This is the first segment of a summary about the Community Forum on Municipal Incorporation and Local Governance, held on October 16, 2017 at the Conzelman Community Center in Howe Park. The Forum was opened by Carl Dolk, President of the Advocates for Arden Arcade. Hewelcomed the audience and explained that the meeting would provide information about the process of incorporation such that people could better understand the barriers in place against local control. Michael Seaman then offered a slideshow (below) about those barriers and some efforts to remove them. Guest Speaker Katherine Borges followed with an address about the experiences her unincorporated community of Salida, in Stanislaus County, have had trying to protect against annexations--and how that has lead to a renewal of interest in incorporation there. (Her presentation will be the subject of Part 2 of the meeting summary.)
Some 4 million people--or roughly 10% of California's population--live in unincorporated urbanized areas. Their municipal service needs are generally not well met because state policies tend to prefer cities as the units of government best suited to deliver municipal services to urban area residents and businesses. Counties are regarded by the state primarily for the delivery of area-wide services like tax collection, welfare or jails. Though the State continually assigns such responsibilities to counties, it also tends to continually not provide funds for those purposes and routinely shifts local tax dollars away from counties. That situation typically means counties have to find alternative sources of funds for state-mandated programs, a key reason why it is always "hard" for counties to spend money fixing urban infrastructure or improving service delivery in local unincorporated areas. The Forum introduced a new statewide group, California (un)Incorporated, which is being formed to be a voice for improvement of unincorporated communities throughout California. Besides Arden Arcade, the initial set of unincorporated communities seeking better local governance and pursuing some changes to state policy to eventually allow for incorporation includes: Castro Valley, East Los Angeles, Isla Vista, Mountain House, and Salida. Other communities may be participating along the way.