The Metropolitan Forum Project Reviving Citizen Civic Engagement
South Bay Area Subregional Groups' Findings

Preliminary Recommendations

December 11, 1997

  1. The financial difficulties faced by local governments should serve as an incentive for state and local governments working collaboratively to evaluate the purpose & responsibilities of state, county and local government and align the funding sources with these responsibilities accordingly.
    • The public mistakenly assumes that property taxes still go to local governments. In passing Proposition 13, the voters wanted limits placed on property taxes. We believe they did not intend to remove the connection between property taxes and the provision of property related services by local government. It should be a priority for all levels of government and their related organizations (like the League of California Cities and the California State Association of Counties) to remake that connection.
    • In particular the role of counties should be reexamined. We have put County governments in an untenable position. The State of California mandates services (health care, courts, municipal services to unincorporated areas) to be provided, but has not given them any ability to raise revenue to meet this mandate.
    • The current system of funding local government has brought about an unhealthy competition between local governments for sales tax revenues. But retail sales are limited, and this competition primarily takes money from one municipality and transfers it to another. We believe that financial incentives for cities should be created to encourage local governments to plan for higher paying jobs (manufacturing & trade) and housing, resulting in a more vibrant and balanced economy.
  2. Give local governments greater flexibility in using statewide revenues. A consistent complaint of local governments is that the State not only has taken away their funding over the last few years, but it has earmarked some of the remaining funds. We suggest consolidating the little pots of money and giving it to local governments for general fund purposes. (One example of this occurred in the passage this past year of SB45 related to transportation funding.)
  3. The legislature should use financial incentives to encourage consolidation of units of government. Similar legislation was passed in the 1960's to encourage the consolidation of small school districts, but the need goes beyond just consolidation. The options available include intergovernmental contracting, joint powers authorities, eliminating county islands and changing requirements by Local Agency Formation Commissions to make it harder to form new governments and easier to consolidate them. In addressing these concerns we should review the many creative proposals for efficiencies and more rational service provision which came out after the Orange County bankruptcy. Studies at the time recommended many of the above concepts. But these ideas for governmental efficiency brought on by financial necessity are threatening and were quickly set by the wayside as more funding has become available. They should be brought back!
  4. We see much merit in the suggestion by the Constitution Revision Commission that the legislature should provide financial and managerial incentives for the development of Home Rule Community Charters. The Charters, organized to cover a multi-governmental area, would examine governmental functioning and be empowered to increase efficiency, eliminate duplication of services and lower the cost of government. This idea should be detailed further and discussed widely prior to its introduction in the legislature.
  5. Give citizens (through local governments) a reasonable chance to propose, agree upon and finance long range plans by reducing the current requirement for a 2/3 majority vote for bonds and tax increases to a simple majority requirement. It is not reasonable that 1/3 plus one of the voting public can dismantle the plans of the remaining 2/3. As a minimum, this power might be one of the rewards for putting into place a Home Rule Community Charter that meets certain minimum requirements.
  6. To reduce cynicism on the part of the voting public, proposed initiatives should be required to undergo a review to determine the probable legality of the measure (treated in a manner similar to the financial review currently included in the ballot summary).
  7. Find creative ways to educate and involve the public in the important aspects of local government decision-making.

Metropolitan Forum Project
811 West Seventh Street, Suite 900
Los Angeles, California 90017
Phone: (213) 629-9019 Fax: (213) 623-9207
Web: Email: