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Prop 1 Fallout: Newport Beach Leads Exodus from League of California Cities

Cal Cities just lost three notable members—Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, and Orange—after allying with Newsom on Proposition 1.

Three Orange County cities have officially severed ties with the League of California Cities, also known as Cal Cities, over irreconcilable political disagreements. It began with Newport Beach City Council’s 5-2 vote not to renew its $24,000 membership dues. Shortly thereafter, Huntington Beach and Orange followed suit. All three have cited their respective decisions revolved primarily around the League’s position on Proposition 1, a contentious ballot measure that curtails local control. 

Prop. 1, whose supporters present as a solution to homelessness, would impose requirements on counties to fund programs for homeless people with mental health problems. Governor Gavin Newsom and his allies have invested significant time and resources into campaigning for Prop. 1’s passage—evidenced by a high-profile Super Bowl ad

Many local municipalities have attempted to sound the alarm, warning that the ballot measure is yet another broad and overreaching attempt by the State to impose its will over regional elected bodies. They argue that Proposition 1's one-size-fits-all approach fails to account for the unique needs and challenges of individual cities, effectively stripping local governments of their autonomy to address homelessness within their jurisdictions.

“Proposition 1 is huge, expensive and destructive,” argues Californians Against Prop. 1, the group leading the opposition effort. “It would cost taxpayers more than $9 billion. It also redirects the spending of at least $30 billion in mental health services money in its first 10 years, cutting existing mental health services that are working... Prop. 1 builds very little housing, despite being offered as a solution to homelessness. There are better solutions that do not require excessive borrowing or cutting local programs that work.”

“It’s just unfathomable to me that when Cal Cities knew this was going to be harmful to a city like ours, they still stood up and said we’re gonna support it,” said Newport Beach Mayor Will O’Neil. “It’s so hard to want to be a part of an organization that’s supposed to be advocating for us and did the exact opposite in such a high-profile way.”

The role of the League of California Cities is to advocate for the interests and autonomy of cities across the state. Their Executive Director, Carolyn Coleman, believes the League continues to do just that.

“While not everyone will agree on every position Cal Cities takes, Cal Cities’ advocacy positions are the result of a member-driven process that reflect a fundamental belief that cities in California are stronger when we stand united and advocate for the common interests of all cities,” she said.

However, the political disagreements go beyond Prop. 1. According to a recent Orange County Register article, Newport Beach’s Assistant City Manager Seimone Jurjis also stated that Cal Cities “didn’t have our backs when the state pushed” housing mandates, moving regional allocations to coastal cities from the Inland Empire.

Cal Cities also opposes the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act, which aims to empower voters with greater authority to approve or reject new state and local taxes by raising the approval threshold, among other things. The organization even went as far as to Cal Cities today file an amicus brief supporting a legal challenge that would remove the Act from the November 2024 ballot. A recent article by the Los Angeles Times noted that Mayor O’Neil took particular issue with this.

“[Cal Cities] has repeatedly failed in its mission to advocate for cities, and instead advocates for more and higher taxes and Sacramento’s agenda over our own,” said Huntington Beach City Councilman Casey McKeon.

“It’s an organization that’s not fully representing cities, in a sense representing the control that cities have in regard to regular zoning ordinances,” said Orange City Councilman John Gyllenhammer. “That’s something that’s been an issue for a while.” 

California is at a critical juncture. Increasingly, local governments are pushing back against the state’s more aggressive tendencies and asserting their right to address local issues on their own terms. It remains to be seen whether or not Cal Cities will see an exodus of members over Prop. 1, but a clear message has already been sent: Orange County wants local control, not government overreach.


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