The start of a new year is a chance to contemplate victories and challenges the year ahead may bring. In my work with California cities, I see a number of issues across a broad range of communities, providing a bird’s-eye-view of challenges our cities have recently faced and are likely to face in the coming year. Here are four of those issues that I predict will impact cities in 2019:
Waste Recycling — China has been halting its long-standing practice of purchasing our recyclables. This rapid change in policy has devastated the recyclables market, which has led to a build-up of formerly “recyclable” material at facilities and landfills throughout California. The ability of cities to meet state mandates is in jeopardy for waste haulers and the cities they are contracted to serve. Waste haulers are likely to come knocking on city hall doors for solutions or relief. This problem will have both environmental and financial impacts on cities.
Sacramento’s New Supermajority — The supermajority will leave lots of room to roam on policy matters, as supermajorities tend to reduce moderation in policy approaches. 2019 is going to see renewed statewide policy changes that will usurp elements of local control. The work of the League of California Cities, California Contract Cities Association and other local government associations will be more important than ever in 2019. Cities are ready to be the boots on the ground to solve many of California’s problems, but they also have the same obligation to serve their constituencies just like state-elected officials.
Emergency Communications — Cities have been working on emergency communications for years, but recent catastrophic fires serve as a stark reminder that the ability to quickly communicate with residents and businesses during emergencies is a matter of life and death. Cities have developed expertise in responding to an array of issues, and as a result, residents have become increasingly dependent on government in times of crisis. This places an even greater demand on cities to deliver during emergency situations. Expect increased pressure for technological solutions, but a focus on technology cannot ignore the human behavior response of any crisis response.
Progress and Rancor on Homelessness — Court rulings and community frustrations with homelessness have put cities on the pathway to building more shelters. However, actually siting facilities is creating political discord at the local level. This may prompt more intervention from the State (see second item) or result in significant council turmoil and resident activism. Homelessness is a difficult social challenge that has festered for years and will not be addressed without heartache and anger.
Another year at Tripepi Smith affords us the opportunity to have a front row seat on these and other challenges. It is one reason I love this job, and why I find such joy and responsibility in the work we do for the people in the city halls and companies we serve. Let’s go make a difference for our communities and solve some problems.