AUGUST 2020 |
The Monthly Magazine of the League of California Cities
Camp Achieve Provides Summer Fun and Learning for Richmondâ€™s Youth p.11 Money-Saving Tips for Your Cityâ€™s Supplemental Defined Benefit Plan p.13 Costa Mesa Summer Camp Focuses on Sports, Music, and Arts p.16
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CONTENTS 2 Calendar of League Events President’s Message 3
Helen Putnam Award 11
W hat COVID-19 Is Teaching Us
Camp Achieve Provides Summer Fun and Learning for Richmond’s Youth
By John F. Dunbar
s our communities move through A the phases of recovery, cities are benefiting from new ways of doing the public’s business and also confronting the challenges associated with COVID-19’s impacts.
13 Money-Saving Tips for
Your City’s Supplemental Defined Benefit Plan
Cities Harness Creativity as They Develop Safe Reopening Plans
By Amanda Cadelago
hile different regions and industry W sectors opened at various times, the desire to safely reopen businesses and give residents opportunities to carefully move about their communities was a common theme guiding city leaders’ decisions.
his summer camp program delivers T a diverse array of learning enrichment activities including robotics, chess, the arts, and physical fitness.
ANNUAL CONFERENCE & EXPO 2020 VIRTUAL CONFERENCE
INTERACTIVE • EXPERIENTIAL • COLLABORATIVE
By Michael More
A city can save hundreds of thousands of dollars annually by reducing fees on these legacy plans.
Helen Putnam Award 16 for Excellence
Costa Mesa Summer Camp Focuses on Sports, Music, and Arts
Legal Notes 7
his camp introduces youths to a T range of sports, music, art activities, and extracurricular interests.
In California, Some Insurance Policies Age Like Fine Wine
Job Opportunities 18
By Michael Fehner
It is a common misconception that old insurance policies are good only for museums and archival research; some old policies are capable of providing substantial coverage even today.
Professional Services 20 Directory
over photo: A young participant C enjoys activities at Richmond’s Camp Achieve. Photo courtesy of the City of Richmond.
Register now! www.cacities.org/events
President John F. Dunbar Mayor Yountville
1400 K Street, Sacramento, CA 95814 (916) 658-8200; Fax (916) 658-8240
Magazine Staff Editor in Chief Jill Oviatt (916) 658-8228; email: firstname.lastname@example.org Managing Editor Jude Lemons, Citrus 3 Communications (916) 658-8234; email: email@example.com Contributing Editor Kayla Woods (916) 658-8213; email: firstname.lastname@example.org Business and Creative Manager Amanda Cadelago (916) 658-8226; email: email@example.com
First Vice President Cheryl Viegas Walker Council Member El Centro
Second Vice President Cindy Silva Council Member Walnut Creek
Immediate Past President Jan Arbuckle Council Member Grass Valley
Executive Director Carolyn Coleman
For a complete list of the League board of directors, visit www.cacities.org/board.
leaguevents OCTOBER 7–9
League of California Cities Annual Conference & Expo, Virtual Event The conference offers educational sessions, professional development activities, exhibits, and a chance to participate in the League’s policymaking activities.
Advertising Sales Cici Trino Association Outsource Services, Inc. (916) 961-9999; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Board of Directors Meeting, Virtual Event The League board reviews, discusses, and takes action on a variety of issues affecting cities, including legislation, legal advocacy, education and training, and more.
Administrative Assistant Savannah Cobbs (916) 658-8223; email: email@example.com
Contributors Alison Leary Corrie Manning Bijan Mehryar
Board of Directors Meeting, La Jolla The League board reviews, discusses, and takes action on a variety of issues affecting cities, including legislation, legal advocacy, education and training, and more.
Associate Editors Carol Malinowski Carolyn Walker
Fire Chiefs Leadership Seminar, Monterey This seminar features a variety of sessions for fire chiefs on timely topics important to fire service professionals and offers attendees networking opportunities with their fellow California fire personnel.
Design Taber Creative Group Advertising Design ImagePoint Design For photo credits, see page 18. Western City (ISSN 0279-5337) is published monthly by the League of California Cities, 1400 K St., Sacramento, CA 95814. Subscriptions: $39.00/1 year; $63.00/2 years; student: $26.50; foreign: $52.00; single copies: $4.00, including sales tax. Entered as periodical mail January 30, 1930, at the Post Office, Los Angeles, CA 90013, under the Act of April 13, 1879. Periodical postage paid at Sacramento, Calif. Postmaster: Send address changes to Western City, 1400 K Street, Sacramento, CA 95814. Western City Trademark Reg. U.S. Pat. Off. ©2020 League of California Cities. All rights reserved. Material may not be reprinted without written permission. This issue is Volume XCVI, No. 8.
Municipal Finance Institute, Monterey This conference provides essential information for city officials and staff involved in fiscal planning for municipalities.
City Clerks New Law & Elections Seminar, Monterey The seminar covers laws affecting elections as well as other aspects of clerks’ responsibilities.
Event and registration information is available at www.cacities.org. ED US IN NT RI
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For legislative and policy updates and more, follow @CaCities. Follow Western City @WesternCityMag. Join us on Facebook. www.facebook.com/westerncity www.facebook.com/LeagueofCaCities Visit us on LinkedIn at Western City Magazine.
President’s Message by John F. Dunbar
League President John Dunbar joins his Yountville City Council colleagues in a virtual meeting.
What COVID-19 Is Teaching Us As the coronavirus pandemic has unfolded, its profound effects have raised numerous questions and revealed potential opportunities for California’s cities. The sweeping impacts driven by the pandemic have changed the way we function — as cities, businesses, families, and individuals. As part of the state and local governments’ efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, millions of workers, students, and families stayed home and ventured out only for the most critical needs.
Cities Transform Service Delivery and Functions Overnight, cities changed the way they operate and shifted to an entirely new model of service delivery. While essential workers and first responders continued uninterrupted service for residents, city
leaders and staff turned to technology to help serve their communities virtually rather than in person at City Hall. City employees quickly familiarized themselves with online tools that enabled them to continue engaging the public remotely. The new norm shifted to public meetings conducted online, as reported in the June 2020 issue of Western City (see “Cities Use Technology to Keep Constituents Informed and Engaged During Pandemic,” available at www.westerncity.com). The traditional model for an Emergency Operations Center, which requires staff working in close physical proximity, was no longer viable. Using technology and new tools, cities pivoted to virtual EOCs with employees often working from home. In Napa County, public health and emergency officials quickly shifted to teleconferencing with mayors, county
supervisors, and managers of all six jurisdictions in the county — and staff from the offices of our state and federal legislators — for daily updates on COVID-19 testing, health care operations, personal protection equipment, and other status reports critical to the pandemic response. In the past several weeks, that coordinated effort has continued and has expanded to include discussions about economic recovery and guidelines for safe and strategic reopening of businesses. In reflecting on the demands of transforming municipal operations to virtual functions, Temecula City Manager Aaron Adams said, “This exercise occurred in less than 48 hours and required the commitment from so many dedicated professionals and a will to accept a rapidly changing, unconventional workplace environment from our employees.” continued
Western City, August 2020
What COVID-19 Is Teaching Us, continued
The City of Long Beach added curbside pickup zones and temporarily widened sidewalks to accommodate outdoor dining and physical distancing.
Other Impacts of the Pandemic Most of us experienced firsthand the stay-home order’s dramatic and positive impact on air quality. As telework replaced commuting and airlines grounded their fleets, cleaner air and skies followed. But while commuters worked remotely from home, public transit services were particularly hard hit with a steep decline in ridership and revenues. The loss of parking revenue and other fees were additional negative fiscal impacts for cities. For years, California cities have been trying to get people out of their singlepassenger vehicles and into transit. But in the context of a pandemic and the threat of contagion, mass transit presents new public health challenges. Crowded trains and buses, formerly a hallmark of successful transit programs, now raise concerns about personal safety and coronavirus spread. Transit riders may no longer be willing to travel in close proximity to others, but many will likely still need to rely on transit as an affordable way to get to work. Meeting these challenges will require innovation and ingenuity.
Lessons Learned and New Questions to Address COVID-19 has taught us a number of lessons about our assumptions; for example, many businesses and agencies
League of California Cities
that formerly asserted telework was not feasible transitioned rapidly to a workat-home model when circumstances demanded it. In the medical sector, telehealth activity surged both to reduce the impacts on hospitals and clinics and to serve individuals who were not comfortable going to doctors’ offices. As we have witnessed with other major disasters, out of necessity comes change. We’ve learned how to do things differently since the advent of COVID-19. We dramatically changed how we behave, work, and educate in an effort to protect public health and save lives. Good news is emerging from our experiences with the difficult circumstances created by COVID-19. Many of the new tools and technologies that cities turned to in the pandemic response will remain in use and continue improving our ability to deliver public services efficiently and effectively. The convenience of online public meetings may increase public access and participation. Many cities streamlined the planning and building permit process and moved bill paying and many other functions online, which makes navigating these processes easier for residents and businesses and increases efficiency for city staff. Cities have demonstrated extreme flexibility and willingness to adjust operations in response to these rapidly changing conditions.
As our communities move through the phases of recovery and work to resume normal life, cities are benefiting from these new ways of doing the public’s business while confronting the challenges associated with COVID-19’s impacts. The lessons learned raise new questions and challenges. The positive environmental impacts, such as cleaner air, have been accompanied by other negative effects, such as lower gas tax and parking fee revenues and the challenges associated with safely operating public transit services. Cities, businesses, and workers have suffered profound financial losses related to shutting down to save lives. Coping with uncertainty is an ongoing challenge, and this multilayered disruption to our lives still has no clear end in sight. As we move forward, we are re-examining our policies and assumptions in the context of COVID-19. It’s too early to say what the ultimate outcomes will be in terms of policy and the overall future direction of California and its cities. But the resilience and determination that our communities have demonstrated offer hope — and faith in our ability to come through this crisis with new insights and hard-won wisdom. Working together, we will continue to find and share solutions that work for our cities and residents throughout California. ■
A delicatessen in Sacramento modifies its seating to provide physical distancing.
Cities Harness Creativity as They Develop Safe by Amanda Cadelago Reopening Plans Balancing the need to protect public health and stimulate local economic activity has been at the forefront of city leaders’ minds throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. While plans for a safe reopening have had to remain fluid and flexible due to changing conditions and state guidelines, city leaders have been hard at work for several months creating plans for how businesses could safely reopen and residents can securely move around in their communities.
“We recognize that many small businesses want to reopen but are unable to provide facial coverings that are essential for everyone’s health and safety,” said Mayor Brand. “Masks and other personal protective equipment are an important part of managing the spread of COVID-19, so it’s important for the city to step up and donate masks to the businesses most impacted by this pandemic so our citizens stay healthy and our economy can get moving again.”
Cognizant of their cities’ unique needs, local leaders worked tirelessly to streamline permitting, redesign city streets to facilitate safe recreation, provide grants so restaurants could create more outdoor dining opportunities, and ensure that businesses have personal protective equipment to keep both staff and patrons safe as they reopen.
Supportive Measures Help Businesses and Customers In Fresno — even prior to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s June 18 executive order that required all Californians to wear a face mask in public — Mayor Lee Brand said that the city would provide 10,000 disposable surgical masks for small businesses to hand out to their customers and 4,000 cloth masks for employees.
City leaders have been hard at work for several months creating plans for how businesses could safely reopen and residents can securely move around in their communities.
Amanda Cadelago is marketing manager for the League and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Western City, August 2020
The City of Sacramento offers grants to restaurants to support outdoor dining.
Cities Harness Creativity as They Develop Safe Reopening Plans, continued
In San Francisco, Mayor London Breed rolled out the city’s Shared Spaces Program to assist businesses by providing flexible use of sidewalks, streets, and other public spaces to serve customers. Under this program, restaurants can use a portion of the public right of way, such as sidewalks, parking lanes, streets, or other nearby public spaces like parks and plazas for restaurant pickup and outdoor dining. San Francisco restaurants applauded the city’s swift action. “We are grateful to the mayor and the city for moving so quickly to make the Shared Spaces Program a reality,” said Laurie Thomas, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. “This entailed a lot of work and coordination between departments. The ability of restaurants to soon seat patrons outside will definitely increase the chances that we can survive financially.” Recognizing that physical distancing will be necessary for the foreseeable future, the City of Sacramento launched an outdoor dining program called Farm to Fork Al Fresco that created an expedited permit process to allow restaurants to provide more outside dining and allocated $1 million from the federal CARES Act funding to support local restaurants. Eligible restaurants can apply for grants of up to $3,000 to pay for expenses related to physical improvements needed for outside dining including barricades, lighting, and dining furnishings. “It is more important than ever to bring these kinds of opportunities to local small businesses,” said Sacramento Assistant City Manager Michael Jasso. “We are pleased to support the variety of restaurants across the city through this effort as we celebrate the diversity that makes our city great.”
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Nickolas Gonzales, right, a community revitalization technician with the City of Fresno’s Code Enforcement Division, delivers masks to a local recording studio as part of the city’s efforts to provide free personal protective equipment needed to support safe reopening.
Reducing Vehicle Traffic to Accommodate Pedestrians and Physical Distancing In Long Beach, city leaders took a creative approach to support local businesses and make it easier for people to move throughout the city. City leaders rolled out an open streets initiative to limit cut-through traffic on select streets and activate these areas for walking, bicycling, wheelchair accessibility, and restaurant use. “Long Beach is reopening our economy, and we are committed to helping businesses do so safely by offering additional space outdoors,” said Mayor Robert Garcia. Several cities in Northern California, including Alameda, Foster City, Petaluma, Redwood City, and San Mateo, also restricted or reduced traffic on designated roads so residents would have more space for physically distanced exercise. Open streets without traffic offer a great way for residents to safely be outside and for businesses to increase their foot traffic; this also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
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While different regions and industry sectors opened at various times, the desire to safely reopen businesses and provide residents with opportunities to carefully shop, exercise, and move about their communities was a common theme guiding city leaders’ decisions. Creativity was at the heart of cities’ efforts to put into place new protocols and procedures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while setting the stage for a strong local economic recovery. ■
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League of California Cities
In California, Some Insurance Policies Age Like Fine Wine by Michael Fehner It is the rare city official, attorney, or administrator who finds insurance law vibrant and exciting. California courts agree: “It is hard to imagine another set of legal terms with more soporific effect than indemnity, subrogation, contribution, co-obligation, and joint tortfeasorship. … Even lawyers find words like ‘indemnity’ and ‘subrogation’ ring of an obscure Martian dialect.” It is rarer still to combine a thirst for insurance law with the willingness to take the trip to the archives or the back recesses of the records department to find decades-old insurance policies that might have been issued to a city, county, or department. But recent decisions from the California Supreme Court have made some older insurance policies very interesting indeed, especially in situations where local governments are seeking coverage for claims
that take a long time to manifest, such as environmental contamination and asbestos exposure claims. Under the court’s recent decisions, policies issued in the 1970s and earlier can be especially valuable right now. It is a common misconception that old insurance policies are good only for museums or archival research. Some of these policies are capable of providing substantial coverage even today.
About Legal Notes This column is provided as general information and not as legal advice. The law is constantly evolving, and attorneys can and do disagree about what the law requires. Local agencies interested in determining how the law applies in a particular situation should consult their local agency attorneys.
“Occurrence-Based” Policies Can Be the Most Valuable To understand how old policies can provide coverage, some explanation of different types of insurance policies is necessary. Logically, a 50-year-old auto policy probably will not provide current coverage — the insured must generally make a claim within the term of the policy. Many policies covering cars,
directors and officers liability, employment practices liability, and professional malpractice liability are “claims-made” policies; the claim against the insured must be made (and most often reported to the insurer) within the policy term or there is no coverage. continued
Michael Fehner is an attorney with the law firm of Irell & Manella LLP and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Western City, August 2020
In California, Some Insurance Policies Age Like Fine Wine, continued
But some policies — including many called comprehensive general liability policies — are “occurrence-based,” meaning that they provide coverage when the “occurrence” happens. For injuries that take years or decades to become apparent (often referred to as “long-tail” claims), the occurrences may have taken place decades ago, but occurrence-based policies may still provide coverage in the present. This is why insureds (including the State of California and local governmental entities) are still able to secure coverage from certain insurers five decades after policies were issued. For example, if there was environmental contamination at a cityor state-owned site in the 1960s or early 1970s but the contamination was not discovered until much later, an occurrencebased policy could still provide coverage today because the “occurrence” may be deemed to be the contamination. The time of discovery is often not deemed the “occurrence,” meaning these older policies may still be tapped, depending on their actual language.
In California, Late Notice to the Insurer May Not Spoil the Claim But don’t many policies contain provisions requiring notice of an occurrence during or promptly after the policy
League of California Cities
period? Of course. But if the policy is based on when the occurrence happens (as opposed to the claims-made scenario, where the claim must be made — and usually reported — within the policy period), California has long adhered to the “notice-prejudice rule.” Generally speaking, this rule provides that an insurer cannot deny coverage based on an insured’s failure to give prompt notice of a claim unless the insurer can prove that it was substantially prejudiced by the lack of notice. A recent California Supreme Court case, Pitzer College v. Indian Harbor Insurance Company, affirmed that the notice-prejudice rule was a fundamental public policy of the state and said that the rule applied not only to the provisions of the policy requiring notice to the insurer, but also with respect to provisions requiring the insurer’s consent to make expenditures in “first-party” insurance policies. The court differentiated “firstparty” policies — covering situations where the insured is directly ordered to remediate pollution, for example — from “third-party” policies, which are generally triggered by claims from third parties (such as tort suits from neighboring landowners). But the court admitted that distinguishing between first-party and third-party policies is not easy; in fact, the court refused to determine whether the
policies at issue were first party or third party and remanded the question to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In any event, the notice-prejudice rule is designed to be an insured-friendly rule that excuses late notice causing no harm to the insurer and is usually employed to give insureds a break. For example, an insurance company cannot claim it was substantially prejudiced by late notice if it would have denied a claim even if it were timely. Similarly, if the insurer couldn’t have prevented or mitigated the contamination or exposure if they had learned about it earlier, a late notice defense is on shaky ground — insurers generally cannot claim they had a better remediation system than those available to governmental units. And importantly, in California, it is the insurer’s burden to prove substantial prejudice from allegedly untimely notice. Moreover, an insurer can waive an untimely notice defense by failing to raise the defense promptly and specifically.
Vintage Policies Have Fewer Exclusions and Broader Coverage Provisions Another question one might ask is whether common pollution exclusions might prevent coverage under these old policies. Yet the reason these vintage policies can be so valuable is that pollution exclusions were not commonly included in comprehensive general liability policies until the 1970s, and even then, some pollution exclusions had broad exemptions (until the 1980s, when “absolute” pollution exclusions became the standard). Ideas of ongoing environmental contamination, including latent asbestos exposure, were simply not prevalent at the time and were not specifically excluded by the insurance industry.
Looking for Footnotes? For a fully footnoted version, read this article online at www.westerncity.com.
Policies from this era also have another potential advantage. Because insurers did not contemplate a rash of claims — whether from multiple occurrences of contamination or multiple asbestos exposures — many of these policies were written without aggregate limits (that is to say, clauses stipulating total limits, such as “the maximum this policy will ever pay out is $1 million”). These policies cover injuries on a “per-occurrence” basis without setting a capped dollar amount for claims within the policy period. Accordingly, the more occurrences during the period, the more coverage the policies provide — leading to a situation where an insured could receive multiples of the per-occurrence limits if it could show the existence of multiple occurrences.
Recent Decisions May Put Insurers Over a Barrel As noted earlier, the California Supreme Court has made a number of decisions improving the insureds’ odds of recovering under such policies. As articulated in its April 6, 2020, decision in Montrose Chemical Corporation v. Superior Court, the court reviewed the history of its opinions regarding long-tail coverage. It first recited the rule that an insurer had to indemnify the insured for the entirety of the liability resulting from a continuous injury (such as ongoing contamination, in that case). Next, it confirmed the requirement that insurers pay “all sums” in a continuous injury case even though some losses occur outside the policy period. The court further affirmed its 2011 decision in State of California v. Continental Insurance that California has adopted an “all-sums-withstacking” rule, where policy limits from different policy periods are “stacked” on top of each other, creating a giant
Checking old insurance policies in city archives may yield revenue.
“uber-policy” under which “the insured has immediate access to the insurance it purchased.” Finally, in the Montrose decision, the court gave insureds another boost by ruling that an insured did not have to exhaust all of its lower-level policies throughout the decades of the continuing injury (in Montrose, the contamination), but instead gave California insureds the ability to tap higher-level (excess) insurance policies as long as the policies beneath them for that period had been exhausted (or perhaps only deemed exhausted, one of the many issues the court left unaddressed). The opinion is pragmatically designed to lessen policyholders’ “practical obstacles to securing indemnification,” so that an insured need not chase down payments from policies from other years, which may well have different coverages and exclusions and therefore can be quite the herculean task.
for a large (and unexpected) reward. Indeed, a city manager’s greatest ally in this arena may well be the employee who saved these old documents “just in case.”
Even Rosier Days May Be Ahead
It bears noting that, earlier in 2020, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals gave a group of California counties and cities a partial jurisdictional victory in contamination cases against alleged polluters in two related non-insurance cases, where the entities sued based on nuisance, negligence, strict liability, and trespass. Essentially (and this is admittedly an oversimplification), the Ninth Circuit ruled such cases belong in state court and not federal court, even though the defendant energy companies had contracts with the federal government. These rulings dealt only with jurisdiction and not with the merits of the cities’ and counties’ claims based on climate-change damage, and further challenges will be forthcoming; but this serves as a reminder that California local governments can and do have success in litigating contamination cases with large corporate entities.
All of these decisions taken together prove at least this: for environmental contamination and other continuous injuries stretching over long periods of time, a review of all of an entity’s policies, no matter how old, could provide grounds
Insurers and other companies will continue to fight tooth and nail on every conceivable ground, but California courts have tilted the playing field in some cases in favor of insured parties that hold these old occurrence-based policies. ■
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Western City, August 2020
Children participating in Camp Achieve develop their academic skills, enjoy sports activities, and play games that require reasoning and strategy.
League of California Cities
Camp Achieve Provides Summer Fun and Learning for Richmond’s Youth The City of Richmond (pop. 111,217) was built along the East San Francisco Bay waterfront virtually overnight during World War II. Its shipyards produced 747 Liberty cargo ships for the war effort, more than any other shipyard in the nation. Today, Richmond is known for its progressive politics and community programming. When an opportunity arose to create a model summer program in partnership with the school district, the city seized the day. The median household income in Richmond is $55,102 — and many kids lack the opportunities necessary to succeed in school. This opportunity gap manifests most clearly in the summer learning loss that occurs when children’s minds aren’t actively engaged between school years. This knowledge loss has a profound, cumulative impact on children’s long-term education. According to a 2016 RAND Corp. study, two-thirds of the ninth grade achievement gap can be attributed to summer learning loss in elementary school. City staff in Richmond wondered if more could be done to address summer learning loss. Richmond schools are part of the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD), which experienced dramatic cuts in state funding due to the Great Recession. By 2013, just four elementary summer school programs were left to serve nearly 18,000 district students. Richmond, with the highest-need students in the district, was hardest hit. And according to the California Department of Education, less than 30 percent of Richmond’s third graders were reading at grade level. Similarly, summer camps run by the City of Richmond Recreation Services and operated out of the city’s community centers were chronically under-enrolled and struggling to serve children and families. The city had to do something quickly to turn the camps around.
Identifying a Solution to Meet the Need Determined to find a solution, the Richmond city manager met with the superintendent of schools and the West Contra Costa Public Education Fund (Ed Fund) in 2013 to collaborate on a new model for summer programming. The Ed Fund acted as the regional convener of a coalition of providers serving youth during out-of-school time. The coalition comprised the City of Richmond, its Community Services Department, the school district, and community-based organizations including the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts and the Richmond Art Center. Robert Bunce, deputy director for the Ed Fund, spearheaded the organization’s efforts to design Camp Achieve. He said, “We were leading the community charge to increase access to high-quality out-ofschool time for West Contra Costa children and were thrilled to work on creating Camp Achieve for the City of Richmond.” To strengthen the quality of Richmond’s summer programs and expand the number of children served, Camp Achieve focused on developing four camps located in community centers near public housing in Richmond’s highest-need neighborhoods. Launching Camp Achieve in 2014 as planned would require additional funding from the City of Richmond and the West Contra Costa Unified School District. Together the city and the district committed nearly $325,000 annually to support the 10 weeks of camp programs, thus ensuring district students would have a safe place to develop their academic skills during the summer. continued
The City of Richmond won an Award for Excellence in the Community Services and Economic Development category of the 2019 Helen Putnam Award for Excellence program. For more about the award program, visit www.helenputnam.org.
Western City, August 2020
Camp Achieve Provides Summer Fun and Learning for Richmond’s Youth, continued
Partners Create Camp Programming With the school district’s support, the City of Richmond and the Ed Fund developed a comprehensive program, grounded in youth development principles, that delivers a diverse array of academic project-based learning enrichment activities including robotics, chess, the arts, and physical fitness. Hiring WCCUSD teachers and leveraging partnerships with local specialty enrichment providers helped boost Camp Achieve’s programming, which is based on national best practices. In addition, Camp Achieve uses locally adopted quality standards for out-of-school time as a guiding framework and to provide clearly articulated expectations for staff.
The camp builds supportive connections between children and staff.
Through the Camp Achieve model, every kid is connected with a caring adult. According to the camp’s exit survey, each year over 90 percent of kids report a strong connection with the adults on staff, which helps to make camp a safe and supportive environment during the summer months.
increase by one month — compared with a typical two- to threemonth learning loss over the summer, according to district data. In a survey of parents whose children attended Camp Achieve in summer 2019, 90 percent indicated that their child learned new skills at camp and was better prepared to return to school.
Measuring the Results
Rochelle Polk, community services director for the City of Richmond, pointed to the importance of the partnerships that contributed to Camp Achieve’s success. She said, “Since summer 2014, the Community Services Department has partnered with the Ed Fund and school district to provide high-quality learning and enrichment activities to Richmond’s youth. These partnerships deliver benefits for the city as well, including technical assistance and training for our dedicated program coordinators. The results are evident, especially in the areas of students’ weekly attendance, students’ literacy gains, and parents’ survey results.”
It’s said that kids vote with their feet. The vote is in, and Camp Achieve has been a resounding success. Its innovative approach solved Richmond’s summer camp under-enrollment problem. Troy Porter, City of Richmond recreation supervisor and founding camp coordinator, is enthusiastic about the results. He said, “Our attendance has shot through the roof!” In 2019, camps were fully enrolled, providing summer programming for an average of 60 students per day, an increase of more than 200 percent over the 2013 base year. Camp Achieve plays a critical role in providing academic support to the school district’s highest-need students over the summer. In 2019, the average camper attended 29 days, with 65 percent of kids attending 30 or more days. In comparison, the district’s summer school program totals only 19 days. By working with district-certified teachers and high-quality enrichment providers, Camp Achieve ensures that every camper has fun and develops their academic skills throughout the summer. Upon returning to school, children (kindergarten through third grade) who attended Camp Achieve saw their reading assessment scores
Fun activities are designed to enhance academic achievement.
Camp Achieve provides a valuable service to the community, serving over 350 kids each summer at no charge to the city’s most vulnerable families. As Recreation Supervisor Troy Porter said, “We’re very proud of Camp Achieve. It’s been most rewarding to see what positive things can be achieved for our youth when local government, nonprofits, and the school district work together for a common cause.”
Camp During the Pandemic: An Update Following the closure of district schools as part of the measures taken in response to COVID-19, many students and parents wanted to know whether Camp Achieve would be held during summer 2020. In response to the demand, the camp shifted to a virtual mode. During the spring, the school district provided 23,998 tablets and laptop computers to students and established 1,795 local Wi-Fi “hot spots” throughout the community to support online education. Building on that effort, Camp Achieve returned for its summer sessions using Zoom classrooms and providing enrichment activities that include creating videos, reading aloud, and participating in West African dance, music, virtual field trips, and much more. More than 200 families registered for camp in 2020. Contact: Troy Porter, recreation supervisor, Community Services Department, City of Richmond; phone: (510) 620-6822; email: email@example.com. ■
League of California Cities
Money-Saving Tips for Your City’s
Supplemental Defined Benefit Plan by Michael More Many public agencies have separate defined benefit retirement plans that supplement their primary retirement plan (such as the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, CalPERS). These agencies often overlook the costs, investment vehicles, and management of the supplementary plans, but switching providers can be a significant source of potential savings and improved performance. Supplemental plans may consist of an enhancement to an existing retirement plan, which may take the form of an early retirement incentive for a defined period of time or an enhancement to the main retirement plan for the life of the retiree. These plans may be formed as qualified defined benefits plans under Section 401(a) of the Internal Revenue Code. During the early 2000s, many cities and counties used 401(a) plans to provide employees with retirement enhancements and/or early retirement incentives. Other popular supplemental plans include Section 115 trust plans sold by numerous firms that allow for prefunding pension or other
post-employment benefits (OPEBs) such as medical benefits. Though not generally on the minds of decisionmakers as a priority issue, this is an area ripe for achieving substantial savings for an agency — and it’s a worthwhile endeavor with a positive impact. Fees on these legacy plans are generally high and can be easily reduced, creating savings to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. Most agencies do not realize that the management of these plans can be performed by numerous market participants. Even more importantly, by utilizing lower-cost index funds, mutual funds, and exchange traded funds (ETFs) instead of a traditional managed account with individual securities, investment performance can be substantially enhanced. For example, in the case of the City of Oxnard’s $90 million plan, a mere improvement of 0.7 percent in a combination of fee savings and improved performance over a 20-year period can have a massive compounding effect — creating improved performance of nearly
$63 million. Because these are defined benefit plans, all of the savings accrue to the agency’s benefit (think General Fund savings) and have the potential to lower its unfunded pension liability. What most public agencies fail to realize is that, once established, the management of these plans is entirely portable. Agencies can move the administration of these plans to other platforms and are not tied to the original firm that assisted with establishing the plan. The 401(a) plan document is a living, breathing document whose terms can be amended and administered by any qualified firm (referred to in the industry as a “recordkeeper”). Agencies thinking about converting plan administrators for defined benefit plans should be aware of the potential pitfalls and bear in mind these 10 tips. 1. Review your plan documents and conduct an audit. It’s not unusual to find that most agency staff responsible for oversight of a defined benefit plan continued
Michael More is human resources manager and risk manager for the City of Oxnard; he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Money-Saving Tips for Your City’s Supplemental Defined Benefit Plan, continued
have not reviewed the supplemental defined benefit plan document — especially if it has been in place for several years — which increases compliance risk. This can lead to errors in administration by the recordkeeper. Consider that the current recordkeeper may not necessarily be following all of the terms of the plan as originally intended. For example, the recordkeeper may not be applying a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) exactly as written in the agreement, which can have a costly, compounding effect in the long run. It is the plan fiduciary’s responsibility to ensure compliance with the terms of the plan document. Agencies shouldn’t rely solely on the recordkeeper to correctly follow the terms of the plan document; internal staff must oversee and evaluate the process. An experienced independent plan consultant and attorney can also assist the agency in conducting its audit.
Secondly, when reviewing the administrative agreement for the plan (a document separate from the plan document), most likely the fees will be listed and will not have changed over the years. As assets in the plan will presumably have grown over time, the fees in the administrative agreement should be reduced to reflect this larger asset size. Likewise, if the administrative agreement is several years old and the fees haven’t changed, it’s time for a fee renegotiation. Fees in the defined benefit space have changed drastically in the past five years alone due to greater competition in the industry, and it is almost certain that the agency is being overcharged. 2. Before transitioning, clearly define your objectives. Are you satisfied with your current recordkeeper? Ultimately, this is the question that will determine whether you continue the relationship. You should consider the following questions when
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deciding whether to remain with the current recordkeeper: • What are the current fees? Do you believe adequate savings can be gained from renegotiating or would your agency benefit from issuing a request for proposal (RFP) to qualified vendors? Are all fees disclosed in the current arrangement? Issuing an RFP will typically generate the best results due to the perceived competition. • Is the service satisfactory? Are you receiving regular reports, including investment reviews, from your administrator? Or do you hear from the recordkeeper only once a year requesting an annual review? Are your active participants and retirees satisfied with the level of service? • Is the technology up to date? Does the recordkeeper have satisfactory systems to allow self-service options
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for retirees and active participants, including online access to account information, retirement estimates, and value-added educational tools? Does the recordkeeper allow the agency to submit retirement applications electronically? Does the agency have online access to reports on participants and retirees? An RFP will generally reveal the technology that each recordkeeper uses. • Are your investment options efficient? Is your agency paying high fees for a traditional managed portfolio, when exchange-traded funds and low-cost mutual funds are needed instead? Is your recordkeeper receiving additional revenue from the mutual funds within your portfolio? The answers are not always apparent to a public agency, but a good independent plan consultant will be able to identify all of the fees and revenue-sharing arrangements. 3. Plan ahead to ensure a clean transition. It will likely take nine to 12 months to transition to a new recordkeeper if the present contractor is using outdated technology. Be mindful that most contracts with existing providers contain an evergreen clause that automatically extends the terms for an additional year unless notice is given, usually 90 days before the end of each annual period. As a best practice, agencies should not allow for evergreen contract provisions and should require a term not to exceed five years at the most. 4. Quantify and improve your fees. Often, agencies are unaware of the fees that are being charged, as such fees are deducted from plan assets and are not paid directly through the agency’s budget to the recordkeeper. Fees that have not been reviewed for several years can be substantially above market, as is often the case when contracts are not regularly reviewed and subjected to competitive bidding. Ultimately, savings from lower fees directly benefit the agency, reducing the actuarially accrued pension liability over time. 5. Hire an independent plan consultant to administer the RFP process, negotiate with recordkeepers, and manage investments. An independent plan consultant who has previously conducted a plan www.westerncity.com
This is an area ripe for achieving substantial savings for an agency. conversion can assist with finding fee and investment expense savings, conduct the RFP process, negotiate further reduction in fees, and identify suitable replacement investment options. Find an independent plan consultant that: • Demonstrates the ability to identify opportunities and deficiencies in the current plan administration process. • Has experience in negotiating fees with recordkeepers.
8. Automate and provide self-service options. The most common and significant complaints about some regional recordkeepers include the lack of online self-service options for active participants and retirees and outdated processes for generating hard-copy retirement estimates. Larger national recordkeepers can continued on page 19
• Acts in the best interest of its clients as a fiduciary. • Understands the political landscape of public pension plans. • Possesses experience and knowledge in managing plan investments. • Demonstrates proven results of successful fee negotiations. 6. Hold meetings with stakeholders (unions, management, governing board) before conversion. Though changing administrators is a purely ministerial function that can likely be accomplished with administrative authority (depending on the public agency), it is advisable to inform stakeholders about the reasons for the change. Assure employees that there is no change to the plan benefits, merely that another recordkeeper will administer the plan. Most importantly, advise existing retirees of a change in the payor of the benefits prior to a change in recordkeepers. 7. Plan for your existing recordkeeper to become nonresponsive after a notice of termination is issued. To ensure a smooth transition, plan ahead. Obtain all necessary data while still under contract with the incumbent recordkeeper before issuing a notice of termination.
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The camp offers participants high-quality instruction and new challenges.
Costa Mesa Summer Camp Focuses on
Sports, Music, and Arts The City of Costa Mesa (pop. 114,778) launched a partnership with the Newport-Mesa Unified School District in 2014 to create a high-quality summer camp that offers sports, music, and art activities to local youths, including those in underserved communities. Dubbed Sports, Music, and Arts (SMART) Camp, the extensive summer school program continues to grow each year and has introduced youths to a range of sports, music, and art activities and extracurricular interests that they might not otherwise experience. As an added benefit, student participation in sports, music, and arts during the school year has increased.
Camp Provides Numerous Benefits to the Community “Our city-school partnerships make Costa Mesa a great place to raise a family,” said Mayor Katrina Foley, who is a proponent of SMART Camp. “Free summer camps for students in fourth through eighth grade benefit all families regardless of income and reduce the likelihood of at-risk teen conduct during summer — plus we create summer jobs for young coaches and teachers who participate.” The mayor noted that students have access to a wide variety of offerings in SMART Camp. “Students can participate in orchestra, theatre, dance, and art classes, or sports like water polo, football, baseball, cheerleading, and track,” she said. “Engaging students and keeping them active through our SMART Camp provides
benefits for the entire community while fostering creativity, critical thinking, logic, and communication skills — and in the long run, developing well-rounded citizens.” The city’s Parks and Community Services Department staff manages the program. City staff and the school district staff collaborate to increase the use of local athletic facilities and focus on programming rich in art, music, and recreation. The school district provides teachers and coaches to instruct the students, and the city contributes $60,000 to the program to pay for the instructors, supplies, and equipment. To boost participation, the city implemented an online registration system made readily available to residents through the city’s ActiveNet software. Community members are also encouraged to register in person at City Hall or one of two community/recreation centers located at the eastern and western ends of Costa Mesa. The number of students who attend the camp provides a measure of the program’s popularity. The 2019 SMART Camp had 487 participants, which was a 3 percent decrease from the 2018 camp. Approximately 266 participants registered for the sports session, and 221 participants registered for the music and arts sessions. The fourth grade through eighth grade participants came from 21 elementary and middle schools throughout the district.
The City of Costa Mesa won the CCS Partnership Intergovernmental Collaboration Award in the 2019 Helen Putnam Award for Excellence program. For more about the award program, visit www.helenputnam.org.
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Each week, campers learn a new art medium, including ceramics, textiles, photography, and more.
As an added benefit, student participation in sports, music, and arts during the school year has increased.
Camp Provides Wide Range of Activities SMART Camp offers its music, art, and sports sessions at two campuses. Traditionally, the music program takes place at Rea Elementary School, and the sports and art classes take place at Costa Mesa High School. For students who lack a means of getting to the campuses, the school district provides transportation options at five campuses throughout Costa Mesa. In addition, SMART Camp offers participants free breakfast and lunch throughout the summer. The program begins registration in April, and activities begin in July. All camp sessions are free and operate Monday through Thursday. Thirty-four instructors and coaches participated in the 2019 camp, with three city community services leaders providing additional support and supervision. OC Music & Dance, a nonprofit community performing arts school, provided additional funding for a dance instructor to teach a newly added dance course in the arts session and to support a field trip to the organization’s new state-of-the-art facility. Kirby Piazza, a Costa Mesa High School art teacher and art camp coordinator, said the success of SMART Camp is tied to the quality of instruction and the depth of the programs offered at the camp. “All instructors are credentialed teachers in their field and are challenging the kids to engage deeper in the arts through new techniques, mediums, and materials,” Piazza said. “The kids also experience a museum tour and change classes weekly, from drawing and painting to ceramics and sculpture to photography and digital art. We go beyond having students do simple craft projects; they create art that has meaning and depth.” Students in the sports programs enjoy an additional benefit because Costa Mesa is the home of the Los Angeles Chargers. The NFL team holds its training camps during the same time that SMART Camp is conducted, and camp sports session participants are able to take part in the NFL Play 60 Program. The www.westerncity.com
two-day event gives participants the opportunity to experience an NFL training camp, thanks to the Chargers football team. Kirk Bauermeister, Newport-Mesa School District’s executive director of secondary education and a former principal and coach, sees the program as invaluable. “The partnership with the city has turned into a collaborative effort between the City of Costa Mesa and the school district,” he said. “Each summer, district teachers and coaches work with close to 500 kids from the City of Costa Mesa. Our high school coaches and high school players help out at the camp for community service hours; because of this, the youths of Costa Mesa have a high-quality summer sports camp. The variety of offerings also exposes many students to new sports.”
Popular Camp Is Rated a Success Parent responses to SMART Camp surveys reflect the program’s success. When SMART Camp concluded its summer 2019 sessions, surveys were sent to registered parents who provided an email address. Approximately 98 percent of respondents would register their child for future SMART Camps, and approximately 93 percent of respondents described their child’s overall experience as positive. “The camp, which finished its sixth year in 2019, has touched the lives of thousands of youths and provided the opportunity to enrich their lives through the enjoyment of sports, music, and the arts,” said Justin Martin, director of parks and community services for Costa Mesa. “The collaboration between the city and the school district on this camp is seamless, and we look forward to many more years of this partnership.” Note: SMART Camp was scheduled to continue in 2020; however, program planning for 2020 was suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Contact: Tracy Habiger, assistant recreation supervisor, City of Costa Mesa; phone: (714) 754-5083; email: email@example.com. ■ Western City, August 2020
Western City magazine’s job opportunity section is the source for job seekers looking for positions in local government. When you place a job opportunity ad in Western City
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Photo/art credits Cover: Courtesy of the City of Richmond Page 3: Courtesy of John F. Dunbar Page 4: Courtesy of Downtown Long Beach Alliance Page 5: Courtesy of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership Page 6: Courtesy of the League of California Cities;
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Money-Saving Tips for Your City’s Supplemental Defined Benefit Plan, continued from page 15
provide online account services so that participants can access: • Bank account changes. • Beneficiary change options. • Address and contact information change options. • Benefit statements. • Tax documents. • Retirement estimates. • Education and retirement tools. The availability of multiple self-service options reduces the administrative tasks for staff in an agency’s Human Resources and/or Finance Department. Recordkeepers that offer these features typically also provide online support for active participants and retirees.
9. Provide regular updates and current information to retirees. Retirees commonly complain about the lack of timely updates on the actuarial funding level of their supplemental retirement plan. Often, information is available in the agency’s annual financial statements, but it is not presented in a format that is easy for retirees to find or understand. A competent recordkeeper will be able to prepare and distribute to retirees an annual newsletter with such information as plan investment performance, actuarial funding levels, specific investment types, and any changes to the investment strategy.
at least annually (preferably quarterly) to ensure compliance with the strategic and annual investment targets.” Typically, the agency should have a board of trustees that oversees the investment strategy and performance and compares these against actuarial funding requirements.
Conclusion With proper planning and analysis, competent advisory services, and an experienced successor recordkeeper, public agencies can achieve an improved level of service and substantial savings in the cost of operating their supplemental defined benefit plans. ■
10. Ensure proper oversight of investment strategy and performance. Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) best practices specify that agencies should “review the portfolio performance
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