By Greg Justice
Dates of convention 9.30.15-10.02.15
The first day at the San Jose convention center was primarily getting to know fellow civic leaders, the handling of administrative business by league executives, disbursement of awards, as well as, a large service and product exposition in two of the main halls. PGS sponsored a booth at the convention – staffed by Rafael Escalante, Assistant Director of Admissions, and it was the only sustainability-focused higher education institution represented at the event. All other schools with booths were focused on traditional MPA and public service programs.
The keynote speaker for the evening was Greg Lucas (below), California’s State Librarian. Lucas talked about the great strength of California’s diverse population and the history of California as a destination for immigrants; the exponential benefits any society receives from teaching someone to read; as well as, despite the rise of online information, how libraries – especially librarians – are becoming more important for consumers of knowledge to sort and understand the information available.
Of particular interest to me was his description of the Sutro Library in San Francisco. Created in 1850 by railroad tycoon and former San Francisco mayor Adolf Sutro, his unprecedented private collection was gifted to the people of California in 1913. Lucas highlighted some of the library’s amazing collections, including: William Shakespeare's first, second, third and fourth folios (1623-1685), a first edition King James’ Bible (1612), as well as, the oldest existing law book in the Western hemisphere, published in Latin by the University of Mexico City in the mid-1500s.Anyone can visit the library Monday to Friday, 8:30-4:30 pm, excluding major state, federal and CSU-observed holidays (the library is on the grounds of San Francisco State.) Following the keynote, attendees dispersed into the main halls where they could peruse civic government-related vendors, as well as treat themselves to some delicious – and pricey – spreads of fruit and cheeses.
What was best about this conference was that it was a perfect complement to both my MPA AND MBA studies. While many cities, counties and special districts attended, exhibited and presented, there were also a lot of businesses, non-profit and corporate organizations displaying their role in assisting municipal governments with operations. Overall the conference was a unique opportunity to see the application of my studies in real time and it provided excellent insights into future practices and concerns.
There were numerous workshops and educational sessions available, including some close to my interests and career passion: “Cities and their Crumbling Transportation Infrastructure,” “City Cap & Trade Plans,” as well as, “The Future of Energy Efficiency in California.” Two workshops I attended, however, stood out the most: “Rethinking, Repositioning and Reinventing Retail Centers” (speakers pictured above) and “What Council Members Need to Know About Local Agency Formation Commissions (‘LAFCOs’).”
The retail center session discussed how cities are moving forward with infill and mixed-use developments, despite losing significant Community Redevelopment Agency (“CRA”) funds in 2011. The LAFCO session educated attendees about these commission’s role in working with other governing bodies among city jurisdictions, discouraging urban sprawl, the protection of agricultural and open space land resources, as well as, LAFCO’s signature purpose of seeing the development of local governmental agencies.
The latter workshops were perfect, as they complimented current research for SUS 7010: Introduction to Public Administration. I am writing a paper on the effect of the eminent domain and public/private development following the landmark Supreme Court case, Kelo v. City of New London (2005). Session content brought to my research a California perspective, as well as providing “best practices” for this issue going forward.
If you could not attend, you can actually download many of the session materials, and I guarantee you there is something related to your classwork. In all, the convention was amazing, not just for the educational sessions, but for the numerous networking opportunities, as well. I definitely look forward to next year’s convention in Long Beach and hope to see my fellow classmates there.
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