League of California Cities

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The League of California Cities is an association of cities within the state of California, founded in 1898. Most of the state's 482 cities are represented in the league.[1] The League publishes Western City, a monthly magazine, and holds an annual conference and exposition[2][3] The League advocates for cities at the state capitol, including proper distribution of state taxes to the cities.[4] The main office is in Sacramento.


Vision: To be recognized and respected as the leading advocate for the common interests of California's cities.

Mission Statement: To expand and protect local control for cities through education and advocacy to enhance the quality of life for all Californians.

We Believe:

◦ Local self-governance is the cornerstone of democracy.

◦ Our strength lies in the unity of our diverse communities of interest.

◦ In the involvement of all stakeholders in establishing goals and in solving problems.

◦ In conducting the business of government with transparency, openness, respect, and civility.

◦ The spirit of honest public service is what builds communities.

◦ Open decision-making that is of the highest ethical standards honors the public trust.

◦ Cities are vital to the strength of the California economy.

◦ The vitality of cities is dependent upon their fiscal stability and local autonomy.

◦ The active participation of all city officials increases the League's effectiveness.

◦ Partnerships and collaborations are essential elements of focused advocacy and lobbying.

◦ Ethical and well-informed city officials are essential for responsive, visionary leadership and effective and efficient city operations.



In 1898, Ben Lamborn, the city clerk of Alameda, sent a letter to the then over 100 cities in the state, inquiring about their experience with a newly introduced road roller. He added to the inquiry questions such as their name, population, date of incorporation, names of officials, among others.

Haven A. Mason, a community activist, newspaper publisher, attorney and city clerk of Santa Clara, was one recipient. Mason had read about the 1894 founding of the National Municipal League, a citizens group with a mission to fight corruption in city governments. He visited Lamborn in Alameda to discuss organizing city officials around issues such as public records and tax assessment and the introduction of electric light.

Lamborn and Mason presented the idea to Delos Druffel, the mayor of Santa Clara, who then sent letters to the other mayors in the state asking them to attend a meeting to consider this proposal.

Mason and Lamborn then visited James D. Phelan, the mayor of San Francisco. Phelan was interested in the idea of a League of Municipalities, offered San Francisco as a meeting place, and provided $3,000 of his own monies to pay for expenses. Lamborn bartered an agreement with Southern Pacific for them to provide a 3,000-mile pass, which the railroad would recoup in the anticipated travel expenses of city officials' attending the ongoing league meetings.

Druffel received positive replies from about half the cities in California. An invitation was then sent to all cities and incorporated towns, asking them to send representatives to the first meeting, at Pioneer Hall, on Fourth Street in San Francisco, on December 14, 1898. The date was deliberately set for prior to January 1899, "so that the proposed association could be formed in time to consider such matters of legislation as might be deemed expedient to submit to the Legislature then to assemble."

Thirty cities answered the invitation, with others sending words of encouragement. Thirteen cities, all from the San Francisco Bay Area, sent delegates. Phelan was elected president, Mason was named secretary and Lamborn was chosen for the League's executive committee, along with Mayor Joseph Hutchinson of Palo Alto.

Phelan, in his inaugural address, said,

"The city of today is a new type of human activity and organization. While differing in matters of population, situation and details, modern cities are yet alike in essential particulars. They are created by the same power; they exist by virtue of the same laws; they exercise almost identical functions; they are called upon to meet the same demands and pursue the same purposes. And yet they are, for the most part, isolated. In this state, there is no official way by which one city may become aware of another's existence. It is hardly necessary to call attention to the increased efficiency which association bestows upon members. We see examples of benefits of association and cooperation on every side. We have associations of lawyers, of bankers, of doctors, of all classes of professional men and we also have the associations of wage workers. And, the testimony is that association has done each member good. A similar good would undoubtedly result from the association of municipalities.

There is much work that can be done by this League. Many problems of city management remain to be solved. We are not yet sure that we have the best method of street construction. We certainly have not yet adopted the best means of disposing of our sewage and garbage with economy. How shall we best light our cities, purchase our supplies, provide proper sanitation and minister to the general well being of our citizens? Water works and lighting plants require knowledge. And yet we are all experimenting with these various matters, seeking solutions to the problems confronting us, without system and without direction.

We should come together at least once each year to formulate our needs and relate our experiences for the benefit of all. It may be necessary for the legislature or charter makers to frame a new street improvement act. Who shall frame it - the street contractors or the cities? The latter most assuredly; and what better agency could have charge of such work than the League of California Municipalities which represents the parties in interest."[5]

Board of directors[edit]

The current officers of the board of directors are:[6]

Notable past board members, in addition to James P. Phelan, include Richard P. Graves, longtime executive director, who ran for governor of California in 1954.

Policy positions[edit]

The league campaigned against 2006's Proposition 90, spending $4.1m against it.[7] The proposition lost. The league campaigned against proposition 98, and for proposition 99, in the Proposition 98/99 ballot proposals of 2008, spending $5.8m on the measures.[8] 98 failed, while 99 passed. The league was an advocate of 2010's Proposition 22, a constitutional amendment that would prevent the state government from taking certain funds, such as transportation funds, from the local governments. They spent $2.8m towards its passage.[9] It passed with 61% of the vote.

Helen Putnam Award of Excellence[edit]

The league sponsors the Helen Putnam Award of Excellence, which is presented annually to city programs that "Improve the quality of life in local communities, implement efficiencies in service delivery and operations, and provide services responsive to the local community."[10]

The award is named after Helen Putnam, a mayor of Petaluma, and Sonoma County supervisor.


  1. ^ Howard, John. "Accentuate the positive: Cities target aftermath of Bell". Capitol Weekly. Retrieved 2013-06-25. 
  2. ^ Meyers, Steven R. "Western City Magazine - League of California Cities®". Westerncity.com. Retrieved 2013-06-25. 
  3. ^ "League of California Cities - 2013 Annual Conference & Expo". Cacities.org. Retrieved 2013-06-25. 
  4. ^ Yamamura, Kevin. "Capitol Alert: League of California Cities sues to block vehicle tax shift". Blogs.sacbee.com. Retrieved 2013-06-25. 
  5. ^ "League History", League of California Cities website
  6. ^ http://www.cacities.org/about/board/index.jsp. Retrieved March 13, 2012.  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  7. ^ "League Of California Cities". Follow The Money. Retrieved 2013-06-25. 
  8. ^ "League Of California Cities". Follow The Money. Retrieved 2013-06-25. 
  9. ^ "League Of California Cities". Follow The Money. Retrieved 2013-06-25. 
  10. ^ "Helen Putnam Award of Excellence". Helenputnam.org. 2013-04-11. Retrieved 2013-06-25. 

External links[edit]