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Murrieta Considers Joining New Association of Cities

If the city of Murrieta was to join the Association of California Cities, it would need interest from neighboring cities for the formation of a new chapter.

It is a tale of two organizations: the League of California Cities and the Association of California Cities.

One is much larger and established, the other in its infancy. Both are designed as advocacy groups for cities when it comes to state legislation and policy making.

If the city of Murrieta was to join the Association of California Cities, it would need help to form a new chapter. The Association currently only has one chapter and that is in Orange County.

Other Riverside County cities would need to agree to join the new chapter, according to Lacy Kelly, CEO of ACCOC.

"Of the (482) cities in California how many of you are alike?" Kelly said. "You are all unique, every region is unique. So that is why we went with a federation ...which means it is a loose association of chapters. Our members in Orange County decide what policy they want for Orange County."

ACCOC launched in 2011 and 24 of 34 Orange County cities belong to it, of which 22 still maintain membership to the League of California Cities.

Twenty-six Orange County cities—467 statewide—hold membership to the League.

During a Sept. 18 workshop, Murrieta city council members discussed a possible dual membership to both organizations.

It would come with a price tag, however.

Currently, the city pays about $23,500 in annual dues to the League. It has also spent approximately $20,000 during the last two years for staff and council members to attend League functions.

Membership benefits from the League include daily updates during state Legislature sessions, background on legislative items, Webinars and staff training.

"The value exceeds our membership costs," said City Manager Rick Dudley. "It is...$32,000 a year of value with $23,000 a year cost, a $9,000 a net benefit."

The Association would run about the same for an annual membership, Kelly said.

Benefits would include educational resources and regionally-driven policy making. The business community would also be encouraged to join through sponsorships, would be invited to attend meetings and could serve on the board, according to Kelly.

Mayor Doug McAllister, who was appointed along with Councilman Alan Long to study the benefits of each membership, said funding the Association membership would not call for extra money from the city budget.

Sponsorships could be sought, and cuts could be made elsewhere, he said.

Another plus to joining the Association would be a stronger voice for a smaller group, Kelly said, which appealed to many of the council members.

"The only concern I have had is how our focus is on economic development and how we are unique," said Councilman Randon Lane. "I would dare say that our uniqueness goes too specific even in Riverside County and how we look at what we are doing here locally."

Murrieta belongs to the Riverside County region of the League, which some council members said was too far spread to be effective.

"We have different needs in Southwest Riverside County," said Councilman Long. "The frustration I had led me to look for other solutions. (The Association) has been proven in Orange County."

Cities that belong to the Association include Anaheim, Tustin, Huntington Beach and more.

Erin Sasse, director of public affairs for the League of California Cities' Riverside County Region, said forming smaller groups among the region was not out of the question.

"There is a lot more opportunity that can be utilized that hasn’t been," Sasse said.

The next time the item comes before council, Mayor Pro Tem Rick Gibbs called for a public hearing and council vote.

Council members will be presented with three options: stay with the League of California Cities; join both; or separate from the League and go solely with the Association of California Cites.

At the end of the nearly two-hour discussion, McAllister said there seemed to be somewhat of a consensus to entertain dual membership.

"I don’t support leaving the League," said Councilwoman Kelly Bennett. "This is viewed as an enhancement-providing service and more localized voice for the region that is not currently available. But the League still serves a purpose to us."

Gibbs said he still remained "agnostic" on the issue, but admitted at least one way in which the city would benefit by joining the Association.

"We do not think like Los Angeles, we do not think like San Francisco," Gibbs said. "In this case it seems like smaller is better. Bringing businesses with us to Sacramento or Washington, DC is probably a really good thing."

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