How to Address Predatory Small Business Lending in Your Community

Cities should proactively talk to businesses about their borrowing needs and rights and lead them in the right direction towards trustworthy sources of capital.

The National League of Cities recently took action by signing on as an endorser to the Small Business Borrowers’ Bill of Rights, a pledge that pushes for fairness and accountability when it comes to loans for small businesses. (photo: Mshake/Getty Images)

Access to credit can make or break a growing business. Right now though, the incremental recovery from our recent economic recession means funding for businesses from traditional banks and the government is still very limited. This credit situation has caused business owners to turn to unregulated, non-bank lenders for their borrowing needs. However, some of these alternative lenders are using savvy marketing campaigns to lure businesses into taking out loans with unaffordable interest rates and hidden fees. These escalating predatory small business lending practices are cause for concern, and are forcing us to question if this will be our country’s new credit crisis.

The National League of Cities recently took action by signing on as an endorser to the Small Business Borrowers’ Bill of Rights, a pledge that pushes for fairness and accountability in the private small business loans market. The Bill of Rights calls for transparent pricing and terms, responsible underwriting, and fair collection practices from lenders and prohibits abusive strategies like debt traps, hidden penalties, and irresponsible credit reporting. (Read about how your city or organization can sign on here.)

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The Big Ideas for Small Business, a national peer network of economic development staff from cities across the country, hosted a conversation with Gwendy Brown, the Vice President of Research and Policy at Opportunity Fund, one of the creators of the Bill of Rights. Gwendy shared her suggestions for how cities can prevent local business owners from obtaining a predatory loan.

Survey business owners about their credit usage. One of the biggest challenges is understanding the credit climate in your city, and how local businesses are accessing capital. Implementing a survey tool to collect this data would help city officials get a better sense of the market, and if there are predatory actors at play locally.

Talk to business owners about their borrowing needs. Too often, we only hear about a predatory business lending situation after it’s too late to intervene, and the business is already in a financial state of emergency. Cities should proactively talk to businesses about their borrowing needs and lead them in the right direction towards trustworthy sources of capital.  

Inform business owners about their borrowing rights. Education campaigns may be the most effective way to address predatory small business lending right now, since the industry is currently unregulated. The Small Business Borrower’s Bill of Rights lays out in clear terms the red flags borrowers should avoid, and reinforces their right to make informed decisions about accessing capital. Cities can add this helpful information to their existing resources and trainings for small business owners.

The City of Chicago is one of the first cities in the nation to take action against local predatory lenders. In January of this year, Mayor Emanuel launched an awareness campaign to educate the business community about predatory merchant cash advance companies and to promote access to credible local lenders, like Accion Chicago and the Chicago Microlending Institute. The campaign posted collateral on buses and trains and also shared information in workshops, email correspondence to business owners, and in the Small Business Center, the City’s one-stop-shop for small businesses. The City’s Small Business Opportunity Centers, which were established in 2014 to provide small business owners with guidance on accessing capital, also serve as a key partner in the education campaign.

It’s not too late to get out ahead of this issue in the short term, with awareness campaigns and more proactive discussions with business owners about their borrowing needs. In the long term, however, more regulatory oversight is needed to help eliminate these “bad apple” predatory lending institutions.

Read more about this issue in the resources below, and reach out to us if you’d like more information about how to address predatory small business lending in your community.

Small Business Borrowers’ Bill of Rights

Aspen Institute FIELD Webinar (Sept. 2015)

Accion: What is Predatory Lending?

Governing: Are Predatory Business Loans the Next Credit Crisis?

Bloomberg: Lenders Target a New Subprime Market

Forbes Op-Ed: It’s Time to Rein in Shady Small Business Loan Brokers

About the Author: Emily Robbins is the Senior Associate of Finance and Economic Development at NLC. Follow Emily on Twitter: @robbins617.

Trump Talks Infrastructure, but City Issues Still on the Fringe

The majority of American voters live in cities, and the 2016 presidential election candidates should pay more attention to the issues that matter most to them.

The nine top-polling 2016 GOP presidential candidates stepped up to the plate for last Republican debate of 2015 hosted by CNN at the Venetian Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas on December 16, 2015. (photo: ABC News)

This is a guest post by Devon Hawkins-Anderson.

The nine leading Republican candidates took the stage this week in Las Vegas to debate for the last time before the February Iowa caucuses. In the aftermath of recent terror attacks abroad and on home soil, national security, surveillance, immigration and personal rivalries took precedence during the two-hour prime time event.

However, city issues were largely left unaddressed. While national security and surveillance issues are worth considerable time and attention on the debate stage, so are the domestic topics most affecting America’s cities — public safety, infrastructure, and the economy. According to American mayors, these issues are the primary concern of the 80 percent of Americans who live in cities.

The road forward for everyday Americans and cities is paved with investment in domestic capital and innovation. Refocusing national attention on cities as hubs of culture, innovation and economic activity will provide the catalyst that powers the U.S. well into the 21st century.

Most think of public safety as defense against horrendous acts of violence, such as those that recently occurred in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif. However, cities and towns spend upwards of $64 billion on law enforcement operations annually. Despite huge local allocations towards crime reduction, crime remains a significant barrier to individual and family safety, quality of life, and social cohesion in cities across the country, particularly in racially diverse and disadvantaged neighborhoods. Amid talk of public safety on a global scale, candidates must acknowledge that safer communities at home create a safer world.

Few recall that the Interstate Highway Act of 1954 was funded with defense dollars, but on Tuesday night, Donald Trump made statements that reminded viewers of the inextricable link between domestic infrastructure investments, collective security and quality of life:

“In my opinion, we’ve spent $4 trillion trying to topple various [regimes] that frankly, if they were there and if we could’ve spent that $4 trillion in the United States to fix our roads, our bridges, and all of the other problems, our airports and all of the other problems we’ve had, we would’ve been a lot better off. I can tell you that right now… it’s a mess. The Middle East is totally destabilized. A total and complete mess. I wish we had the $4 trillion or $5 trillion. I wish it were spent right here in the United States, on our schools, hospitals, roads, airports and everything else that are all falling apart.”

Seldom recognized for his passion on infrastructure issues, Trump stood out from the pack when he called for the reallocation of war funds to all manner of infrastructure improvements, acknowledging that America’s aging infrastructure threatens to stymy future growth.

Similarly, the economy continues to be an intractable issue for American cities and the country as a whole. Following the White House declaration of full employment last month, many have forgotten about workers who have ceased looking for jobs as well as the perennially underemployed. According to the Georgetown Center, when these depressed job seekers are re-added to employment statistics, the real unemployment rate is considerably higher than reported. Regrettably, none of the candidates addressed the employment-to-population ratio (which measures employment among all working-age Americans, not just those actively looking for jobs) or cited economic growth as a formidable barrier for cities.

Sure, the leading Republican candidate, Donald Trump, mentioned infrastructure – but city issues are still on the fringe. The majority of American voters live in cities, and the 2016 presidential election candidates should pay more attention to the issues that matter most to them.

About the Author: Devon Hawkins-Anderson is the 2016 National Urban Fellow at National League of Cities. Contact Devon at anderson@nlc.org.

COP21 – A Full Roundup of the Paris Climate Change Conference

The speeches from President Barack Obama and other heads of state may have concluded, but the work has just begun for U.S. mayors and local leaders who have traveled to the UN Climate Change conference in Paris to support a global climate change agreement.

Photo: Jacky Naegelen/Reuters

Day 1

The National League of Cities (NLC) and partner organizations ICLEI, the World Wildlife Fund, and the U.S. Green Building Council have convened an 11-member delegation to advocate for their communities and for cities all across America. This group includes mayors of Atlanta, Boulder, Colo., Chula Vista, Calif., Des Moines, Iowa, Grand Rapids, Mich., Oakland, Calif., Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, and West Palm Beach, Fla., and councilmembers from Santa Monica, Calif. and King County, Wash.

The cities represented are all signatories to the Compact of Mayors, under which cities conduct greenhouse gas emission inventories, develop climate action plans and report on their progress.

NLC CEO & Executive Director Clarence Anthony welcomes local leaders to the U.N. climate change conference with City Solutions and Applied Research Director Brooks Rainwater, Sustainability Program Director Cooper Martin, and other partner staff.

NLC CEO & Executive Director Clarence Anthony welcomes local leaders to the U.N. climate change conference with City Solutions and Applied Research Director Brooks Rainwater, Sustainability Program Director Cooper Martin, and other partner staff.

On Wednesday, December 2, ten of the eleven leaders had arrived and the group gathered to discuss their goals, their message, and to review the final schedule of events that will take place over the next several days here in Paris.

Even before this strategy session, several leaders had already traveled to the conference for a handful of early sessions and meetings.

Boulder, Colo., Councilmember Matthew Appelbaum had the busiest day of the group, first speaking at a panel at the German Pavilion on the path to 100% renewable energy. Later that afternoon, he spoke on the topic of emissions measurement and verification technology hosted by Harris Corporation. Appelbaum pointed out that the topics are related in interesting ways that can be counterintuitive for policymakers. For example, the measured emissions directly over Boulder may be low, but much of the city’s energy comes from coal plants located far away and the city has worked hard to continue to improve efficiency. Additionally, he noted that many Boulder residents oppose new development – particularly some proposed data centers – on the grounds that it will increase the city’s emissions. However, Appelbaum noted that because of their heightened energy standards these facilities would be more efficient in Boulder than if they were built elsewhere – a net benefit in the bigger picture.

Photo: Cooper Martin

Members of the NLC delegation Mayor Frank Cownie from Des Moines and Council Chair Larry Phillips from King County meet with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. (Photo: Cooper Martin)

Elsewhere at the event, Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie and King County Council Chair Larry Phillips were able to have separate meetings with U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewel of the U.S. Department of Interior and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Each expressed their strong support for the effort being demonstrated by the administration, as well their desire for greater resources to help cities who are already striving to meet these goals.

Thursday at the conference, mayor George Heartwell of Grand Rapids will moderate a panel “A Tale of Three Cities” at the U.S. Center sponsored by the U.S. Department of State featuring Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland. Following that, Mayor Reed will speak about Atlanta’s efforts to reduce energy consumption through benchmarking policies. Then it’s off to Paris City Hall to attend the Climate Summit for Local Leaders.

Day 2

Thursday, December 3, was the Day 2 of the UN Climate Change conference in Paris. The delegation of local leaders that was convened by NLC and its partners – ICLEI, the World Wildlife Fund, and the U.S. Green Building Council – were at the main site of the negotiations for another round of sessions.

Mayor Libby Schaaf speaks about Oakland’s sustainability efforts at the U.S. Center. (photo: Cooper Martin)

Mayor Libby Schaaf speaks about Oakland’s sustainability efforts at the U.S. Center. (photo: Cooper Martin)

A morning panel, “A Tale of Three Cities,” featured mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland as well as panelists from Copenhagen, Denmark, and Kotzebue, Alaska, at the U.S. Center, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. The panel was moderated by Mayor George Heartwell, another member of the NLC-organized group, and it highlighted the shared experiences of the three coastal cities feeling the impacts of a changing Arctic. Mayor Schaaf summarized the role of cities in Paris, saying “if you get enough cities on board, it has greater effect than nations.”

After his session, Mayor Kasim Reed takes a seat in the U.S. Department of Energy’s electric, 3D-printed Shelby Cobra. (photo: Cooper Martin)

After his session, Mayor Kasim Reed takes a seat in the U.S. Department of Energy’s electric, 3D-printed Shelby Cobra. (photo: Cooper Martin)

Thursday was also ‘Buildings Day’ at the convention site, and Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta joined a panel of global efficiency leaders to discuss the energy benchmarking policy and other initiatives that have helped Atlanta improve the performance of its buildings. Currently, the city has over 100 million square feet of building space participating in the national Better Buildings Challenge, which will help the city meet its goal to reduce carbon emissions 80% by 2040.

On Friday, the whole group will be participating in the Climate Summit for Local Leaders at Paris City Hall, where they will hear from President Hollande of France, and meet with a group of US Senators who have traveled to Paris to support the conference.

Day 3

In his opening remarks at the Climate Summit for Local Leaders in Paris, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared that it was the “Largest gathering of global mayors and local leaders ever, the first to coincide with the UN meeting of nations, and we’re making history today. But we are not here to make history, we are here to preserve the future.”

It was more than a complement to his audience. In his role as Special Envoy to the UN for Cities and Regions, Bloomberg has worked for years to earn the kind of status and recognition that cities have achieved at the COP-21 negotiations. On Friday, December 4, city leaders grabbed the microphone both figuratively and literally to announce to the negotiators that local governments were already doing the work that is now being asked of nations.

Hosted by Bloomberg and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, the event showcased influential government and business representatives from around the world, including an address from French President François Hollande, who admitted that even with a successful global agreement, “National governments can provide funding, but increasingly cities and regions will be the key player.”

President François Hollande addresses the Climate Summit for Local Leaders. (Photo: Cooper Martin)

President François Hollande addresses the Climate Summit for Local Leaders. (Photo: Cooper Martin)

Many members of the NLC-led group were able to share some of their unique local experiences.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf noted that the presence of cities the whole week was important because it “created the political pressure and support for national leaders, but [cities] are also proving that it can be done, and it can be done without tremendous cost, and that it can be done with actual benefits to the economy.”

Mayor Mary Salas noted that her city of Chula Vista, CA, had been planning and implementing pollution reduction measures since the early 1990’s. Transit, walkability improvements, and other efforts have had far-reaching impacts on community satisfaction, educational attainment, and the attractiveness of the city within the region.

Boulder Councilmember and NLC Board Member Matthew Appelbaum speaks with Former U.S. Senator Mark Udall. (Photo: Cooper Martin)

Boulder Councilmember and NLC Board Member Matthew Appelbaum speaks with Former U.S. Senator Mark Udall. (Photo: Cooper Martin)

However, as effective as many of these leaders have been over the many years, greater support and cooperation from state and national government is essential to take the kind of action necessary to keep global temperatures from rising to dangerous levels. Councilmember Matt Appelbaum of Boulder, CO pointed out that “What cities are doing is fabulous, it needs to be done, it creates the foundation on which everything else sits, but you think about what national governments could do, a carbon tax, that would change the whole game immediately.”

You can see interviews from all NLC-led local leaders from the Climate Summit for Local Leaders:

Day 4

by Carolyn Berndt

Day 4 of the UN Climate Negotiations ended with big news: negotiators have agreed on a draft global accord for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. While much work remains to be done as we head into the second week of COP21, NLC and our delegation spent “Action Day” highlighting the work of cities and local leadership in tackling climate change.

Local officials from across the US are recognized for their leadership at the Cities and Regions Pavilion at COP21. (Photo: Cooper Martin)

Local officials from across the US are recognized for their leadership at the Cities and Regions Pavilion at COP21. (Photo: Cooper Martin)

NLC participated in two events recognizing the great progress cities have made toward climate mitigation and the commitments for future action. In the morning, ICLEI hosted a briefing on “Local Action, Global Results” that recapped local climate action since 2007 and recognized the work of all US local officials in developing climate solutions for their communities. Moving beyond recognition, cities across the country are now implementing even more ambitious goals. A key tool to help cities measure progress toward their goals in a transparent matter is ClearPath, which over 300 US cities using this tool for the past three years and which is now available to cities globally. Mayor Libby Schaaf discussed Oakland’s success with ClearPath in measuring greenhouse gas emissions reductions across a variety of policies and programs, including zero waste, land use and transportation.

In the afternoon, NLC partnered with the German Marshall Fund to host a briefing, “Leading from the Front with Equity and Inclusion,” to bring together local officials from the US and Europe to share opportunities and challenges of leading equitable and inclusive climate and clean energy policies that create vibrant cities and regions. Mayors Ralph Becker of Salt Lake City and Kasim Reed of Atlanta participated in the panel, along with NLC CEO and Executive Director Clarence Anthony and local officials from Turkey and Sweden.

Panelists discuss importance of equity and inclusion in climate action plans. (Photo: Carolyn Berndt)

Panelists discuss importance of equity and inclusion in climate action plans. (Photo: Carolyn Berndt)

NLC’s priorities at COP21 include a commitment to inclusion and social justice that goes beyond sustainability and climate change. “Climate change is a reality for our cities every day. Equity and justice are at the heart of what makes our communities strong,” said Mayor Becker. Mayor Reed echoed these sentiments, stating that equity must be part of a city’s core decisions.

Mr. Anthony concluded the panel by stating that local action on equity and inclusion is about “giving a voice to populations that often don’t have a seat at the table, but have a huge stake in the issue and the desire for an equitable solution.”

The day wrapped up with a briefing and reception with the US Ambassador to France, Jane Hartley, on the importance of cities in the negotiation process and a reception hosted by Paris Mayor Anne Hildalgo at the Eiffel Tower.

About the Authors:

Cooper Martin is the Program Director for the Sustainable Cities Institute at the NLC. Follow the program on twitter @sustcitiesinst.

 

Carolyn Berndt is the Program Director for Infrastructure and Sustainability on the NLC Federal Advocacy team. She leads NLC’s advocacy, regulatory, and policy efforts on energy and environmental issues, including water infrastructure and financing, air and water quality, climate change, and energy efficiency. Follow Carolyn on Twitter at @BerndtCarolyn.

The Hottest Item of the Holiday Season May Also Be Illegal

Hoverboards are anticipated to be a trending Christmas gift this year. City officials will need to anticipate how this very popular device fits into the mobility plans in their respective community. (Image via YouTube screen capture)

“You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch.” That’s what residents are singing in Great Britain this Christmas after the government interpreted the Highway Act of 1835 to ban the hoverboard (also known as the self-balancing scooter) from streets and sidewalks. In London, Mayor Boris Johnson is seeking an exemption, characterizing the law as a “ludicrous and nannying prohibition on the electric scooter-surfboard gizmos.”

And it’s not just London in this fight. On this side of the pond, what may prove to be the hottest item of the holiday shopping season may also prove to be illegal in some locales across the United States.

New York and California are the early adopters in terms of state or local actions for or against hoverboards. A new law in California will, after January 1, 2016, treat the motorized two-wheeled devices more like skateboards and bicycles than like the larger handlebar Segway or the motorized scooter. Riders will need to gear-up with personal protection such as a helmet and obey traffic laws just like bicycles. Private land and pedestrian-only zones will remain closed to the devices.

In New York State and New York City the current legal climate is imprecise but bending toward illegality. Because the state legislative language is unclear about applications to devices such as hoverboards, New York City has chosen to adhere to an outright ban. Although enforcement may be nearly impossible, those that do tangle with the NYPD can expect a hefty fine.

Across the country, especially in southern and warmer climate states, the response to the new toy de jeur is mixed. Back in September, a Harris County Texas Sherriff Deputy found himself the subject of a viral YouTube video of his arrest of a youth riding a hoverboard in a local shopping mall.

Over in Tempe, Arizona, the campus of Arizona State University is treating the hoverboard like a skateboard. Neither are allowed in “walk only” zones. If the state legislature is going to act, they will need to wait until after January 1, 2016 when they return to session.

The technical specifications of the hoverboard seem to be at the center of the debate. Many of the boards have a top speed of up to 6 or 7 miles per hour (MPH). However, the higher-end models have a top speed closer to 12-15 MPH. Accidents impacting the rider or another pedestrian can be serious. Worst case scenarios involve large adult riders hitting an infant stroller or plate glass window.

City officials who do not relish the role of Scrooge or any other infamous Christmas villain will need to anticipate how this very popular device fits into the mobility plans in their respective community. Unfortunately, governing does not get a holiday break.

Brooks, J.A. 2010About the Author: James Brooks is NLC’s Director for City Solutions. He specializes in local practice areas related to housing, neighborhoods, infrastructure, and community development and engagement. Follow Jim on Twitter @JamesABrooks.

Your City Has to Fix Sign Codes After Reed – But It’s Manageable

Cities can, should, and must revise their sign codes to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling on Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona. While it might not be easy, and all the fixes won’t make perfect sense, Reed provides cities an opportunity to ask themselves what they want their communities to look like and how they can get there creatively and legally.

yard sale signMunicipal codes treat signs differently, meaning that you may not have to look at spray-painted signs like this in your neighbor’s yard for longer than necessary. (Getty Images)

Sign lawyers (yes, they do exist) agree on one thing and disagree on another. They agree that many sign codes in the United States had problems before the U.S. Supreme Court decided Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona last summer. They disagree on how big of a deal the Reed decision is and, more specifically, on how much Reed changed sign law. Regardless of who is right, post-Reed your city’s sign code is still in trouble.

The good news is that many of the problems are fixable even if the solutions aren’t perfect. The Supreme Court had been clear before Reed that content-based distinctions in sign codes could be unconstitutional. What the Court wasn’t clear about was what exactly content-based distinctions are and how often, practically speaking, they are likely to be unconstitutional. In Reed the Court adopted a broad definition of content-based and concluded that content-based distinctions will almost always be unconstitutional.

Gilbert’s Sign Code treated temporary directional signs less favorably (in terms of size, location, duration, etc.) than political signs and ideological signs. The Supreme Court held unanimously that Gilbert’s Sign Code violated the First Amendment because it made content-based distinctions that in Justice Kagan’s words would not even pass “the laugh test.”

To summarize the Court’s opinion in five words: sign codes must be content-neutral.

Even if this sounds straightforward, it is much easier to understand what problems might exist in your sign code — and how to fix them — using real world examples. According to sign lawyers (before and after Reed), two of the most common problematic provisions in sign codes are special rules for political signs and real estate signs.

Take, for example, a sign code which stipulates that, 30 days before an election and five days after an election, no permit is required for signs that are eight square feet or less that advocate for or oppose a particular candidate.

So why is this provision content-based? Well, only political messages are allowed on these signs. To manage the clutter of too many yard signs while avoiding controlling the content of speech on signs, many communities limit the square footage of signage in a yard. Instead of creating special rules for political signs, communities could allow any message on a certain square footage of signs which would, of course, include political messages.

But what about the fact that during silly season many people want to display multiple political signs which could exceed the normal sign allotment? One option would be to waive the square footage limitation for a time period that would just so happen to coincide with elections. But, of course, yard signs with any non-commercial message would have to be allowed during this sign free-for-all period — not just additional political signs.

Now let’s look at real estate signs. It is not uncommon for sign codes to say that one real estate sign of a particular size and duration is permitted on each lot. Why is this provision content-based? No other messages may be contained on such a sign.

What might be a solution that allows real estate signs? A sign code could say that, if a particular lot is for sale, one additional sign of a particular size and duration is allowed on the lot. This provision would regulate signs based on location and activity, not content. But again, the home owner could put any message on this additional sign — but presumably would put up a message about the property being for sale.

These two examples illustrate the sense and the absurdity of Reed. On one hand, in a democracy where all ideas and opinions are allowed it seems only fair that political messages don’t get special treatment. On the other hand, having special rules for real estate signs makes good practical sense and hardly seems designed to limit the marketplace of ideas.

Cities can, should, and must revise their sign codes to comply with Reed. While it might not be easy, and all the fixes won’t make perfect sense, Reed provides cities an opportunity to ask themselves what they want their communities to look like and how they can get there creatively and legally.

For further background on sign law, an overview of the Reed decision, and more solutions to problems with sign codes, listen to a recording of the SLLC/NLC webinar on Reed. The Fourth Edition of Street Graphics and the Law also contains suggestions on modifying sign codes to comply with Reed.

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.

How to Reduce Arrests of Young People in Your City

Missed our latest juvenile justice reform webinar? Not to worry, now you can watch and listen to Police Protocols to Reduce Arrests of Young People in Your City on YouTube.

This webinar, which took place  on Friday, December 18, 2015, features Deputy Superintendent Michael Gropman of the Brookline, Massachusetts Police Department and Deputy Commissioner Kevin Bethel of the Philadelphia Police Department.

Learn more about Brookline’s pilot of the Massachusetts Arrest Screening Tool for Law Enforcement (MASTLE) and Philadelphia’s efforts to reduce school-based arrests.

The webinar profiles how these two cities have used data and objective assessment criteria to reduce arrests of youth in a developmentally appropriate way. It builds on a new NLC resource that highlights opportunities for cities to ensure the first point of contact between youth and police doesn’t lead to unnecessary involvement in the juvenile justice system.

Heidi Cooper
About the Author: 
Heidi Cooper is the Justice Reform Associate in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families. Contact Heidi at cooper@nlc.org

Anchor Institutions, Motor City Match, and Teacher Housing: This Month in Economic Development

Our monthly roundup of the latest news in economic development filtered through a city-focused lens. This month’s roundup features resources shared at the Congress of Cities (CoC) meeting in Nashville. Reading something interesting? Share it with @robbins617.

Federal Dollars Help Match Business with Bricks and Mortar in Detroit. The Motor City Match program, funded by Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and operated by Detroit’s economic development corporation, pairs local business owners looking to open up a bricks and mortar shop with building owners who have vacant commercial space. In addition to the site selection assistance, the program also provides technical assistance and grant funding to help the businesses grow, and the building owners receive grants to put towards infrastructure improvements. (Program details can be found here.)

The Motor City Match program in Detroit connects business owners with vacant space.

The Motor City Match program in Detroit connects business owners with vacant space.

Improving Local Relationships with Anchor Institutions. The partnership between local governments and anchor institutions is critical, but it’s often difficult to sustain the momentum needed to maintain a mutually beneficial relationship. A research team from the National Resource Network, the Urban Institute, and NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service recently authored a report that provides a roadmap for strengthening relationships with anchor institutions. Striking a Grand (Local) Bargain recommends strategies for establishing a bargain, leveraging support mechanisms, and maintaining an ecosystem for collaboration. Neil Kleiman from NYU recently guest-authored a blog post for NLC summarizing the highlights of the report. (Related: A research brief from Brookings outlines the impact colleges and their graduates have on local economies.)

Bring Your Downtown to Life (NLC Conference Highlights). Cities large and small convened around the importance of making downtown an attractive destination for residents and tourists. San Antonio’s Assistant City Manager, Lori Houston, shared her city’s efforts to revitalize downtown with pop-up shops and a vacant building registration program. Mayor Gary Chesney of Morristown, Tenn., showcased how his city’s downtown bounced back from a devastating flood and is now focusing on revitalizing its main street. Former Mayor of Ventura, Bill Fulton, discussed effective strategies for downtown parking management.

Cutting Red Tape to Promote Business Growth (NLC Conference Highlights). Mayor Tim Reed of Brookings, South Dakota, Mayor Yarber and Jason Goree of Jackson, Miss., and Jessica Casey from the Plymouth Regional Economic Foundation shared advice and best practices on how to streamline city government regulations to promote local business growth. Strategies discussed include a regulatory reform framework, Brookings’ Startup in a Day action plan, and Jackson’s Business Startup Checklist.

No More Waiting in Line, Cities Launch New Permitting Portals. Boston, Indianapolis, and St. Petersburg are all fulfilling their Startup in a Day pledge to create online application portals for business permits and licenses. Mayor Walsh recently launched the Boston Permits & Licenses portal, Mayor Ballard announced OpenCounter Indy, and Mayor Kriseman introduced Stop, Drop & Go for small construction projects in St. Petersburg.

Idea of the Month: Subsidized Housing for Public Educators. Recruiting and retaining a top notch education workforce means providing them with an affordable place to live. Check out how some cities are preventing good teachers from fleeing to the suburbs by offering adorable housing subsidies.

What We’re Reading. PolicyLink’s equitable development toolkits. New York City’s mapping tool of each neighborhoods’ economic indicators.

For a Laugh. Gentrification is by no means a laughing matter, but this South Park episode is. The Comedy Central show’s creators mock how neighborhood transformations often bring luxury condos, Whole Foods, and strange nicknames to formerly underserved parts of town. Welcome to SoDoSoPa.

Emily Robbins

Emily Robbins

About the author: Emily Robbins is the Senior Associate of Finance and Economic Development at NLC. Follow Emily on Twitter: @robbins617.

Early Childhood Success is a Citywide Priority

A well-aligned early care and education system includes streamlined communication and coordinated services that address the full range of academic, behavioral, health and family issues.

teacher with kids - blog(Getty/Jupiterimages)

As a culmination of the National League of Cities’ (NLC) two-year project to help cities align early childhood care and education systems from birth through third grade, NLC hosted the National Briefing for Educational Alignment for Young Children in Washington, D.C. recently. This event brought together high-level federal officials, national organizations and mayors from across the country on a rainy November day to discuss lessons learned from six cities that have been developing citywide systems to promote educational alignment for young children over the last two years.

With the support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families supports cities in their alignment efforts through its Educational Alignment for Young Children (EAYC) initiative.

The six participating EAYC cities, all of which have made significant progress toward aligning resources and services and developing partnerships to improve early childhood care and education, include:

The national briefing featured opening remarks from Clarence Anthony, CEO and executive director of the National League of Cities, and Joelle-Jude Fontaine, program officer for WKKF. Clifford Johnson, executive director of NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families, moderated a panel of three mayors committed to ensuring that families have access to high-quality early care and education for their children. The panelists included Betsy Price, mayor of Fort Worth; Pedro Segarra, mayor of Hartford; and Lovely Warren, mayor of Rochester.

Mayor Price emphasized the need to engage the business community on early learning issues, and Mayor Segarra noted how his city’s control of the school distrticts has influenced their work around educational alignment. Mayor Warren discussed how Rochester is a program-rich community that is working to be more results-driven.

After an engaging discussion that provided a unique mayoral perspective on the necessary building blocks for early childhood success, Dr. Libby Doggett of the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), Dr. Ellen Wheatley of the Administration for Children and Families and Calvin Johnson of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development joined the mayors on stage for comments and Q&A from the audience.

Dr. Doggett stated the need for creative partnerships between DOE and communities, and promoted the use of DOE funds for programs for children ages birth to three. Dr. Wheatley appreciated the mayors’ focus on family engagement and emphasized the need for cities to support all child care providers including home-based providers. Mr. Johnson emphasized HUD’s potential to better support young children living in public housing, highlighting the fact that the number of young children in public housing is so great that they could make up their own large city.

The briefing then segued into table conversations about key takeaways from the panel discussion and next steps for the six EAYC cities. Participants emphasized the importance of local leadership in improving outcomes for cities’ youngest residents.

Other key takeaways include:

  • Stakeholders need more opportunities to exchange and build on innovative ideas and successes.
  • Empowering and listening to parents is critical.
  • Mayors and city councilmembers can act as champions for early childhood by making it a citywide priority.
  • Cities need to think creatively about where and how collaboration can occur, and with whom.

NLC’s National Briefing on Educational Alignment for Young Children brought together a diverse set of voices and perspectives in the early childhood field and beyond to think critically about how policymakers and practitioners can improve outcomes for the nation’s youngest learners. NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education and Families is committed to supporting municipal leadership in early childhood and serving as a resource and facilitator for collaboration within and among cities across the country.

Lauren Robertson
About the Author:
Lauren Robertson is the associate for early childhood in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.