NorCal Download with Creighton Avila, El Dorado County, CA

Posted on December 3, 2014

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Our Northern California insider Creighton Avila brings you a “simple list” of issues facing local government.

A Simple List

Many challenges are facing local governments in Northern California. The following is a simple list that is different from the hot topics in the Southern California article – because Northern Californians need to be different:



California Community Relying on Bottle Water May Be Grim Preview of Things to Come

The whole state of California is being impacted by a drought. However, the impacts of the drought are affecting many of the agricultural based economies of Northern California counties the hardest. In addition, as stated in the article above, there are areas of Northern California that are having to obtain water through truck shipments.

With large forest fires hitting Northern California this summer (e.g. King Fire), strong rain storms could bring massive amounts of sediment into the watersheds where the fires occurred. The sediment could help to reduce the amount of water that is received for farming and everyday use.  Let’s hope for nice soaking rain storms and snow this winter and not hard hitting storms that can propel large amounts of sediment into our watersheds.

Funding Infrastructure

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Study: Dangerous Condition of California’s Local Streets and Roads Put California Drivers at Risk, Poses Threat to Vehicle Safety

Valley roads get ‘poor’ grades

There are articles from North Carolina to California discussing the poor state of road infrastructure. Many blame the poor state of road infrastructure on the reduced amount of road funds that are received due to less gas tax dollars. Consumers are purchasing less gas due to more efficient vehicles. With fewer fuel purchases comes less dollars to states, counties, and cities to help fund road projects.  So, as we have become environmentally conscious with our more efficient cars, we have reduced the ability of governments to enhance or maintain our transportation networks.

To the north of Northern California, Oregon is starting to look at another method to fund its roads. Oregon is going to become the first to charge drivers based on how many miles they drive. As stated in the linked article, Oregon views the gas tax as an unsustainable form of funding for transportation. Will California follow its hipster neighbors to the north?


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States Handing Off More Responsibilities to Cities and Counties

California Prison Changes Largely Unnoticed in Gubernatorial Race

In 1978, California voters passed Proposition 13, which cut local property taxes. Proposition 13 limited the property tax rate to one percent of assessed value – the statewide average property tax rate before Proposition 13 was 2.5 percent. This left a huge hole in local government budgets, which the state helped by assuming responsibility of some programs or took on new funding obligations to make sure services were continued. Since 1978, there has been transfers of funding and responsibilities for programs to and from the state and local governments. Many say that these transfers have created confusion, duplication of services, and inefficiencies.

Governor Brown introduced wide reaching realignment for many programs that would give more responsibility to local governments – mostly county governments. The programs that have been realigned are from the Public Safety area to the Health and Humans Services area.  Will devolving program responsibility to the local level work and will local governments continue to receive funding for these programs into the future are questions many Californians are asking.

Minimum Wage Increases

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Higher Minimum Wage Wins with Big Support in SF and Oakland

Mayor: Sacramento will explore increase in minimum wage

With the rising cost of living in the Bay Area, Oakland and San Francisco, voters passed increased minimum wage propositions/measures. Due to inaction at the federal level many cities nationwide are taking action. Of course, that starts in Northern California.

A study done by the Congressional Budget Office found that raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would help lift 900,000 out of poverty but reduce employment by approximately 500,000. We will have to see what follows with minimum wage increases by cities in Northern California.

Increased Collaboration with the Public

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The City That Gave Its Residents $3 Million – Vallejo, CA

City of Vallejo, California in 2008 filed for bankruptcy. It seems even in hard times innovation can prosper. The city has started a Participating Budgeting process. This process allows for citizens, rather than politicians, to decide some direct budgetary decisions. Some say it is a method to increase civic engagement and thus have citizens directly help solve community issues. Many different cities across the nation are starting different pilot programs of Participating Budgeting like Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, and Greensboro. It will be interesting to see if Participatory Budgeting helps guide Vallejo out of hard times.


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