Fundamental Fiscal and Infrastructure Policy Reform

Now is the time for fundamental policy reform. by Nick Bollman.

II. Focus: California Policy Reform Network

A new civic partnership advancing state policy reform through civic engagement and dialogue.

III. Regions in Action

Case studies of how California's Regional Collaboratives work to promote infrastructure in innovative ways.

IV. Regional News and Information

The latest news and information from California's Regional Collaboratives and other CCRL strategic regional partners.

A. Upcoming Events
B. Recent Events
C. Publications
D. Projects


I. "A TERRIBLE OPPORTUNITY: THE STATE FISCAL CRISIS AND FUNDAMENTAL FISCAL AND INFRASTRUCTURE POLICY REFORM"

nick bollmanWith all the pressures on our state policymakers to cling to the status quo (special-interest campaign finance and lobbying, term limits, voter apathy), one might think that an enormous challenge such as the state’s multi-billion-dollar, multi-year fiscal crisis is the worst time to encourage policymakers to think deeply, broadly, and long-term about the policy choices they face. That would be wrong. California now faces the first real opportunity in a generation to fix policies, piled up over long years, which have served to undermine the sustainability of our communities and our government itself. We call this a “terrible opportunity” because the policy choices will be politically difficult and will have real consequences for individuals and communities, whether in the form of tax increases, budget cuts, or shifts of responsibility. But, the opportunity to do the right thing is palpable and compelling.

Why are we optimistic about the chances for real reform? First, the policy structure is so broken that policymakers of all (or most) persuasions have come to realize that only fundamental reform will provide a sustainable policy “fix.” For example, Governor Davis came to the Commission on Tax Policy in the New Economy on February 3 and pledged that he will not sign a budget that does not include “structural” reforms to the state’s budget and fiscal systems. Second, though there are many good ideas that have yet to emerge, the state has had the benefit of several “blue-ribbon” commissions in the past few years that have developed good solutions around which a broad cross-section of leaders can rally.

Third, a commitment to the principles of sustainability is emerging in programs and projects all over the state, in neighborhoods and communities, in regions, and in various state initiatives. Now, they need a permanent state policy framework that makes this approach the rule, not the exception. Fourth, in part because of the solid and persistent efforts of many of the Regional Collaboratives, the media and public awareness about policy problems and possible solutions has risen markedly. Communities are increasingly insistent upon bold and creative political leadership.

Finally, there are an increasing number of legislative champions for bold reform who approach challenges from a problem-solving mode rather than fixed ideology. A leading Assembly Democrat (Darrell Steinberg) and a leading Assembly Republican (John Campbell) have together offered a bold proposal for swapping local sales tax revenue for property tax revenue, which would help to “de-fiscalize” local land-use decisions.

Nowhere is this terrible opportunity more important than infrastructure: reforming the “rules of the game” by which we plan and invest for transportation, housing, open space and parks, water systems, school and university facilities, energy, and the other foundational elements for a sustainable and competitive economy and a high quality of life. The fiscal crisis is not a reason to back away from meeting our infrastructure needs (as we have done for the past thirty years, in good times and bad), but to recommit to those investments that will leave a proper legacy of opportunity for future Californians. Indeed, the fiscal crisis teaches us more directly than noble words and ideas possibly could: because our resources are scarce, we must invest and use them wisely, as if everything depended upon it. It does... We must….

And we believe that, working collaboratively together, from the grassroots to the Governor’s office, across sectors and party lines, we will. The California Policy Reform Network is a modest civic effort of a collaboration of statewide and regional organizations to build the sustained interest and support for reform that will make it possible for our political leaders to stand tall, be counted, and do the right thing.

Nick Bollman
President, California Center for Regional Leadership



II. FOCUS: CALIFORNIA POLICY REFORM NETWORK

Better Planning and Investment for Livable Communities

The quality of life and economic prosperity of California communities are directly related to public investment in the infrastructure that everyone uses daily. Roads, public transit, clean water, schools, parks and housing are the very fabric of our communities.

Spending on infrastructure has declined dramatically in California since the 1960s – and so has the quality of our infrastructure. In the early 1960s, infrastructure spending accounted for over 20 percent of state expenditures; today, investment in infrastructure is only about 3 percent of state spending despite huge population growth.

Addressing the issue of infrastructure policy reform was the impetus for creating the California Policy Reform Network (CPRN), a new civic partnership advancing state policy reform through civic engagement and dialogue. Its mission is to inform and engage California's civic leaders on fundamental state policy reform measures. CPRN links regional leadership to state policymakers in a manner that helps to move policy reform ideas toward adoption.

CPRN’s main activity is a series of Sacramento Roundtables, at which regional civic leaders and state policymakers discuss innovative solutions to pressing state infrastructure problems. Each Roundtable focuses on a topic that impacts state infrastructure and planning and follows a series of regional events on the same subject (see below).

The first CPRN Roundtable took place on February 27, 2003, and focused on infrastructure financing options (read an eSummary of the Roundtable at www.calpolicyreform.net/esummaries/022703/index.htm). The event included presentations by experts on the history and current status of infrastructure investment, legislative staff on the current proposals being debated, and a panel of “Voices from the Regions.”

During the panel, regional leaders from several organizations (business, labor, and local government, among others) spoke about infrastructure financing as it relates to the particular needs and challenges of their regions. CPRN has a unique commitment to bring regional points of view to the attention of state policymakers. Prior to the February Roundtable, CPRN cosponsored regional events at which local civic leaders both learned about infrastructure financing issues and had the opportunity to contribute their views:

  • In Orange County, participants learned that their infrastructure is in dire need of attention, as it earned very low “grades” for transportation, school facilities, and urban runoff/flooding on the new “2002 Orange County Infrastructure Report Card.”

  • The next day, at the “Summit on Los Angeles County Infrastructure,” a Report Card also ignited discussion among attendees on how to find solutions for their local infrastructure problems. The concerns and ideas generated from these sessions led directly into the agenda and dialogue at the Roundtable.

Other Roundtable topics that CPRN will tackle this year, following related regional events, include:

  • State and Local Fiscal Reform: The way state and local governments collect and allocate tax revenue significantly influences investment and maintenance of all kinds of civic infrastructure. For example, the current incentive to local governments to encourage retail buildings that generate sales taxes impedes the development of sufficient workforce and affordable housing. At the Roundtable, regional leaders will provide input to state policymakers on several current legislative proposals for fundamental fiscal reform.

  • Filling the Need for Housing: Among types of infrastructure, housing has the greatest impact on quality of life and the ability of communities to attract and retain a diverse workforce. Regional events (being planned in the Bay Area and Tri-Valley regions) and the Roundtable will include discussions about housing incentives, regulatory reforms, and using “smart growth” criteria for state housing bond funds.

  • Joint-use Facilities: New public buildings, such as schools and libraries, must often be built in areas that do not have much vacant land available. Joint use of these facilities can maximize scarce resources and create “centers of communities” that make neighborhoods into livable communities and reduce transportation demands. Regional events, cosponsored with experienced groups such as New Schools, Better Neighborhoods, the Inland Empire Economic Partnership and the Cities, Counties, Schools Partnership will provide input to the Roundtable about state criteria setting to encourage collaborative planning and joint-use of community facilities, especially school buildings (following the recent passage of a statewide school construction bond).

  • Collaborative Planning and Sustainability: In 2002, Governor Davis signed a bill (AB 857) that requires state agencies to align their policies with an updated Environmental Goals and Policies Report and to collaborate more closely between agencies. This may be the most important land-use law in California in the last 30 years, but its value depends on how well it is implemented. CPRN is convening several regional dialogues with staff members of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research to ensure that they hear from a diversity of views and take into account the varied needs and challenges of the state’s regions. Topics at the dialogues and the subsequent Roundtable will include impacts on infill housing, preservation of open space, and coordination of state agency investments.

For more information about CPRN, visit www.calpolicyreform.net. There you can find a list of partners, dates of upcoming events, and eSummaries of the events described above.



III. REGIONS IN ACTION

California’s Regional Collaboratives are leaders in advancing effective ideas for planning, funding, building, and efficiently utilizing their communities’ physical infrastructure through the effective actions of their regions’ civic infrastructure. Following are some examples of important work that they are doing to improve the quality of life and economic competitiveness of their regions:


Case 1: Bringing fiscal reform ideas to Orange County

Many historians believe that it takes an extreme situation to effect structural change. California’s current budget crisis certainly qualifies as extreme! Accordingly, several ideas to change the structure and incentives of state and local government finances are percolating in Sacramento. The Orange County Business Council is cosponsoring a breakfast program, entitled “Ideas Whose Times Have Come….Innovative Solutions to State/Local Government Finance Reform,” on April 11, 2003, in Irvine to review some of these proposals. Speaking at the event will be Assemblymembers John Campbell and Darrell Steinberg, co-authors of a bill (AB 1221) that would allow local governments to “swap” sales tax revenue for a greater share of property tax revenue. Their intention is to encourage both greater stability in local government income and development of housing over retail.


Case 2: Bringing collaborative planning to the Sacramento region

Valley Vision has partnered with the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) to convene more than 35 community workshops, at which neighborhood residents will make choices about their region’s growth. The Sacramento Region Blueprint Project brings interactive GIS technology to citizens and lets them see the impacts and costs of different types of planning and development. Through dozens of workshops, Valley Vision and SACOG will be able to track the preferences of thousands of residents for different design alternatives. These land-use preferences will be used to shape the next update to the region’s transportation plan and to identify innovative new projects.


Case 3: Bringing joint-use facilities to Fresno

The concept of “schools as centers of community,” in which planning for joint use of new and renovated schools is a spark for revitalization of neighborhoods, has taken root in Fresno, thanks in part to the Fresno Business Council. The Business Council has worked to promote this idea in their region, including holding a forum last May for leaders in government, education, and business. Their efforts have begun to make an impact. Following the passage of a $199 million school bond in the Fresno Unified School District, the FUSD Board recently and unanimously passed a resolution asking for the creation of an Interagency Team in order to explore potential collaboration on and around new, mostly inner-city, school sites.


Case 4: Bringing more workforce housing to the Tri-Valley

Following up on the success of its Vision 2010, in which community groups and leaders jointly defined planning and implementation strategies to build a strong urban economy and vital community, while preserving open space and enhancing agriculture, the Tri-Valley Business Council (in the region east of San Francisco Bay) has now spearheaded a new Tri-Valley Vision 2010 Housing Action Coalition. The goal of the coalition is to promote a complete range of housing choices, with emphasis on affordable housing and compact, mixed-use development. The Coalition reviews housing proposals to determine if such proposals conform to Vision 2010 Housing Guidelines, and if they do, the group advocates for approval of these projects through letters of support and appearance at public hearings. Organizations participating in the Coalition include East Bay Community Foundation, Tri-Valley Interfaith Poverty Forum, East Bay Housing Organization, League of Women Voters, and the Greenbelt Alliance.

  • Find more information about the Housing Action Coalition and Vision 2010 Project at the Tri-Valley Business Council website: www.tri-valley.org.

  • See the “Regional News and Information” section of this newsletter for information about the San Diego Housing Action Network.

  • The longest-running, model multi-sector coalition (since 1993) is the Housing Action Coalition of the Silicon Valley, which has successfully advocated for more than 115 individual projects, totaling 31,000 homes – almost half of which are affordable to low- and moderate-income wage-earners. For more information, please visit: www.svmg.org/Committees/
    Housing/Housing_Action_Coalition
    .



IV. REGIONAL NEWS AND INFORMATION

GREAT NEWS: California welcomes its newest Regional Collaborative! The Regional Civic Alliance of Ventura County, a project of the Ventura County Community Foundation, is a coalition of civic leaders with a shared commitment to bringing the economic, environmental, and social equity interests of their region together to address priority community issues, increase civic engagement and build community leadership.

The group not only unveiled itself at an event March 20 at the Clarion Palm Garden Hotel, but also released State of the Region: Ventura County 2002, an extensive quality-of-life indicators report. CCRL President Nick Bollman spoke at the launch event, saying, “As the 21st Regional Collaborative, the Regional Civic Alliance has brought a new level of maturity to the RC movement. RCAVC is fulfilling a role much needed in the region, and filling in an important area of California for the Regional Collaborative Network.”


MORE GREAT NEWS: Bill Carney, who is well-known to regionalists in California through his work with both the Orange County Business Council and the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, will return to the fold as the new President & CEO of the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership. His new position begins March 31.


A. Upcoming Events

  • Valley Vision and the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) have kicked off the second phase of their landmark Sacramento Region Blueprint transportation and land-use planning project (see above) with a series of community-level planning workshops. At the more than 35 workshops, citizens, public officials, and the business community participate in planning the future of the Sacramento region using interactive land-use planning software. For dates and locations of the workshops through spring and summer 2003, visit www.sacregionblueprint.org or contact Valley Vision at (916) 925-0130.

    • See the “Regions in Action” section of this newsletter for more information about the Sacramento Region Blueprint Project.

  • Southern California Compass, a comprehensive growth visioning project for the Southland created by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), has begun a series of hands-on community workshops that will take place through March, April, and May. Participants will make decisions about growth, jobs, and housing that Compass will use to craft different growth scenarios for the region. The Compass website, www.socalcompass.org, has information about the project and workshop dates.

  • A disparity in the health quality of low-income and minority communities continues today, made worse by past economic and infrastructure decisions that continue to impact these neighborhoods today. Thursday, April 10, 2003, Greenlining Institute will convene their 10th Annual Economic Development Summit, focusing on “Economic Vitality: A Prescription for Health.” Attendees will examine the economic, social, and environmental factors that lead to poor quality of health and learn about health implications of future development. Find more information about the Summit at www.greenlining.org/summit/index.html.

  • The 5th Annual Working Session on Tools for Community Design and Decision-Making, “Information Technology in Action,” will explore how the application of new technological and non-technical visioning and planning tools can improve local decision-making about growth and development. The event will be held at the San Francisco Renaissance Parc 55 Hotel April 24 – 26. Planners and decision-makers at the event will get a chance to review and work with a variety of tools that are currently available to develop and visualize design options, more fully inform and involve stakeholders in the planning process, analyze the impacts of policy, development scenarios, and build consensus among the stakeholders. Register online and view the agenda at www.tcddm.org.

  • “Immigration and the Gateway Cities Region: A Critical Analysis” will be held on Thursday, May 22, 2003, from 7:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. at the Long Beach Convention Center. Business leaders, human resource professionals, educators, workforce trainers, and public sector leaders are invited to join in a discussion of the impact immigration has within the Gateway Cities Region. For more information, visit www.gateway-partnership.org/workforce.htm.

  • New Schools Better Neighborhoods is organizing a conference on “Schools as Vital Centers of Neighborhoods,” including a dinner on May 28, 2003, and an all-day forum on May 29, both held at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. For more information, contact Susan Cline at (213) 629-9019 or scline@nsbn.org.

  • On June 27-28, 2003, the Local Government Commission will present a statewide multi-disciplinary Smart Growth conference, entitled Planning and Building More Livable Communities, at the U.S. Grant Hotel in San Diego. Public and private sector leaders interested in overcoming barriers to working together are invited to attend. Conference sponsors, to date, include the California Department of Transportation, California Department of Health Services, U.S. EPA Region IX, California Policy Reform Network and The James Irvine Foundation. For more information, see www.lgc.org or contact Michele Kelso at 916-448-1198 or mkelso@lgc.org.


B. Recent Events

  • The California Policy Reform Network (CPRN) presented its first Sacramento Roundtable, entitled “Investing in California's Future - A Dialogue with Regional Voices and State Policymakers on Infrastructure Financing Options,” on February 27, 2003, at the State Capitol. Academic experts, regional leaders, and legislative staff together discussed potential solutions for improving the infrastructure-funding environment, including recent legislative proposals.

  • At the annual conference of the California Redevelopment Association, held in Palm Springs March 5-7, 2003, the buzz was strongest about two topics: First, the state budget crisis has prompted a proposal from the Governor to cut about half of the $2 billion that local redevelopment agencies receive annually from the state. At the same time, traditional redevelopment must reinvent itself to survive, by effectively addressing communities’ multiple infrastructure needs, including affordable housing and good jobs. That second point was the subject of a popular panel sponsored by the California Policy Reform Network (CPRN) and including Nick Bollman of CCRL, Madeline Janis-Aparicio of the Los Angeles Alliance for A New Economy, and Donald Cohen of the Center for Policy Initiatives.

    In an atmosphere of critical state budget gaps, the California Budget Project sponsored a one-day conference, “Proposition 13: Are Californians Better Off than they were 25 Years Ago?” at the Sacramento Convention Center March 12. Participants examined the impacts, intended and unintended, of the legendary initiative. Breakout sessions focused on the effects of Prop 13 on housing and land use, local governments, schools, and (of course) today’s state budget, but also on current proposals to alter the revenue status quo.


C. Publications

  • What the IT Revolution Means for Regional Economic Development, a new report from the Brookings Institution, reveals the changes that the information technology “revolution” has wrought in non-high-tech companies. The authors, Paul Sommers and Daniel Carlson, show that many kinds of firms have changed their business practices in ways that impact regional economic development strategies.

  • A new paper published by the Funders' Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities examines the public health impact of land use and development practices. The authors look at ways that smarter community design can lead to improvements in public health. Health and Smart Growth: Building Health, Promoting Active Communities, released in February 2003, gives examples of successful practices that were funded and carried out to benefit health through promoting smarter growth patterns.

  • Making Room for the Future: Rebuilding California's Infrastructure, a new report from PPIC, written by David E. Dowall and Jan Whittington, identifies the state’s most pressing infrastructure problems and shows how policymakers can address them more effectively. In particular, it analyzes the issues and opportunities confronting three of the state’s major infrastructure responsibilities – education, water, and transportation – and identifies a range of policy tools that can be used to improve infrastructure service delivery. After surveying the key institutions in each sector, the authors offer a list of recommendations for addressing the state’s infrastructure challenges.


D. Projects & Resources

  • Many low-income families already qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, a federal program that helps them reduce their tax bills or add dollars to their refunds, but never claim it. A new program called Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA), supported by both the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley and the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, will make free tax preparation available to low-income families by volunteers trained by the Internal Revenue Service.

    • A complete list of the sites can be found by calling the EITC toll-free hotline in Los Angeles County at (800) 601-5552 or the IRS toll-free at (800) 829-1040.

  • California Recycle Underutilized Sites (Cal ReUSE) is a new program that provides low-interest, forgivable loans of up to $125,000 for brownfield site assessment and characterization, technical assistance, and remedial action planning. The California Center for Land Recycling (CCLR) and the California Environmental Redevelopment Fund (CERF) have been awarded a statewide contracts to administer the program. Priority will be given to projects located in distressed neighborhoods with demonstrated community support. Loan recipients may also be eligible for technical assistance from CCLR and additional financing from CERF for up to $5 million per project.

    • To request a loan packet or for more information, please contact Natasha Burger at (415) 820-2080 or natasha.burger@cclr.org.

  • Led by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, the Housing Action Network (HAN) presses for more affordable, well-designed, well-constructed and appropriately located housing in the San Diego region. The coalition of 25 community groups, including the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Endangered Habitats League, says that it will only endorse smart-growth developments with adequate infrastructure.

    • Find more information at www.sandiegobusiness.org/housing.asp.

    • See the “Regions in Action” section of this newsletter for information about the Tri-Valley Housing Action Coalition.

  • As part of their mission to use technological tools to involve community members in “vision-centered place-based planning,” PlaceMatters.com has launched a new website featuring a searchable database of dozens of tools and processes for better community design and decision-making. Professional planners, public agencies, and concerned citizens can visit PlaceMattersTools.com to find links to information resources, computer tools, community process tools, and consultant services in eleven different categories and geared toward nine steps in the land-use planning process.

  • PolicyLink has launched its own web-based database of tools for community leaders to reference. The “Equitable Development Toolkit” is designed to help community leaders find information about strategies, workshops, laws, technologies, regulatory approaches, and other tools that have been proven to work in achieving equitable development solutions. It includes sections on affordable housing, controlling development, financing strategies, and income & asset creation.

  • The Bay Area Alliance for Sustainable Communities, holding true to its “e-vision” of bringing together representatives of the “Three E” sectors with government to reach consensus and implement action, is mustering its forces. The Alliance successfully completed the Compact for a Sustainable Bay Area, which has been approved by most of its business, environmental, social equity, and governmental members and received support from 65 cities and seven counties. Now, the Alliance is convening a series of “Smart Growth Policy Conversations” in which the diverse membership identifies areas of agreement and makes policy recommendations to further the implementation of the Compact.