The story is being told over and over: Cities are struggling.
From bankruptcies and layoffs to service cuts and outsourcing, cities and local agencies throughout the country are having to find ways to provide services while managing dwindling resources.
The reasons are many. Whether its pinched revenues resulting from the never-ending economic downturn, unfunded pension liabilities, the rising cost of overburdensome regulation or state money grabs, there really is no single culprit.
There is, however, one trait exhibited by many cities that seem to be weathering the storm, and that’s their ability to evolve, to systemically change the way they do business.
In a word: innovate.
These cities are developing novel systems allowing them to operate more efficiently: apps that encourage citizens to quickly inform code enforcement about unsightly graffiti; fee waiver programs that incentivize business improvements and increase tax revenues without increasing taxes; collaborations and shared services between cities that result in significant cost savings to taxpayers.
And those are just the examples here in Orange County
As a matter of fact, despite sensational newspaper headlines to the contrary, Orange County has quietly become a state leader for innovation in local government.
The Association of California Cities was formed early last year in part so that local governments could more effectively share best practices and combat common challenges, while saving taxpayer dollars and leveraging city resources.
ACC-OC is not only working to promote these innovative city management techniques; we want to help foster these novel ideas, serve as an “idea bank” of innovative best practices and encourage replication and sharing between ACC-OC members, further leveraging taxpayer dollars and providing vital services for less.
To this end, ACC-OC will celebrate the spirit of innovation in Orange County as it hosts the inaugural “Golden Hub of Innovation” Awards Dinner at the Garden Grove Community Center on the evening of Thursday, Sept. 20.
During the program, we will honor the most innovative cities and local governments with a “Golden Hub” award in categories such as budgeting, most effective use of technology, service delivery and outside-the-box revenue generating programs. We’ll also highlight an individual whose innovative leadership strategies resulted in measurably greater efficiencies at the local government level.
The event is open to the public. We encourage you to come find out which local governments are employing the most innovative, novel strategies and how they are better managing taxpayer dollars.
No, Orange County isn’t immune to problems facing local governments throughout the country. They are very real. Some local agencies are still struggling to maintain current service and staff levels.
But if these challenges are ultimately viewed as having birthed new strategies in municipal governance and management, then hopefully we can look back and view this time not as the Great Recession, but as the Great Opportunity.
Future generations can look back with approval at the leaders who sought not excuses but solutions, who took the bull by the horns, turned convention on its head and fundamentally changed how local government will be managed well into the 21st century.
Lacy Kelly is CEO of the Association of California Cities-Orange County and also serves on the Voice of OC Community Editorial Board.