Learning to Lead in Local Government
The Public Policy Making
municipal leaders and
aspiring candidates to
master complex issues.
In today's highly charged political climate, more people
are looking to get involved at the grassroots level and
make a positive impact in their own communities. But civic
leaders are also facing an increasingly complex and
consequential set of public policy issues, as well as one
of the most divisive environments in history.
In 2019 it takes far more than a single-issue politician to
effectively navigate the maze of municipal government. In
fact, getting elected might be the easy part. Mastering the
depth of issues involved — managing bloated pensions
and balancing budgets among them — requires a depth
of knowledge and expertise that can be overwhelming
to someone with little experience.
That's where UC Irvine's Public Policy Making Academy
comes in, a dynamic month-long program designed
to prepare prospective candidates and burnish the
credentials of those who've been recently elected, said
Michael Friend, former Academy student and a current
administrator for the program.
“The PPMA program is intended for newly elected local
government officials and anyone who wants to learn
more about Orange County local government,” he said.
“People who may consider running for an elected position
are welcome, too. It deals with some of the most pressing
issues facing many local elected officials, such as how to
address rising pension obligations while still providing strong
services and local infrastructure.”
Dealing with budget shortfalls is an especially relevant
and complex issue, said Friend, policy analyst for the
Association of California Cities, Orange County, which
provides instructors and expertise to the Academy.
“Many cities may also face reductions to staff and service
delivery to address budget shortfalls relating to pensions,”
he added. “The Public Policy Making Academy addresses
this topic in depth in the Public Safety, Labor Relations,
and City Finance sessions.”
The Academy deals with all of these issues and more,
preparing candidates for a successful career in city and
regional politics — and maybe beyond.
Leading on local issues
It all comes together over a series of five weekly classes
and workshops taught by seasoned members of local
governments, city attorneys as well as prominent leaders
of public and private agencies. They share their first-hand
experience dealing with the most challenging aspects of
city and regional government in the Orange County area.
“Typically, we have elected officials, senior city staff,
and executive staff from special districts provide their
knowledge and experience as instructors for the
Academy,” Friend said. “Some of our recent speakers
include Fullerton City Council member Jennifer Fitzgerald,
Tustin Mayor Pro Tem ‘Doc’ Bernstein, and Orange County
Sheriff Don Barnes.”
Each half-day class, held on-campus at UC Irvine, provides
a deep dive into a single aspect of local government,
“For instance, day one is devoted to Intergovernmental
Relations, and we have speakers discuss city and county
government, regional agencies, as well as how the Federal
and California governments interact with municipalities,”
he said. “The other days deal with Public Safety, Public
Finance, and Municipal Services.”
The final day takes a more in-depth look at up to seven
more regional agencies such as the Orange County Fire
Authority and Orange County Sanitation District.
The Public Policy Making Academy runs on two tracks:
The PPMA I session is an overview of city departments and
services — a great entry point for those seeking a career
PPMA II advances the curriculum even further with a
deeper exploration of specific policy issues facing local
governments such as housing, pension obligations,
homelessness, and transportation.
Serving the community
The Association of California Cities, Orange County, is an
invaluable resource for the Academy, not only providing
experienced members to teach courses but also encouraging
members to enroll in the Academy to learn, network,
and gain a greater depth of knowledge about effectively
administering public policy.
Representing the interests of Orange County cities on
regional public policy issues, the core mission of the
ACC–OC is “education, networking and advocacy on
behalf of the cities and their members,” Friend said.
“Our membership base consists of most of the cities of
Orange County and local government special districts,
as well as affiliated businesses, non-profits, and higher
education institutions,” he added. “The Academy gives
yet another chance for our members to get to know each
other, leading to later collaboration on many issues.”
Michael Friend has been on both sides. The longtime
Orange County resident received his B.A. in Public
Administration and began work at ACC–OC as policy
analyst shortly afterward. He took the Public Policy Making
Academy program and found that it greatly enhanced
his grasp of complex local issues.
The Academy also allowed Friend to gain insight into long-term
local planning that he found to be especially helpful
for future endeavors.
“As a former student of PPMA II, I found the Academy
to be very insightful,” he said. “I learned about specific
policy issues such as economic development, housing,
homelessness and transportation. I felt privileged to hear
about these topics from those in charge of making or
implementing the policies.
“Additionally, I received an inside scoop of key projects
that are in the planning stages around Orange County.
This course prepared me for my career by allowing me
to think of policy issues five or 10 years into the future and
beyond the present day.”
Learn more at ce.uci.edu/publicpolicy