Responding to Change, Anticipating Concerns
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 grievances.
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 workshops.
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 publications series.
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.