Founded in 1955, the Institute has been serving local officials’
information needs for 60 years. Some of the highlights of that
history are detailed in the story below.
While respecting and honoring its past, the Institute is also
intently focused on the present and future. In these difficult
economic times, the need for the Institute’s materials for local
officials is even greater.
The Institute’s story began in 1955, with the support of a Ford
Foundation grant to promote inter-jurisdictional cooperation
among local agencies.
At that time, local agencies were beginning to recognize the need
for cities and counties to cooperate on regional issues. The
Institute’s first publication offered examples of regional
cooperation in the San Francisco Bay Area, Southern California
and in Maricopa County, Arizona. Addressing citizen grievances
was another concern for local agencies, and the Institute
published two reports in 1967 that provided invaluable assistance
for cities and counties dealing with increased numbers of citizen
Since then, the Institute has often anticipated issues that would
soon confront local agencies. Through its research capacity,
publications and training programs, the Institute has been a
leader in addressing topics that ultimately have become urgent
public policy issues.
The Institute has also responded in a timely way to current
issues of concern for cities and counties. For example, during
the gasoline crisis in the late 1970s and early 1980s, it
published Local Contingency Planning for Gasoline Shortages.
Following the passage of Proposition 13, the Institute focused on
public-private partnerships in a series of booklets and
The Institute’s activity level increased dramatically from
1971-81. In addition to the studying public safety services, the
State of California contracted with the Institute to examine
staffing issues in local agencies, and to assist counties,
cities, special districts and some schools in hiring welfare
recipients. The Institute was also awarded multi-year contracts
by state and federal agencies to provide a comprehensive overview
of welfare reform and social planning issues from a local
government perspective, resulting in the Social Policy
In addition, during this time the Institute launched major
research projects addressing self-funding of employee benefits
(medical, dental and workers’ compensation), public agency
liability, and local governments’ role in housing; the Institute
also published a “do-it-yourself” manual for local government
candidates, a number of these topics have resurfaced as part of
the Institute’s current work program.
During the 1980s and ’90s, the Institute’s programs focused on
three major areas: telecommunications, water issues, and school
curriculum development and training teachers to educate children
about local government.