In honor of the 4th anniversary of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative this week, we are reprinting a series of blog posts from the Lets Move! blog. Below is the third post in this series, written by Madeline Rogero, Mayor of Knoxville, TN and Tim Burchett, Mayor of Knox County, TN.
We’re moving in Knoxville, Tennessee! Located in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, at the confluence of three major rivers and with gorgeous natural landmarks, it’s no wonder the favorite pastime of our 432,000 residents is outdoor recreation! We have made physical activity a priority in our community. Together, the City of Knoxville and Knox County governments are collaborating on Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties (LMCTC) efforts with great success!
We’re especially excited about the progress we’ve made on LMCTC Goal V: Active Kids at Play, which promotes and develops policies and strategies to increase physical activity and play in Knoxville and Knox County! We worked with Legacy Parks to open the Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center, a downtown recreation hub located on a 16-mile system of connected greenways adjacent to the Tennessee River. Here, outdoor enthusiasts can rent bicycles, paddleboards, and kayaks. This center is tied to the 1,000-acre Urban Wilderness Corridor across the Tennessee River, which connects 10 parks, four historic Civil War sites, more than 40 miles of recreation trails, Ijams Nature Center and unparalleled natural features.
We’ve also worked with Knox County Schools and the Knox County Health Department to promote active transportation. We’re particularly proud of the “Walking School Bus” program that our Safe Routes to Schools committee created. Parents, police officers, transportation experts and teachers alike work together to create programs in which adults escort children to school on foot, rather than commuting with vehicles.
And, the Knoxville Area Coalition on Childhood Obesity, the Knoxville and Knox County governments and the University of Tennessee have implemented a program to give lessons on riding bicycles to children in the City recreation centers and other local afterschool programs. City recreation officials and University of Tennessee student volunteers take the children to tour various greenways in town.
Our work with LMCTC has solidified and strengthened our community partnerships and helped us work more productively, particularly by honing the focus of our programs and pulling more partners together. The initiative galvanized pride in our communities as we achieve national recognition, together.
We’re looking forward to furthering the health of Knox County and Knoxville through our work in LMCTC!
Learn more about LMCTC, and how to become more involved with the initiative, here.
This post was written by C. Forbes Tompkins and Christina DeConcini of the World Resources Institute (WRI). The post originally appeared on WRI’s blog.
News of California’s epic drought continues to reverberate around the nation. Not only have millions of Californians been cut off from their usual water supply, but the drought is threatening the state’s multi-billion-dollar agriculture and tourism industries.
To learn about the impacts of the ongoing drought first-hand and discuss how the federal government might help, President Obama will travel to Fresno this Friday. In addition to his visit, the President’s Task Force on Climate Resilience and Preparedness will convene in Los Angeles, California today for the next round of meetings to determine ways the federal government can assist local efforts to address and prepare for the impacts of climate change. Made up of more than two dozen governors, mayors and tribal leaders from around the country, the group represents a significant opportunity to bridge the gap between local and federal climate action.
California’s Drought Threatens Communities and the Economy
California experienced its driest year on record in 2013, receiving less than one-third of its average annual precipitation. Governor Jerry Brown declared a statewide drought emergency in mid-January, and the State Water Project – the main municipal water distribution system for roughly 25 million people and 750,000 acres of irrigated farmland – suspended service for the first time in its 54-year history. Even after last weekend’s heavy rainfall, most of California is still blanketed in “extreme drought.”
Citizens both inside and outside of California are feeling the effects. The drought is not only threatening the viability of the nearly 50 percent of U.S. fruits and vegetables produced in-state, but is already impacting California farms and ranches. These farms and ranches generated $44.7 billion in gross income in 2012 alone. The ripple effect of these impacts could affect grocery stores around the nation in the coming months.
Tourism in California may also take a hit from the drought. With the Sierra Nevada snowpack being recently reported as only 12 percent of its average, the state’s $1.4 billion winter sports industry and the 24,000 jobs that rely on it are under threat.
Drought and the Climate Change Connection
As extreme as this drought is, though, it may be a harbinger of what’s to come. Studies suggest that the drought over the last decade in the western United States represents the driest conditions the region has experienced in the last 800 years. As the world continues to warm, more frequent and intense droughts are projected for the region. Furthermore, the combination of more frequent and intense droughts and warmer temperatures are expected to contribute to an increase in wildfires throughout the state. This is concerning for a state that witnessed seven of its 10 largest-recorded wildfires since 2003.
California is certainly not alone in feeling the impacts of a warmer world, however. From record forest fires and historic floods in Colorado, to coastal flooding in Florida, to threatened water resources from reduced snowpack in Utah, local communities across the United States are truly at the forefront of climate change.
Bridging the Gap Between Local and Federal Climate Action
These local communities tend to also be at the forefront of climate action. From the 10 mayors who recently joined an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by boosting energy efficiency within city buildings to the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact, growing local leadership is establishing models for community-level action elsewhere in the country. But while these local initiatives are an encouraging sign, they must be met with complementary and comprehensive action from Congress and the administration if the United States is to truly rise to the climate change challenge.
The Task Force on Climate Resilience and Preparedness is one such initiative working toward this goal. When the Task Force meets today in Los Angeles, California, they will take the next step toward generating recommendations on how the federal government can both remove investment barriers to local resilience initiatives and create the tools and information communities need to prepare for and adapt to climate impacts. Once formally submitted to the government, these recommendations should not only help those in California deal with the impacts of future droughts, but assist communities throughout the nation in overcoming future climate impacts.
The Task Force represents a critical opportunity for the federal government to both learn from and enhance local climate action. But, supporting these communities also means following through on comprehensive federal initiatives—such as putting ambitious emissions standards in place for existing power plants. Only through collective action at the local, state, and national levels can the country effectively adapt to and mitigate the growing impacts of climate change.
In honor of the 4th anniversary of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative this week, we are reprinting a series of blog posts from the Lets Move! blog. Below is the second post in this series, and was written by L. Dennis Michael, the Mayor of the City of Rancho Cucamonga, California.
As a Let’s Move! City, Rancho Cucamonga, California is addressing health and wellness in a holistic and comprehensive way. The City Council incorporated Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties (LMCTC) to be a part of Healthy Rancho Cucamonga (Healthy RC), a comprehensive, community-driven initiative dedicated to encouraging healthy and sustainable lifestyles.
Through LMCTC, we are:
- developing policies, programs, and partnerships to encourage healthy, sustainable lifestyles;
- transforming the way Rancho Cucamonga does business by putting health at the forefront of every decision; and
- building a healthier community.
One way Rancho Cucamonga is implementing our “Health-In-All-Policies” approach is through LMCTC Goal IV: Model Food Service, which focuses on improving access to healthy, affordable foods by implementing nutrition guidelines that align with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in city-owned or operated food venues.
In partnership with the community, we have implemented several key strategies to address and improve healthy food access. First, we implemented Rancho Cucamonga’s Healthy Food and Beverage Policy, which requires all city facilities to meet nutrition standards in city-owned and operated vending machines and any food provided by the city. Additionally, the city developed a toolkit for partner organizations to adopt similar policies in order to create consistent healthy messages throughout the community.
The city also works with local restaurants to increase access to healthier food when dining out. The Healthy RC Dining Program collaborates with San Antonio Community Hospital’s Registered Dieticians to review restaurant menus and help develop and design healthier meal options for children and adults. Since October 2012, 14 restaurants have joined the program, and it continues to grow.
And last, Rancho Cucamonga modified zoning codes to expand the number of areas that allow for farmers’ markets, and as a result, two farmer’s markets were established bringing access to fresh, affordable, locally grown produce to residents. In addition, the city implemented the “Bringing Health Home” program. This program provides residents with incentives (up to $50 a month match) to purchase healthy foods at farmers’ markets.
Rancho Cucamonga is excited to continue advancing LMCTC’s goals and building a healthier city! You can read more about our efforts here. Learn more about LMCTC, and how to become more involved with the initiative, here.
NLC’s annual Congressional City Conference is taking place in our nation’s capital from March 8th through the 12th this year. This event is an opportunity to network and share best practices with over 2,000 local and appointed city officials. It’s also the only event that brings representatives from across local governments together to advocate for a common agenda that strengthens our cities and communities. You’ll be able to connect the issues that matter most in your city hall to the work that is being done on Capitol Hill and across the rest of the federal government.
We know you’re busy and need to make the most out of your time. So here are five ways to maximize your time at the Congressional City Conference and connect city hall to Capitol Hill.
1. Advocate for issues that matter most to cities.
Cities are stronger when they are working together towards a set of common goals. With input from our membership and Policy and Advocacy Committees, NLC has identified six federal action priorities for 2014. The need for action on these issues is imperative, and we believe the political climate is ripe for change. At the conference, Advocacy Central will offer resources to help you advocate on each of the following six federal action priorities:
- Support Marketplace Fairness
- Invest in Local Transportation Priorities
- Protect Municipal Bonds
- Fix The Nation’s Broken Immigration System
- Strengthen the Nation’s Education Pipeline
- Support Community Resilience
2. Tell your representatives what your community needs.
During the conference, there will be time available to visit your congressional delegation on Capitol Hill. This time offers a unique opportunity to discuss the issues most important to cities in person with federal legislators and their staff.
In order to make the most of the experience, we recommend that you request and schedule meetings with your legislators before you arrive in Washington.
3. Hear from national newsmakers.
The Congressional City Conference brings top administration officials directly to you. You’ll hear from U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on how the work their agencies are doing is greatly impacting cities.We’re proud to also have U.S. Representative Steve Womack from Arkansas on the agenda. In addition, you’ll hear from national media powerhouses Gwen Ifill from PBS and Andrea Mitchell from MSNBC.
4. Learn how federal laws affect your city.
Our lineup of workshops and NLC University seminars will provide you with the latest information from policymakers and national experts. Topics ranging from the federal budget forecast to environmental regulatory reform will keep you informed and help you take advantage of all the programs and resources that the federal government can offer local leaders.
Our workshops are designed to showcase best practices in cities across the country and give you the chance to hear from and interact with federal officials.The NLC University sessions are intended to help you develop professional leadership skills and cultivate topical expertise.
5. Participate in the policy process.
Early on at the Congressional City Conference, you will be able to join in the National Municipal Policy debate by participating in one of our policy committee meetings. Policy committees are responsible for setting and developing NLC’s National Municipal Policy positions. The committee meetings at the conference are where local leaders come together and introduce the topics that will be put on the table for debate for the upcoming year at our Congress of Cities conference in November. Policy meetings will be held for the following committees at the conference:
- Community & Economic Development
- Energy, Environment & Natural Resources
- Finance, Administration & Intergovernmental Relations
- Human Development
- Information Technology & Communications
- Public Safety & Crime Prevention
- Transportation Infrastructure & Services
See you in DC in March!
Beaumont, TX becomes the first Let’s Move! City, Town or County to Earn Gold Medals in Every LMCTC Goal!
In honor of the 4th anniversary of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative this week, we are reprinting a series of blog posts from the Lets Move! blog. Below is the first post in this series, and was written by Dr. Alan B. Coleman. Dr. Coleman is a Councilmember for the City of Beaumont, Texas.
The City of Beaumont, Texas recently became the first Let’s Move! city, town or county to earn gold medals in all five goals of Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties (LMCTC). Beaumont ranks first among over 400 communities participating in LMCTC. As Beaumont’s Councilmember, I am incredibly proud of our city’s accomplishments and we recently had the opportunity to showcase our success at the National League of Cities’ Congress of Cities conference. Beaumont is an example of how city government, the school district, hospitals, non-profits and the private sector can work together to help our most valuable asset – our children.
At the National League of Cities’ Congress of Cities and Exposition (CoC Conference), I had the privilege of highlighting opportunities Beaumont offers families to exercise together, including Moonlight Madness Bicycle Rides and the new Centennial All-Access Children’s Park. Beaumont is committed to sustaining the LMCTC ideals in the future, establishing a regional alliance to fight childhood obesity, and expanding fresh food opportunities to the food deserts in Beaumont.
It all started in January 2013 when I met with Beaumont’s City Manager, Assistant City Manager, Public Health Director and the Parks & Recreation Director to strategize how the city could earn five gold medals. We formed community partnerships and the city’s staff executed their plan to promote healthy lifestyles in Beaumont. Sherry Ulmer, Public Health Director and Ryan Slott, Parks & Recreation Director, led their departments’ success with the LMCTC goals.
And, Beaumont is proud of the wide range of city and private partners that helped us achieve LMCTC Goal I: Start Early, Start Smart, which focuses on helping early care and education program providers incorporate best practices for nutrition, physical activity and screen time into their programs. Some of our partners on include:
The Beaumont Public Health Department who plans childcare provider seminars;
- H-E-B Grocery who educates children on healthy lifestyles;
- The Beaumont Independent School District who is integral in the city’s school lunch program’s success; and
- The Beaumont Fire Department who reviews fire safety and code requirements with childcare providers.
These partners co-hosted a multi-purpose training seminar where local childcare providers learned and discussed nutrition and sanitation standards with a dietician. The seminar was well-attended, and Beaumont will host annual childcare seminars because of the first seminar’s success. Childcare provider Geri Smith said: “The seminar taught me how to make healthy changes to the meals and snacks I serve, and how to make physical activity fun!”
Our City’s partnerships propelled Beaumont to be a leading, healthy city on the move – learn more about how Beaumont is creating a brighter future for the city’s children here.
Read the accomplishments of this year’s other top achieving cities, towns and counties here.
Learn more about LMCTC, and how to become more involved with the initiative, here.
Tapping my mechanical pencil on my desk, I could feel the excitement coursing through my veins. Summer vacation started in four minutes and I could barely keep from jumping out of my chair and sprinting down the hall towards the bus lane. My classmates and I knew what awaited us on the other end of those four minutes – long days playing in the sun, ice cream trucks, and NO SCHOOL for three whole months.
Though I wouldn’t be in school, I would still be learning. That summer, the one before fourth grade, my mother decided that I would attend a summer enrichment program called S.I.S.T.E.R.S. on Our Shoulders.
My mother knew that I needed to continue my education in the summer months in order to maintain and retain the skills and knowledge I had learned during the school year. She also didn’t trust leaving me alone in the house the entire day while she had to work. But like many families, our monthly income barely covered our bills, so going to summer camp or taking a family trip like many of my more well-off classmates was not an option. However, my mother was determined not to embody a situation Professor Joel M. Charon cites in his textbook Social Problems: Readings with Four Questions “where parents’ lack of money and time hinders the ability to invest in [their] children’s education.” As a result, she made sacrifices so I could have an engaging and enriching summer experience.
The Problem with Summer School
Like my mother, parents and city leaders know the importance of summer learning activities, but many recognize the disadvantages of traditional summer school programming. As a result, many cities have begun to direct their efforts toward bolstering summer learning programs that blend academics with interactive enrichment activities.
For example, I can recall the summer following sixth grade where I attended Fernbank Science Center’s STEM Summer Academy in Atlanta. We learned about growing hydroponic plants and how food was processed for missions on the space shuttle. Our professors helped us to conduct science experiments where we grew crystals and simulated space missions that incorporated mathematics, chemistry, and physics lessons. The best part of the summer came when we attended Space Camp for a week in Huntsville, AL.
Fortunately, many city leaders have focused on providing access to these programs to a broader set of young people. For many of the families within my neighborhood, mine included, the lack of sufficient reading materials and resources to maintain academic skills acquired during the year made summer learning programs essential to addressing the achievement gap between us and our middle and upper class peers.
Why Summer Learning Matters to Cities
Loss in academic skills over summer vacation varies across grade level, subject matter, and family income. For all students, the loss is equal to roughly one month of school education. However, research shows that low-income students suffer disproportionately, losing closer to three months of grade- level equivalency. This loss in academic skills contributes to two thirds of the achievement gap between lower and higher income ninth graders and can be attributed to summer learning loss during their elementary school years. This learning loss has also been found to be cumulative, and can affect low-income students’ success rates for high school completion, post-secondary education, and workforce preparedness.
A research study released by Johns Hopkins University in 2007 entitled Summer learning and its implications: Insights from the Beginning School Study states that “low socioeconomic status youth are more likely to enter adulthood without high school certification and are less likely to attend a four year college than their middle and upper class peers.” For low-income African Americans, the situation is even more troubling. Writer Jordan Iceland characterizes the U.S. poverty population by revealing that “poor African-American children are less likely to escape poverty than others – 1 in 3 were still poor at ages 25 to 27, as compared to 1 in 12 white children.”
It is for these reasons that cities must continue investing in successful summer learning programs and encourage the expansion of local programs into city and statewide initiatives. One of the largest challenges that summer learning programs face is the lack of available funding; however, with the support of cities, these programs can obtain the resources needed to serve their target audiences and scale up to ensure the greatest impact within their communities.
Summer learning programs help to encourage parental involvement in youth education, which has been shown to enhance academic achievement. They also allow summer learning to become a collaborative effort among city organizations through partnerships with parks and recreations departments, as well as public library systems, police departments, youth employment agencies, and community health organizations. Alliances among these different venues allow summer learning programming to take an all-inclusive approach to addressing to health disparities, crime, workforce development, education completion, and academic inequity.
Through their academic framework and emphasis on extracurricular activities, they expose many youth to arts and cultural experiences, STEM, and even post-secondary educational opportunities they may have never been exposed to otherwise. I can personally attest to the fact that summer learning programs can serve as academic and personal enrichment opportunities.
For youth who participate in summer learning programs, cumulative learning loss is decreased and confidence in their ability to achieve academically is increased. With the assistance of summer learning programs, youth are more likely to complete their primary and secondary educations. They also feel encouraged continuing on to post-secondary education options as well. These decisions ultimately lead to a greater number of educated workers in cities, which is something we all benefit from.