Celebrating at the White House: Let’s Move! Brings Communities Together

This is a guest post by Christi Branscom and Kathleen Gibi.

Kids Can BikeChildren in Knoxville participate in the city’s Kids Can Bike! program. (City of Knoxville Parks and Recreation Department)

As we got into the back of a taxi on a warm September morning in Washington, we had the following conversation:

Christi to the driver: “We need to get to the security check point to get into the White House.”

Kathleen: “That’s not something you say every day.”

Christi: “I was thinking the same thing!”

Knoxville's Deputy Mayor Christi Branscom greets NLC's CEO Clarence Anthony at an event celebrating LMCTC at the White House.

Knoxville’s Deputy Mayor Christi Branscom greets NLC’s CEO Clarence Anthony at an event celebrating LMCTC at the White House.

We had been invited to an all-day Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties (LMCTC) event organized by the National League of Cities at the White House to celebrate the 500 cities, towns and counties that have committed to building healthier communities by participating in LMCTC and working to achieve the initiative’s five goals.

The best thing about Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties is that it doesn’t reinvent the wheel. Rather, it reinforces, encourages, galvanizes and acknowledges what city leaders and community partners in many cases are already doing.

Celebrating Healthy Communities
Our morning at the White House began with breakout sessions for city leaders, staff and partners to share success stories and lessons learned. We also discussed the newly launched Let’s Move! All-Stars, a new set of advanced strategies for cities and counties that have achieved gold medals in all five LMCTC goals.

We enjoyed speaking to leaders from all parts of the country during lunch before having the honor of hearing First Lady Michelle Obama speak. We were thrilled when she mentioned Knoxville’s Kids Can Bike! and Walking School Bus programs as models for addressing childhood obesity.

This was the second time the First Lady has mentioned Knoxville and Knox County’s projects in a ceremony at the White House. The previous time was in 2013, when city of Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero spoke on a panel during the First Lady’s LMCTC celebration ceremony.

Both then and now, we returned home to excited, proud partners in our local programs. The First Lady’s accolades certainly gave us a few bragging rights, but more than that they provided an acknowledgement that our efforts actually play a concrete role in the national movement to turn around the childhood obesity epidemic.

Working Together to Achieve Goals
Knoxville and Knox County worked together to achieve the five goals of LMCTC, and the recognition of their shared achievements showed local leaders (who already excel at working together) that there is an exponentially greater impact on the health of Knoxville’s residents when we work in partnership.

Since we became involved in LMCTC, the energy of working together to achieve new goals only seems to grow. The Knoxville Childhood Obesity Coalition (which started the Kids Can Bike! program with Knoxville Parks and Recreation to offer free pedestrian bike safety courses and greenway rides) is now strategizing how to expand their efforts to the region beyond city of Knoxville and Knox County limits.

Knoxville Parks and Recreation released its new edition of its greenways map with the theme “Healthy Communities, Healthy Economy,” listing figures that substantiate greenways and parks as contributors to tourism, rising real estate values and healthcare cost reduction. For example, Knoxville’s recently conserved 1,000-acre Urban Wilderness, with 45-miles of trails and the developing river walk in South Knoxville, is credited with a significant increase in nearby housing sales in just a 30-month period.

The network of public advocates and community partners working to make Knoxville more pedestrian-friendly is rapidly growing. Mayor Rogero and the city council have recently set aside $2 million to build new greenways in addition to significant investment for sidewalks, bike lanes and crosswalk improvements.

As the First Lady said during her speech, this is “a movement on behalf of our kids’ health.” It’s our goal to keep Knoxville in the momentum of this movement, which, as it turns out, makes for a healthier overall community!

Knoxville partners are excited to take on the new All-Star Strategies. We’re fortunate to have Mayor Rogero encouraging and empowering us to pursue new goals to ensure an even healthier Knoxville.

About the Authors:

Christi Branscom
Christi Branscom is the deputy mayor and chief operating officer for the city of Knoxville, Tennessee.

Kathleen Gibi
Kathleen Gibi is a public affairs specialist for the city of Knoxville, Tennessee. 

Supreme Court Preview for Local Governments, Part 2: Want Else Might the Court Take?

This is the second installment in a series highlighting upcoming Supreme Court cases that could affect local government. The first installment can be read here.

It’s opening week at the Supreme Court – last Thursday, the Court agreed to decide 13 more cases this term. (Getty Images)

Heffernan v. City of Paterson, New Jersey is perhaps the most interesting grant for local governments from the Court’s “long” conference. The question in this case is whether an employee can bring a First Amendment retaliation claim when he was incorrectly perceived to have been engaged in political speech. Officer Heffernan was demoted after he was seen picking up a campaign sign for the current police chief’s opponent. But the sign wasn’t for himself; it was for his bedridden mother. Had he been demoted for actually engaging in political speech he would have a First Amendment retaliation claim.

With at least 20 cases more to accept between now and the end of January, what issues of interest to local governments is the Court likely to agree to hear in the near future?

Cell Phone Location Data

When a cell phone is in contact with a cell tower its interaction with the closest cell tower is recorded. Prosecutors rely on cell site location information (CSLI) to place defendants at crime scenes. The Supreme Court is likely to decide soon whether a warrant is needed to obtain CSLI. In United States v. Davis the Eleventh Circuit held no warrant was required applying the “third party doctrine” – cellphone users have no expectation of privacy regarding information to which third party service providers have access. In United States v. Graham the Fourth Circuit refused to apply the third party doctrine, reasoning that “a cell phone user does not ‘convey’ CSLI to her service provider at all – voluntarily or otherwise – and therefore does not assume any risk of disclosure to law enforcement.”

While a circuit split exists, the plot thickens. First, it is possible the entire Fourth Circuit will rehear Graham and rule for the government, dissolving the split. Second, in both cases the courts held that CSLI could be admitted under the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule. In other words, CSLI wasn’t suppressed because police relied in good faith on court orders allowing them to seek CSLI from service providers. The Court may prefer to take a case where the lower courts did not affirm the conviction based on the exclusionary rule.

Excessive Force

So far the Court has accepted no qualified immunity or Fourth Amendment cases. The Court has relisted (postponed) deciding whether to hear two cases involving both issues in the context of excessive force.

In Mullenix v. Luna Israel Leija, Jr. led police on a high speed chase and twice called the police saying he had a gun and would shoot police officers. Officers set up tire spikes under an overpass. Officer Mullenix asked dispatch to tell his supervisor he was going to fire at Leija’s car. It is unclear whether Mullenix got his supervisor’s message to wait to see if the spikes worked. Mullenix shot and killed Leija before he hit the spikes.

In Los Angeles v. Contreras, as Robert Contreras fled on foot after attempting to commit a drive-by shooting and leading police on a high speech chase, he took something out of his front pant pocket police could not see but believed was a gun. Police shot him after he refused their repeated commands to stop and drop the gun. Police only recovered a cell phone. Contreras survived.

To learn more about what’s at stake for local governments this term, register for the State and Local Legal Center’s (SLLC) FREE Supreme Court Preview webinar, which will be held on October 14. The State and Local Legal Center files Supreme Court amicus curiae briefs on behalf of the Big Seven national organizations representing state and local governments.

To learn more about the cases the Court has accepted so far affecting the local governments read the SLLC’s Preview for Local Governments.

Lisa Soronen bio photoAbout the Author: Lisa Soronen is the Executive Director of the State and Local Legal Center and a regular contributor to CitiesSpeak.

Orlando Hosts NLC University Summit Focused on Leading Through Tough Times

This is a guest post by Laura Lanford.

The 2015 NLC University Leadership Summit was hosted at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel in Orlando, Fla. (photo: Universal Orlando)

More than seventy elected officials and city staff from across the country gathered in Orlando, Florida, from September 16-19, to learn how to lead through challenging times in their communities. This convening, NLC University’s Annual Leadership Summit, is a retreat-style training program aimed to strengthen and enhance the leadership skills of city officials. This year’s summit was held in conjunction with the National League of Cities’ Race, Equity, And Leadership (REAL) initiative, NLC’s effort to equip its membership with the capacity to address the historical, systemic and structural barriers caused by racism and inequities.

A special pre-summit event, the 3rd REAL Talk Forum, was hosted in the city of Sanford, Fla., on Wednesday afternoon. The city of Sanford recently gained national media attention due to the high-profile Trayvon Martin case. The REAL Talk forum provided an opportunity to hear from Sanford city leaders about their experiences, actions, and challenges for moving forward in the aftermath of tragedy.

Formal summit programming commenced on Thursday, and was facilitated by Roy Reid, Executive Director of Communications at the University of Central Florida and Consultant for Enso Leadership. Roy spoke to the group about new ways of building a high-trust and resilient culture within communities.

The conference featured insightful presentations about racial equity connections to trustworthy leadership from Leon Andrews Jr., Director of Race, Equity and Leadership at NLC, Julie Nelson, Director of the Government Alliance on Race and Equity, and Glenn Harris, Director for the Center of Social Inclusion.

The Summit also included presentations by Dr. Scott Paine, Director of Leadership Development and Education at the Florida League of Cities, and Lt. Ricardo Ubinas, from the National Preparedness Institute at Indian River State College. Dr. Paine spoke to the group about how to rethink leadership to meet modern challenges, and Lt. Ubinas addressed how to navigate “hyper-complex” crisis scenarios in order to ensure public safety.

In addition to traditional summit programming, participants were exposed to issues of particular importance to the city of Orlando. Mayor Buddy Dyer greeted the group during Thursday’s luncheon, and talked about reimagining and remaking Orlando in the aftermath of a nationwide economic recession. On Friday, summit participants learned from Orlando leaders how the city used neighborhood commercial corridors to create jobs and bring economic vitality during a recession.

The city of Orlando hosted receptions on both Wednesday and Thursday evenings, highlighting the city’s eclectic food and culture. Wednesday’s reception at the Red Coconut Club at Universal Orlando’s City Walk was open to both Summit and REAL Talk Forum attendees, and sponsored by Comcast and NBCUniversal. Thursday’s reception was held at Orlando’s annual Taste of Downtown, and sponsored by Red Lobster, the Downtown Development Board, and the Downtown Orlando Partnership. Participants were able to network and engage with top executives from these companies.

Another highlight of the program was participating in one of two special mobile workshops. Participants had the option of a mobile workshop that focused on public safety in Orlando and provided a tour of the city’s state of the art operations center, and a workshop that demonstrated the city of Orlando’s commitment to advancing a boys and men of color agenda.

From all of these experiences, Summit participants walked away with useful tools and skills to better serve their home communities.

As Lydia Glaize from Fairburn, Georgia, commented upon conclusion of the conference, “This was one of the most informative trainings I have attended both nationally and state wise. It gave us the issue, multiple plans of resolution, and provided reports on best practices from these innovative and courageous cities.”

The NLC University Leadership Summit features presentations by noteworthy leadership scholars and provides opportunities for engaged learning and networking with influential individuals from across the country. The program’s goal is to showcase leadership skills and topics valuable to local leaders at every level. Additionally, each city that hosts the Annual Leadership Summit has the opportunity to use the program as a platform to discuss issues of particular importance to their community. For more information, visit the Annual Leadership Summit homepage or contact Laura Lanford at lanford@nlc.org.

About the Author: Laura Lanford is the Principal Associate for Leadership Training at the National League of Cities University.

Mayor Ralph Becker Launches Initiative to Connect Kids with Nature

This is a guest post by Katie McKellar. The post originally appeared in Deseret News.

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker kicks off NLC’s Connecting Children to Nature Leadership Academy on Wednesday, October 7, sharing more about SLC Kids Explore and other city initiatives from the eight city teams attending from across the country.

Mayor Ralph Becker announces a new city initiative aimed at getting kids outside more to explore nature in TreeUtah's EcoGarden behind the Day-Riverside Library in Salt Lake City.

Mayor Ralph Becker announces a new city initiative aimed at getting kids outside more to explore nature in TreeUtah’s EcoGarden behind the Day-Riverside Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

Eleven-year-old Jaquelin Catrejon plucked a plum from a tree in the nature gardens of Day-Riverside Library on Thursday, grinning as she took a big bite out of the fruit.

When she finished the plum, Jaquelin joined her sixth-grade classmates from Pacific Heritage Academy in a scavenger hunt of the gardens, checking off “fruit tree” from her list. She still needed to find an aspen, a speckled rock, leaves of mint and a bee.

The activity kicked off a new Salt Lake City initiative: SLC Kids Explore. NLC President and Salt Lake City, Utah, Mayor Ralph Becker launched the program to challenge local youths and their parents to spend at least 30 minutes a day outdoors for a 30-day period.

“We must nurture a populace with a personal relationship to nature and a sense of responsibility for their and our environment,” the mayor said. “By creating this program, we are opening the door to helping Salt Lake City youth connect with nature in a direct and meaningful way.”

Becker said the program is part of a national effort spearheaded by U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to promote healthy lifestyles by connecting children with nature and inspiring the next generation of outdoor stewards, who will ultimately be responsible for protecting the nation’s natural environment. Jewell visited Salt Lake City last month to announce the initiative.

Josh Lore looks at ducks during a nature walk in TreeUtah's EcoGarden behind the Day-Riverside Library in Salt Lake City

Josh Lore looks at ducks during a nature walk in TreeUtah’s EcoGarden behind the Day-Riverside Library in Salt Lake City. Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

As part of SLC Kids Explore, a directory of free nature activities is posted on a new public calendar at www.goseekdiscover.com with suggestions for different ways families can be active while having fun and exploring new areas of Salt Lake City. Those who participate can post photos of their activities on the website and earn activity pass rewards for their families.

City officials partnered with Tracy Aviary to create the list of activities.

“SLC Kids Explore addresses a national issue. Today’s kids spend less time outside than any previous generation,” said Tim Brown, Tracy Aviary executive director. “This is problematic for several reasons. Spending time outdoors has proven to improve our mental and our physical health.”

Today’s youths will be the “environmental stewards that are challenged with unprecedented environmental issues like climate change,” Brown said.

“So we need these kids to grow up with environmental values and understanding the benefits of nature,” he said.

One of Jaquelin’s classmates, Lorena Thompson, 11, said she already plays outside every day, riding her bike or playing with her dog, but she has friends who only want to play video games whenever she goes over to their houses to play.

“They say, ‘I don’t know what to do outside,'” Lorena said.

She said the SLC Kids Explore program will show kids that there are better things to do than playing video games or watching movies.

“If we’re outside, we can be more healthy and help the environment,” Lorena said. “Plus, it’s just a nice to be outside.”

About the Author: Katie McKellar is an intern at Deseret News.

How the Roberts Court Has Affected Local Governments for 10 Years

The Roberts Court refers to the Supreme Court of the United States since 2005, under the leadership of Chief Justice John G. Roberts. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Roberts Court refers to the Supreme Court of the United States since 2005, under the leadership of Chief Justice John G. Roberts. (Wikimedia Commons)

Ten years ago today, John Glover Roberts, Jr. became the 17th Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Roberts Court decisions have affected everyone from average Americans to Guantanamo Bay detainees. But what about state and local governments?

This article provides a brief analysis of how the Roberts Court has impacted 10 areas of interest to states and local governments: federalism, pre-emption, race, free speech, religion, public employment, qualified immunity, the Eighth Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, and gun control.

Regarding the first five topics, the Roberts Court has in recent years decided a number of important cases involving federalism; generally, federalism has fared well in these big cases. While the Court’s preemption doctrine has been thin, lately the Court has decided (with mixed results) a series of cases involving drug labeling. The Roberts Court has taken a keen interest in deciding cases involving race; generally, race-related decision making has fared poorly. The Roberts Court is well-known as pro-free speech (see Citizens United v. FEC) and its recent sign case is no exception (see Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona). While the Roberts Court hasn’t decided a lot of religion cases, generally it has been tolerant of religion in public spaces.

As for the other five topics, the Court has only decided an average of one public employment case every other term; all but one have been in favor of public employers. State and local governments have done well in qualified immunity cases, likely because the qualified immunity standard is very deferential to government and the Court tends to not take close cases. More death penalty cases have favored the defendant than the state, at least partially because Justice Kennedy tends to join his more liberal colleagues in these cases. The Roberts Court’s most significant contribution to Fourth Amendment jurisprudence is making it clear that it isn’t going to allow new technology to undermine traditional Fourth Amendment protections. Finally, the Roberts Court gun control cases were landmark decisions.

How the Roberts Courts will decide cases over the next 10 years for state and local governments — and everyone else — may be largely in the hands of future Justices who will be appointed during that time period.

Lisa Soronen bio photoAbout the Author: Lisa Soronen is the Executive Director of the State and Local Legal Center and a regular contributor to CitiesSpeak.

Let’s Move! From Fort Collins, Colo., to Washington, D.C.

This is a guest post by Gino Campana, councilmember, Fort Collins, Colo.

Open Streets Fort Collins

A family participates in Open Streets 2015 in Fort Collins, Colo. (photo: City of Fort Collins)

It was an honor to participate in a daylong celebratory event at the White House for the Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties (LMCTC) movement. Together with first lady Michelle Obama, we celebrated the milestone of 500 communities joining LMCTC, as well as the 52 communities that have received gold medals in each of the five LMCTC goals.

I was struck by the diversity of approaches represented among participants in achieving a common goal to ensure all children grow up healthy and have the ability to reach their full potential. To me, this event spoke to the importance of the first lady’s vision to eliminate childhood obesity.

I took on the Let’s MoveI Cities Towns and Counties program in Fort Collins because I believe in a healthy community. It is important that community leaders model good nutrition and physical activity for our youth. Based on all the people I met in Washington, local leaders are affecting positive change in communities throughout the nation, and working to make the healthy choice the easy choice for their residents.

Another takeaway from the White House meeting occurred in my morning breakout session when a participant touched on a theme I had not fully considered in the context of LMCTC. He said that healthy communities are safer communities, and directly correlated the availability of healthy foods, enough of the right things to eat and access to exercise with a reduction in crime.

Simply put, people who are not hungry make better decisions. This highlighted how widespread the impacts of Let’s Move! can be; when we make the healthy choice and encourage our constituents to do the same, we are also making the safer and more budget-friendly choice.

I left Washington with a renewed drive to become an LMCTC All-Star community. This movement is achieving measurable results in lowering childhood obesity rates by fostering alignment and cooperation among local agencies. The best part of the celebratory event at the White House was the affirmation I received from the First Lady and my peers in other cities that we’re on the right track and that we’re on this journey together.

In the spirit of collaboration, Fort Collins offered several elements of our program to the participants in our small group session. I would love to hear from communities either interested in the work we are doing or who can suggest ways we can improve our results. NLC staff work with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services staff on a peer sharing network where communities can identify areas of interest and share ideas and solutions to succeed in sustaining their efforts. This collaboration is critical to the next five years of LMCTC and to the health of our communities.

Bike Fort Collins

(photo: City of Fort Collins)

For Fort Collins to become an LMCTC All-Star community, we are moving forward on:

  • Bicycle friendly community programs, multi-modal infrastructure and slow zones
  • Urban farming, demonstration gardens and community garden programs
  • Meeting policies that incentivize not only healthy food but locally-produced foods
  • Integrating food production into economic strategies
  • Wellness program development
  • Business recognition programs

To learn more about Fort Collins’ efforts, visit our LMCTC profile page. To see if your city, town or county is involved in LMCTC, visit HealthyCommunitiesHealthyFuture.org.

Gino CampanaAbout the Author: Gino Campana is a councilmember representing District 3 in Fort Collins, Colo.

Cities Are Taking a Regional Approach to Closing the Skills Gap

This post is the fifth installment in a series focused on NLC’s Cities and Unequal Recovery report, which highlights the findings of our 2015 Local Economic Conditions survey.

Middle skills occupationApprentice working with engineer to inspect manufacturing machinery. (Getty Images)

Economic development consistently ranks as a high priority for local officials across the country. Alongside this priority is a growing focus on the need for increased postsecondary education opportunities at two and four year colleges and career and technical education institutes. The leadership of local officials is critical to increasing these opportunities, which in turn can provide a substantial return on investment for their community.

In July 2015, NLC partnered with the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce to hold a mayoral summit on postsecondary success in Los Angeles, supported by The Kresge Foundation and J.P. Morgan Chase.

Source: JP Morgan Chase

Source: JP Morgan Chase

The summit marked the release of the Los Angeles Skills Gap Report, which shows that Los Angeles County has a diverse economy with a wide array of middle-skills jobs – those that require a high school diploma and technical training, but not necessarily a four-year college degree. Unfortunately, it also shows that many Los Angeles residents lack the education and skills that employers are looking for. This means that many industries are struggling to fill key middle-skills positions, while many potential workers remain either unemployed or underemployed.

Studies show that this dilemma is playing out in communities across the country. NLC’s own Cities and Unequal Recovery indicates that despite the significant economic growth in cities over the past two years, there continues to be a skills gap.

At the summit, city leaders highlighted the postsecondary success initiatives they are using to combat this skills gap. Robert Garcia, mayor, Long Beach, Calif., showcased the Long Beach College Promise and the Long Beach Internship Challenge to expand on-the-job learning opportunities for young people. Rusty Bailey, mayor, Riverside, Calif., talked about Completion Counts, an initiative that helps students apply for, attend and complete community college.

The city of Los Angeles is in the process of establishing local goals for college success with a number of partners, including the Los Angeles Community College District and several universities in the region. These goals will help ensure that young people have the resources they need to achieve postsecondary success and create a stable and thriving workforce in the city and the greater Los Angeles region.

Like Los Angeles, many cities are adopting a regional approach to close this skills gap. In San Antonio, Mayor Ivy Taylor supports the SA Works initiative, which has a goal of creating 20,000 new applied learning opportunities, including a countywide STEM degree accelerator project through the Alamo colleges, as well as a place-based training program for 300 Eastside San Antonio residents.

This initiative is part of SA2020, a nonprofit whose mission is to help connect the community for a stronger San Antonio. SA2020 has helped create an alliance between City Hall and the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce that focuses on regional industry needs, and works to ensure that workforce needs and postsecondary offerings are aligned so that residents have the training they need to take on middle-skilled, well-paying jobs in San Antonio and Bexar County.

A C Wharton, mayor of Memphis, Tenn., established the nation’s first Office of Talent and Human Capital within the mayor’s office to provide dedicated staff focused on developing, retaining and attracting talented workers to Memphis and Shelby County. The mayor has also connected with the business community to provide pathways for residents to access jobs in Memphis’ growing service, healthcare and knowledge-based industries.

Local leaders can play an essential role in developing this approach by investing in activities that strengthen their region’s competitive advantage by:

  • Establishing and maintaining a leadership structure to guide and sustain college access and completion efforts.
  • Setting community goals and rally necessary partners.
  • Maintaining and analyzing real time data on postsecondary attainment.
  • Aligning local industry needs with community colleges and credentialing courses.

To learn more, check out NLC’s page on postsecondary success.

Miles Sandler
About the Author:
Miles Sandler is the Senior Associate for Education in the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families. Miles can be reached at Sandler@nlc.org.

First Lady Announces 500 Communities Have Joined Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties

The National League of Cities recently joined First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House to announce that 500 cities, towns and counties are now participating in the Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties (LMCTC) initiative.

First Lady Michelle Obama

A key part of the first lady’s Let’s Move! initiative, LMCTC helps local elected officials, their staff and communities in their efforts to ensure all children grow up healthy and have the ability to reach their full potential. (Jason Dixson)

The 500 cities, towns and counties honored at the White House come from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. To date, approximately 80 million Americans live in a city, town or county participating in LMCTC. That’s one in four Americans!

Let's Move city

(Jason Dixson)

More than 100 mayors, councilmembers and city/county staff participated in an exciting day of activities at the White House. In the morning, attendees networked with their peers, discussed their achievements to date, brainstormed solutions to current challenges and planned next steps with assistance from staff from NLC, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and other federal and national nonprofit partners.

Following a networking lunch, the afternoon session consisted of a plenary Dr. Karen DeSalvo, the Acting Assistant Secretary for Health; Deb Eschmeyer, Executive Director of Let’s Move! and Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition; and Jerry Abramson, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and a panel of city leaders. And of course, First Lady Michelle Obama, who led the crowd in celebration of this historic milestone:

“Together, over the past five years, we have built what we call a movement on behalf of our kids’ health. We have changed the culture in this country in the way we live and eat,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “This is about giving our children a fair shot in life. It’s about ensuring that they have everything they need… to help them fulfill their boundless potential.”

LMCTC calls upon local elected officials to adopt long-term, sustainable and holistic approaches to addressing childhood obesity. Local elected officials and their communities can receive bronze, silver and gold medals from NLC for their implementation of the five goal areas of LMCTC.

The goals include providing access to healthy meals through school and summer meal programs, expanding opportunities for physical activity during and outside of school, promoting healthier early care and education programs, and encouraging healthy snack and beverage choices using local government purchasing policies and practices.

Across the nation, 52 communities have achieved gold medals in each of the five goal areas. Local leaders have met all five goal areas by engaging in a variety of systems and policy changes locally. For example:

  • In Columbus, Ohio, Mayor Michael B. Coleman has taken great strides to increase opportunities for physical activity and promote healthy eating. New parks and recreation centers, parklets, an Open Streets initiative, new bike paths, outdoor fitness equipment and numerous natural play spaces help city departments make the healthy choice the easy choice for residents.
  • In response to being named the most obese metropolitan area in the U.S. in 2011 and 2012, McAllen, Texas, has intensified its strategies to build a healthier city. Spearheaded in part by Mayor James Darling, their work involves numerous community partnerships and has earned the city national accolades. The city of McAllen has transferred vending machines in city facilities to a vending company that offers healthier options, and has placed MyPlate as well as the Let’s Move McAllen! logo in all city-owned facilities. The city has been named a Playful City USA by KaBOOM! five years in a row, and has been a regional leader in promoting bicycle-friendly communities.
  • In Missoula County, Mont., Let’s Move! Missoula uses education, policy development, advocacy and environmental change to build and enhance healthy environments for all residents. Their efforts, heavily supported by County Commissioner Jean Curtiss, include the creation of additional trails and parks, Let’s Move! Child Care trainings for child care providers, in-classroom physical activity training for teachers and increased access to healthy food through the development and implementation of a healthy vending policy for all county-owned and operated facilities.

Learn more about Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties and find out if your community is signed up at www.HealthyCommunitiesHealthyFuture.org.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation provides generous support to NLC to provide technical assistance to local elected officials working to create healthier communities and prevent childhood obesity, including those participating in LMCTC.

About the Authors:
Elena Hoffnagle
Elena Hoffnagle is the Senior Associate for Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties at the National League of Cities. Contact Elena at Hoffnagle@nlc.org.

Izzy Jorgensen

Izzy Jorgensen was a 2015 summer intern with NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.

Supreme Court Preview for Local Governments – October 2015

The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) files Supreme Court amicus curiae briefs on behalf of the Big Seven national organizations representing state and local governments.

*Indicates a case where the SLLC has or will file an amicus brief.

(Getty Images)

The Supreme Court’s last term was big for local governments because the Court decided a number of important cases against them, most notably Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona (2015), holding that strict scrutiny applies to content-based sign ordinances. The October 2015 term is one to watch, and not just because the Court has accepted numerous cases on controversial topics affecting local governments. Adding to the intrigue, many of the Court’s decisions this term are likely to be discussed by the 2016 presidential candidates as the election heats up. Here is a preview of the most significant cases for local governments that the Court has agreed to decide so far.

Public Sector Collective Bargaining

In Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association the Court will decide whether to overrule a nearly 40-year old precedent requiring public sector employees who don’t join the union to pay their “fair share” of collective bargaining costs. More than 20 states have enacted statutes authorizing “fair share.”

In Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977) the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment does not prevent public employees who do not join the union from being required to pay their “fair share” of union dues for collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment. The rationale is that the union may not discriminate between members and nonmembers in performing these functions. So, no free-riders are allowed.

In two recent cases, the Court’s more conservative Justices, including Justice Kennedy, have criticized Abood.

If the Court doesn’t overrule Abood, it may instead rule that public employees may be allowed to opt-in rather than required to opt-out of paying “nonchargeable” union expenditures, in which case presumably fewer will opt-in.

“Fair share” and opt-out are foundational principles for public sector collective bargaining in the United States. Overturning either of them would mean a major change in the law that would substantially weaken public sector unions.


The U.S. Constitution Equal Protection Clause “one-person one-vote” principle requires that voting districts have roughly the same population so that votes in each district count equally. But what population is relevant — total population or total voting population — and who gets to decide? The Court will answer these questions in Evenwel v. Abbott.

Over the last 25 years the Supreme Court has repeatedly refused to decide (in cases all involving local governments) whether total voter population must be equalized in state and local legislative districts.

Plaintiffs claim that total voter population must be the metric. They argue their votes are worth less than other voters because they live in districts that substantially deviate from the “ideal” in terms of number of voters or potential voters.

The lower court disagreed because the Supreme Court has never held that any particular population metric is unconstitutional. Most state legislatures use total population, not total voting population data.

Asset Forfeiture

The question in Luis v. United States* is whether not allowing a criminal defendant to use assets not traceable to a criminal offense to hire counsel of choice violates the Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

Local law enforcement often receive asset forfeitures related to drug crime.

This case comes on the heels of Kaley v. United States (2014) where the Supreme Court held 6-3 that defendants may not use frozen assets which are the fruits of criminal activities to pay for an attorney.

Luis argues that it is “inconceivable” that she may not use “her own legitimately-earned assets to retain counsel.” The federal government responded that per her reasoning criminal defendants “could effectively deprive [their] victims of any opportunity for compensation simply by dissipating [their] ill-gotten gains.”

The Eleventh Circuit ruled against Luis, who was indicted on charges related to $45 million in Medicare fraud.

Local Governments Sued Out-of-State

In Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt* the Court will decide whether states must extend the same immunities that apply to them to foreign local governments (and states) sued in their state courts. Hyatt is important to local governments who are often sued out-of-state.

The Franchise Tax Board (FTB) of California concluded that Gilbert Hyatt didn’t relocate to Nevada when his tax returns indicated he did and assessed him $10.5 million in taxes and interest. Hyatt sued FTB in Nevada for fraud among other claims.

In Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt (2003) the Supreme Court held that the Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause does not require Nevada to offer FTB the full immunity that California law provides.

A Nevada jury ultimately awarded Hyatt nearly $400 million in damages.

The Nevada Supreme Court refused to apply Nevada’s statutory cap on damages to Hyatt’s fraud claim, reasoning that Nevada has a policy interest in ensuring adequate redress for Nevada citizens that overrides providing FTB the statutory cap because California operates outside the control of Nevada.

Hyatt has also asked the Supreme Court to overrule Nevada v. Hall (1979), holding that a state may be sued in another states’ courts without consent. If the Court overrules this case, the question of whether the immunities a state enjoys must be offered to a foreign local government (or state) will be moot.

Affirmative Action

For the second time the Court has agreed to decide whether the University of Texas at Austin’s race-conscious admissions policy is unconstitutional in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.

Even though this case arises in the higher education context, the Supreme Court decides relatively few affirmative action cases so all are of interest to local governments that use race as a factor in decision-making.

Per Texas’s Top Ten Percent Plan, the top ten percent of Texas high school graduates are automatically admitted to UT Austin, which fills about 80 percent of the class. Most other applicants are evaluated through a holistic review where race is one of a number of factors.

Abigail Fisher claims that using race in admissions is unnecessary because, in the year she applied, UT Austin admitted 21.5 percent minority students per the Top Ten Percent Plan.

The Supreme Court has held that the use of race in college admissions is constitutional if race is used to further the compelling government interest of diversity and is narrowly tailored.

In Fisher I the Court held that the Fifth Circuit, which upheld UT Austin’s admissions policy, should not have deferred to UT Austin’s argument that its use of race is narrowly tailored.

When the Fifth Circuit relooked at the plan again it concluded that it is narrowly tailored.

Only time will tell whether the Court agrees.


The Court’s docket is only about half full right now. Interestingly, the Court hasn’t accepted a Fourth Amendment or qualified immunity case yet — but no term would be complete without a few such cases. Of interest to the Court may be a case involving whether cell phone location data may be obtained without a warrant.

Lisa Soronen bio photoAbout the Author: Lisa Soronen is the Executive Director of the State and Local Legal Center and a regular contributor to CitiesSpeak.

Joplin Takes Action on E-Fairness

This is a guest blog post by Councilmember Melodee Colbert-Kean.

People in Joplin, Mo., know how to adapt to change.

Our city got its start in 1873 as a mining boom town, and we’ve been growing and changing ever since. We’ve seen Bonnie and Clyde, built our Main Street around historic Route 66, and became a diverse, developed city with a beautiful network of parks and museums.

However, what we’re probably best known for is our resilience in the face of one of the worst tornadoes ever to hit the United States. On May 24, 2011, Joplin was hit by a Category X tornado that destroyed much of our town and cost 161 lives in just minutes. But our local government, businesses, and residents all pulled together in the immediate aftermath of that storm to recover, and we’ve been growing ever since. When 553 businesses were destroyed or severely damaged in the wake of the 2011 storm, we responded by rebuilding 500 of them – and opening 150 more new ones!

Our local businesses are the backbone of our city, and that’s why it’s so important to me personally to close the online sales tax loophole. I’m not just a city council member – I spend most of my time running a restaurant, and I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I understand the role local businesses play in a community.

While no city can afford to leave resources on the table, it’s been particularly important for Joplin to invest in the development and services our residents need, and to have a strong local economy. We’ve got a 7.825% sales tax rate in Joplin, which supports not only our efforts to rebuild, but also our work to invest in our roads and water system, and build our city for the 21st century.

But that’s also a 7.825% unfair disadvantage our local stores face against online sellers, who aren’t collecting that sales tax, and who are luring shoppers away from our downtown. Statewide, Missouri loses out on almost half a billion dollars in uncollected sales taxes.

That’s why this month, I brought together a group of people in Joplin to push for a solution: e-fairness legislation. I invited our U.S. Representative and our U.S. Senators to join members of the Joplin City Council and the Joplin Chamber of Commerce to talk about how the online sales tax loophole is hurting our city, and what to do about it.

One of our senators, Senator Roy Blunt, has long been a supporter of e-fairness, and is a sponsor of the current Marketplace Fairness Act in the Senate. We appreciate his continued efforts on behalf of the residents and businesses in Joplin, and we’re looking forward to working with him to see this effort through to the finish line.

A group of ten people, including me, our mayor, city staff, and several local retailers met with representatives of our congressional delegation on August 20 to talk about e-fairness in our community. It was a valuable opportunity for our legislators to hear how the online sales tax loophole is specifically affecting Joplin.

For instance, one store owner observed that deliberate avoidance of sales taxes was changing the way that people shop. People are ordering large purchases online to avoid paying dozens or even hundreds of dollars in sales tax on that purchase. That means that the stores in our downtown and our mall see less foot traffic, and have fewer opportunities to make even small sales.

Joplin_eFairness_blog5Leadership from our local mall also pointed out that harm to individual retailers in the mall has an even bigger snowball effect on our community. The mall’s financial contribution to Joplin includes not only the impact of the sales taxes its stores collect, but also the hundreds of people employed there, and the property tax the mall pays.

Our city manager, also helped our legislators understand how passing e-fairness legislation would impact our city finances. We’ve been fortunate to have steadily increasing sales tax revenue in Joplin from the growth we’ve experienced as a community. However, we also rely on a use tax on large purchases, such as vehicles, which we need city voters to renew. If e-fairness legislation passed, and we were able to recover some of that uncollected sales tax, we might be able to streamline our system of taxes and fees, and maybe remove some of the existing taxes or fees we currently collect.

While e-fairness is not a new tax, it is up to community leaders to educate their residents about the current unfair system, and what the sales tax revenues in their communities support. While most people don’t want to pay more taxes, we do want roads free of potholes, working sewers, safe sidewalks, and emergency response services.

We also know that times are changing. Most of us shop online because it is convenient. Even with e-fairness, we know that more people will shop online every year. Our retailers are not afraid to adapt to a world in which we can order anything with the click of a mouse. We’re just asking Congress to close this online sales tax loophole, and enable us to have a fair shot in the future.

If you haven’t already, reach out to your legislators. Find out if they support e-fairness, and start a dialogue with your business community. You know they have a lot to say! If you need help, the staff at the National League of Cities can get you started.

Together, I truly believe that we can change minds and make a difference.

About the Author: Melodee Colbert-Kean is a councilmember from Joplin, Mo., and currently serves as NLC’s 1st Vice President.