Although local governments have substantial power to implement sustainability programs, they face considerable challenges. Most local governments cite lack of funding and knowledgeable staff resources as primary barriers. In addition, however, there is widespread confusion over the multitude of sustainability choices. Many local governments have told the Alliance that they are uncertain about which options are the most cost-effective for their jurisdiction. Recognizing that local governments are always balancing high priority policy goals against significant resource constraints, they also need to know what should be done immediately and what can wait.
In the Alliance’s recent Local Government Survey, the top barrier to achieving sustainable actions was funding constraints. While resources are always a challenge for local governments, current economic conditions have severely limited the ability of local governments to develop and implement sustainability programs, especially when those programs require significant up-front cash to achieve long-term savings. City staffing budgets have also become stretched, reducing the availability of staff to develop, implement and administer new programs and measures.
Over the past few years, as California embraced becoming a global leader in environmental sustainability, a multitude of new resource and environmental policies, rules and regulations have evolved. All expect local governments to play a major role – some by establishing specific mandates and milestones, others by encouraging voluntary adoption of long term visionary goals and objectives. There is no doubt: California is an exciting place to live and to work. However, as we have looked to local governments to assert leadership in achieving all of these goals and objectives, many communities throughout the State are unclear as to what actions they need to take, and when.