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Scrutinizing Garden Grove's Move to Leave League of Cities

March 27, 1994

* There's nothing at all "perplexing" about Garden Grove's decision to withdraw from the League of California Cities, notwithstanding the lamentations of Buena Park Council Member Rhonda J. McCune ("Gaining Political Clout in Numbers," March 18). Frankly, what's "perplexing" is that so many of California's 469 cities continue to be members of the league.

Since the League provides benefits to all California cities on a non-exclusive and non-divisible basis it makes little sense for any individual city to actually join the league. League membership is not a prerequisite for nearly any of the benefits enumerated by McCune. Hence, it's entirely rational for individual cities to withdraw from the league, knowing full well that any of the league's achievements on behalf of California municipalities will come their way regardless of whether they remain members.

Garden Grove's decision to withdraw from the league is classic example of what economists and political scientists call the "free rider" problem, wherein someone collects the benefits made possible by someone else's effort without paying for them. It's a problem each of us face in countless ways on a daily basis.

Though Garden Grove's secession from the league is little more than a tiny leak in the "lifeboat" keeping California's municipalities afloat in these "uncertain times," it could be a harbinger of mass departures to come.

To persuade Garden Grove to rejoin the league and to prevent other cities from jumping ship, the league must do more than merely tout the advantages of collective lobbying on behalf of California municipalities. Instead, the league must develop programs to provide benefits limited to league members only, a task not even begun by Council Member McCune's systematic accounting of league activities on behalf of all California municipalities.

MARK P. PETRACCA

Irvine

* The current decision of Garden Grove to leave the League of California Cities demonstrates the current penny-wise, pound-foolish mentality that appears to be gripping many local governments in California.

The article by Rhonda J. McCune, president of the Orange County division of the league (Orange County Voices, March 18), provides some very appropriate reasons for Garden Grove to remain a member of the League of California Cities.

It does not go far enough, however. For some time I have wondered why the leadership of the league has not considered the use of the ballot box to prevent further raiding of local revenue by a greedy and irresponsible state government.

A constitutional amendment to return property taxes and the traditional share of sales taxes to local governmental entities should have widespread local support. The after-working hours volunteer resources of local government employees should provide more than enough impetus to get a ballot measure qualified quickly.

We have learned a valuable lesson during these troubling economic times in California. Don't count on sympathy and support from state government politicians just because they have come from the ranks of local government or because they have espoused local control before their election to state office. Orange County is an excellent example of the latter. Constituencies change and so do political ambitions.

This will certainly take some effort, but you can be sure that local revenue erosion by the state is far from complete. It will continue as long as it appears to be the easy way out for less than creative politicians, of both parties.

I certainly hope that local officials resort to more creative ways to assure substantial and viable government at the local level. Without it, we will all lose more than we ever believed possible.

JACK GREEN

Huntington Beach

Jack Green is a former president of the Orange County division, League of California Cities.

* Are you laughing yet? The Garden Grove City Council has decided to take matters into its own hands. They're not sure Garden Grove is getting its money's worth out of the California League of Cities or the Orange County League of Cities. Instead of working within each of those groups to have better representation for the interests of Garden Grove, their solution is to walk away.

The city has not yet been successful in its efforts to dethrone Hank Wedaa from the (Air Quality Management District) board; we're all frustrated, but why pout? Garden Grove City Council, you're embarrassing us. Using the question of finances is just a guise; we're not interested in your childish antics and anger. Don't handicap the city because of your personal vendettas.

JEFF ROBINSON

Garden Grove

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