Governing the Sharing Economy with Technology

Why is it often difficult for sharing economy providers to comply with city policies? Because, most of the time, the technology cities use to implement these policies are an afterthought during the debate about how best to regulate the sharing economy.

(Photo: miminsurancesolutions.com)

“The process of becoming an Uber driver can be easy and seamless. Companies like Uber take the user experience into account at every step. Now imagine that you’ve just completed one of their applications on your phone, and you start to look into complying with local government regulations. The contrast is glaring. Is it any wonder why compliance rates have been so low?” (Photo: miminsurancesolutions.com)

This is a guest post by Maury Blackman.

What would happen if you and your family were living paycheck to paycheck and you lost your job tomorrow? For more than half of all Americans, this is an all-too-real fear as they have less than a thousand dollars in the bank and little to no financial cushion should a catastrophic life event occur. Whether out of necessity or a desire for greater financial freedom, one of the modern marvels of the headline-grabbing sharing economy is that it can provide citizens immediate access to income if they need it and flexible work arrangements that can fit into complex lives – that is, if the right technology is in place to help them quickly.

Perhaps you have a spare room that could be posted for availability on Airbnb, or a car you could drive for Lyft or Uber. I would venture to say that many Americans are reassured knowing that they can leverage opportunities within the sharing economy to put food on the table, make the next rent or mortgage payment, or pay unforeseen medical bills. And there are others who are using these opportunities to live life on their own terms – for example, driving an Uber in the morning so they can be available to coach their child’s soccer team in the afternoon.

I strongly believe that this emerging piece of our economy, made possible by a convergence of the internet, mobile devices and our nation’s technology entrepreneurs, is a good thing for Americans and our cities.

However, city leaders also have a responsibility to make sure that this new segment of our economy is safe for its citizens and guests, is respectful of neighborhood integrity, and pays for its fair share of the public services that it relies on — just as with any other piece of our economy. Today, across the country, city leaders are considering these issues and looking for the right policy balance.

The policies themselves are taking many forms and involve combinations of permits, licenses, inspections, background checks, reporting requirements and business tax obligations – all of the usual mechanisms of regulation. However, while the regulatory requirements may differ from city to city, one thing seems to be a constant: In order to be in compliance, you must trudge down to at least one, and often multiple, city departments and get in line with your paper forms.

The goals of bringing regulation to this new industry are well-meaning, but compliance rates thus far have been less than stellar. Why? Most of the time, city technology leaders (CIOs, CTOs, etc.) and the technology they will use to actually implement these policies are an afterthought during the policy debate about how best to regulate the sharing economy. This needs to change. Technologists need a seat at the policy table from the get-go.

I’ve worked with innovative governments around the world that are providing their citizens with technology-enabled customer service that rivals the private sector and bridges the gap between citizens and government. Online, not standing in line. This means 24/7 access that is mobile, simple and efficient.

Yet, most cities haven’t gotten around to applying these technology principles to their sharing economy regulations, setting up a stark contrast in customer experience for aspiring sharing economy participants. Imagine that you’re going through the process of becoming an Airbnb host, or an Uber driver, and the user experience is easy and seamless – even beautiful. In fact, you can register right from your smart phone. Companies like Airbnb and Uber take the user experience into account at every step. They understand it is critical to the success of their companies. Now imagine that you’ve just completed one of their online applications and you start to look into complying with local government regulations. The contrast is glaring. Is it any wonder why compliance rates have been so low?

Cities can’t just pass a policy and expect it will work. They must take a page from Silicon Valley and use modern technology to meet the citizen where they are: online.

The sharing economy is not going away. It is a good thing. If you lose your job on Friday, you should be able to drive next week for a ride-hailing app or rent out one of your bedrooms to put food on the table without the fear of getting fined. Government must rise to the challenge and enact smart regulations enabled by agile technology that meet citizens on their own terms in our modern world. If government cannot, we shouldn’t be surprised when citizens fail to comply.

About the Author: Maury Blackman is the President and CEO of Accela, a provider of cloud-based productivity and civic engagement solutions for government with more than 2,200 customers worldwide.

Policy Walking: Why I Wrote This Book

As American folk singer and social activist Pete Seeger once said, “The key to the future of the world is finding the optimistic stories and letting them be known.”

"Rather than X-ray these [city] programs as clinical case studies, I share with the reader the passionate voices of those who designed or currently run the interventions and those who are the beneficiaries – those who have been helped." (Getty Images)

“Rather than X-ray these [city] programs as clinical case studies, I share with the reader the passionate voices of those who designed or currently run the interventions and those who are the beneficiaries – those who have been helped.” (Getty Images)

This is a guest post by NLC Senior Consultant Jack Calhoun. The post originally appeared here.

A few days ago I met the grandmother of a very dear friend who was visiting her granddaughter here in Northern Virginia. Gerie, a woman with a cap of curled white hair, alert blue eyes and a welcoming smile rose to greet me. She extended her hand, giving me a warm, firm handshake, saying, “I am so happy to meet you! I just finished your book. You inspired me! I want to do something! I’m looking for ways to help – and I’m 80 years old!”

This was totally unexpected. I wrote Policy Walking: Lighting the Path to Safer Communities, Stronger Families and Thriving Youth to spotlight programs from across the nation that promised better futures for vulnerable children, youth and families and the fragile communities in which they live. The programs – ranging from those for the smallest children to returning offenders, from policies to renewal of communities – proclaim real, proven hope.

But rather than X-ray these programs as clinical case studies, I share with the reader the passionate voices of those who designed or currently run the interventions and those who are the beneficiaries – those who have been helped. And I write about the leadership it takes to get this necessary work done.

I also explore why I took my path, what kept and keeps me on it – from those who have gone before, travel companions from whom I learn and who continue to inspire me to values given me by others along with a deep belief in social justice. My path began with youth and community development work in Boston, to running two non-profit organizations through to two governmental appointments, one by a governor and another by a president.

Policy Walking strives to convey that policies are more than paper and politics – that at their heart, policies are of people – made by people to help people. For those who are tired, I aim to reignite the spark that put you on your path. And for those just starting out, I want to fill you with hope.

If I’ve done nothing else, I want you to feel a surge, or a re-surge, of optimism. I want you to look up from Policy Walking saying, “Yes, I can do that! I should do that!”

Pete Seeger, the renowned folk singer and social justice advocate, remained determinedly optimistic throughout his life.  “The key to the future of the world,” he said, “is finding the optimistic stories and letting them be known.” I have tried to do this, and I owe the people in my book a debt of gratitude for the lives they have changed – including mine – and the policies they have helped to generate.

I originally intended my book for those who make policy, those who run programs (policy walkers) and the academics who teach leadership, public policy and social or counseling work (and even theology).

My ultimate goals: provide information; inspire action.

But never, ever did I imagine that an 80-year-old woman would say to me, “You have inspired me to act.”

If your reaction is but a fraction of Gerie’s, then Policy Walking will have done its job.

Jack CalhounAbout the Author: John A. “Jack” Calhoun is an internationally-renowned public speaker and frequent media guest and editorial contributor. He currently serves as Senior Consultant to the National League of Cities and is the founder and CEO of Hope Matters. For more than 20 years, Mr. Calhoun was the founding president of the National Crime Prevention Council, prior to which he served under President Carter as the Commissioner of the Administration for Children, Youth and Families.

Your City Can Create Local, Sustainable Water Infrastructure

WaterNow Alliance is partnering with NLC to help cities implement a new paradigm that aligns water supply with sustainability.

(Photo: draqza/DeviantArt)

The Hetch Hetchy reservoir in Yosemite National Park, California, serves as the primary water source for the city of San Francisco and several surrounding municipalities. It is estimated that California cities and town could generate 3-5 million acre-feet of water per year through sustainability measures – more than 10 times the capacity of the reservoir. (Photo: draqza/DeviantArt)

This is a guest post by Cynthia Koehler.

Much of America’s urban water infrastructure is aging and in decay.  The list of water infrastructure needs remains, as ever, large and largely unfunded. But there is a path forward, and WaterNow Alliance is positioning local officials to lead the way.

Water efficiency and other sustainable water strategies can substantially delay, and even avoid entirely, the need to develop more expensive new water supplies. Innovative technologies, like smart leak detection, cloud-based landscape irrigation controllers, coupled with other water saving methods, like rebates for turf removal and greywater reuse, can generate the equivalent of millions of acre-feet of avoided new water needs.

Local water utilities account for the vast majority of spending on water infrastructure nationwide. These governing boards set the policies, rates and direction that will determine how, and from where, homes, institutions, industry and businesses get their water. In the face of a rapidly changing climate and increasing drought patterns across the West, support for local adoption of efficiency, green infrastructure, reuse and other sustainable water solutions on a broad scale is growing. So while city councils, water districts, and regional authorities are funding traditional infrastructure, they also have the opportunity to support innovative new technologies that can ease the burden on existing systems and allow communities to grow without over drafting their realistic water budget. The National League of Cities (NLC) has long recognized that local governmental officials hold the key to unlocking the promise of sustainability – that’s why WaterNow Alliance is partnering with NLC to jumpstart this effort.

What is WaterNow Alliance?

WaterNow Alliance is a growing network of local elected officials, staffed by and partnered with experts in sustainability and resilience, working with leaders in technology, academia, and government. The Alliance is accelerating a new shift toward adoption of sustainable water solutions at scale educating and galvanizing water leaders, and helping them implement a new paradigm that aligns water supply with sustainability. WaterNow Alliance is a focused effort to build confidence in, and support for, water innovation, to help communities move more quickly to adopt and implement sustainable practices and technologies. Its purpose is to catalyze a fundamental shift in urban water management, making sustainable water strategies the new normal.

How does the Alliance do it?

WaterNow Alliance focuses on three major areas of work: strategic partnerships, high impact policy, and on-the-ground projects.

With their partners network, the Alliance convenes summits to engage local elected and appointed officials, educates them on state-of-the-art solutions and innovations, connects them to technology leaders and others working on similar problems in other communities, and provides them with a collective voice on state and national policies that can hinder the rapid and widespread adoption of water conservation practices and sustainable infrastructure investments. The Alliance’s Inaugural Water Summit was held in March 2016 in partnership with Arizona State University in Tempe Arizona, and included more than 50 officials from across the West.

The Alliance develops policy guidance and analysis to break down barriers to sustainable practices, and leverages its network to facilitate rapid change. For example, the Alliance is working with the White House to reverse federal tax policy that undermines local water efficiency incentive programs by treating these rebates as taxable income.  In addition, the Alliance has taken the lead on clarifying rules for how and when water utilities can use their municipal bonding capacity to provide flexible financing opportunities for water conservation infrastructure. This is a major initiative, and working with experts from the business and partners from the nonprofit and utility sector, WaterNow Alliance hopes to unlock the potential for millions in utility capital for unconventional, decentralized water solutions.

And finally, the Alliance implements projects with local partners to showcase innovation and demonstrate the feasibility of sustainable water options to have significant beneficial impacts for communities. For example, the Alliance has partnered with multiple cities in California to train and certify contractors and landscape professionals on water efficient landscaping and graywater reuse systems. We have also designed rebate programs, and we’re working with a county and a water utility on adopting smart leak detection. The Alliance specifically selects projects that can be repeated in other communities and scaled for greater impact.

For more about the Alliance’s successful work in its launch year, including footage from its first Summit, watch this short video:

How do I get involved?

WaterNow Alliance is a rapidly expanding group of water leaders interested in expanding opportunities to adopt sustainable water strategies in their communities. To join the Alliance, sign up here! You’ll get access to exclusive resources, a growing peer-to-peer network to share experiences and best practices, a newsletter with timely information about water solutions, invitations to Alliance summits, input on what policy issues the Alliance should address, the option to showcase your sustainability initiatives through the Alliance, and the opportunity to partner with the Alliance on water projects in your community.

About the Author: Cynthia Koehler is the co-founder and executive director of the WaterNow Alliance, a nonprofit network of water leaders dedicated to catalyzing sustainable water solutions. She has pioneered innovations in state and federal water law to advance sustainability, and is a recognized leader in Western water policy. Prior to WNA, she served as Legislative Director for California Water for the Environmental Defense Fund, and Legal Director for Save San Francisco Bay.

How to Protect Fast-Growing Cities from Failing

As part of our efforts to promote professional development among city leaders, each week we’ll be featuring a new TED Talk focused on cities, community issues or local government. With our recent focus on infrastructure, this week’s talk centers on managing urban growth.

Worldwide, violence is on the decline, but in the crowded cities of the global south — cities like Aleppo, Bamako and Caracas — violence is actually accelerating, fueled by the drug trade, mass unemployment and civil unrest. Security researcher Robert Muggah turns our attention toward these “fragile cities,” super-fast-growing places where infrastructure is weak and government often ineffective. He shows us the four big risks we face, and offers a way to change course.

Paul Konz headshotAbout the Author: Paul Konz is the Senior Editor at the National League of Cities.

6 Things Cities Can Do When Commercial Space Becomes Unaffordable

As rents are skyrocketing in cities around the country, smart city policy has an important role to play in keeping commercial space affordable and appropriate for local entrepreneurs.

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In Boston’s innovation district, the support infrastructure that young companies need to grow – including incubators and accelerators, as well as law, design, advertising, and other professional services firms – provides the healthy ecosystem necessary for innovative companies to thrive. However, the cost of rent is increasing in the district as high-end new developments crowd out early stage entrepreneurial activities. (Getty Images)

All joking aside, the rent really is too damn high. That’s the sentiment of many business owners across the country who faced double-digit rent increases over the past year. According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) the price of retail leases spiked by as much as 26 percent in some cities. This issue is also widespread, with nearly 70 percent of cities indicating in our recent local economic conditions survey that commercial property values had increased.

Although improving property values is a sign of a strengthening economy, it is also a double-edged sword with serious equity implications. At best, businesses cut inventory or minimize staff to absorb higher rental costs, and at worst, they relocate to a different neighborhood or go out of business entirely. Due to their thinner profit margins, local businesses and startups are more likely to be negatively impacted by rising rents.

So what exactly is causing this problem in the retail market, and what are cities doing about it? That’s the exact question ILSR answers in a new report on affordable commercial space. The publication explores both the causes of the problem and potental policy solutions, and it serves as a helpful guidebook for mayors and their economic development teams.

“As rents are skyrocketing in cities around the country, smart city policy has an important role to play in keeping commercial space affordable and appropriate for local entrepreneurs,” said report co-author, Olivia LaVecchia. “By maintaining a built environment where locally owned businesses can thrive, cities can also advance other important goals, from expanding jobs to reducing inequality.”

The ILSR research explains how the lack of affordable retail space is caused in part by the physical restrictions of most cities’ commercial building stock. Newer developments tend to include large-size commercial space that is often too big (and expensive) for a what a small businesses realistically needs to lease. There is also more competition from national chains for downtown commercial space, as these larger-format stores are now moving into more urban markets after establishing themselves in the suburbs.

The good news is that municipalities can take the reigns of several policy levers to help ensure small business owners have a fair shot at leasing space in high-demand commercial corridors. These policy strategies leverage a city’s powers with the zoning process, property taxation, and subsidies. The policy recommendations for local government outlined by ILSR are:

Support lease-to-own programs. Small business owners often confront affordability obstacles when renewing their leases because this is the point in time when landlords can drastically increases rental prices. These hurdles can be avoided by helping more local businesses own their commercial space. The Buy Your Building Loan Fund in Salt Lake City helps provide businesses with the financing needed to transition from leasing to owning.

Incentivize landlords to use fair, affordable leasing terms. Another vehicle cities can use to help maintain affordability is property taxes. Property tax credits for landlords who offer affordable lease terms (like a long-term lease, incremental rent increases, and the ability to negotiate lease terms within a realistic timeline) may help keep prices steady.

Prevent commercial vacancies. Buildings that remain vacant are not only eyesores but also drive up the price of real estate in the larger area, especially in hot markets where demand exceeds supply. San Francisco has taken aim at this issue by fining building owners who allow their property to be empty for more than 270 consecutive days.

Leverage zoning powers to preserve small-size retail spaces. A city’s zoning code can be used to proactively preserve affordable retail space, particularly if the regulations protect historic districts from redevelopment, require diversity in square footage, or prohibit the conglomeration of several small-size spaces into a larger one. In Phoenix, for example, the city’s Adaptive Resuse Program waives permit fees and fast-tracks approvals for projects that will adapt historic buildings for future use by local small businesses.

Encourage (or legislate) set-asides for affordable commercial space in new developments. When a new development project is up for approval, the city can encourage or require that the developer devote a percentage of total commercial units at an affordable, or below-market, rate to businesses. Both Austin and Minneapolis utilize this approach on a case-by-case basis, while Cambridge, Mass., has legislation on the books mandating new real estate developments incorporate space for startups and new entrepreneurs.

Lead by example as a fair landlord. Cities are landlords too and can set the tone for keeping commercial space affordable and accessible to businesses of all types and sizes. One of the more recent examples of this in practice is Seattle’s renovated King Street Station. City leaders are prioritizing local businesses for the station’s updated retail space.

All of these strategies are ripe for replication in cities looking for ways to mitigate rising commercial property costs and maintain a strong economic base of local businesses.

About the Author: Emily Robbins is Principal Associate for Economic Development at NLC. Follow Emily on Twitter @robbins617.

How Cities Are Paying for Local Infrastructure

Cities can no longer look to their states or the federal government for funding – they need the authority to find creative local solutions. Fortunately, a patchwork of new and traditional tools and approaches is at their disposal.

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The way fiscal tools work in each jurisdiction is very much dependent upon the political nuances, demographic makeup and the types of challenges specific to each city. For example, some cities might pay for road repairs through public-private partnerships, while others might use funds from state infrastructure banks. (Getty Images)

As the infrastructure deficit grows in our cities, so do questions about how to pay for these critical systems. Funding from the federal and state levels is uncertain at best, placing increasing pressure on local governments to take the lead. But political realities coupled with unequal access to local revenue tools means some don’t have the authority they need to answer the call.

In April, for example, voters in Pulaski County, Arkansas, rejected a quarter-percentage-point sales tax increase that would have been the area’s first tax dedicated to transit, projected to raise $18 million annually for bus-service expansion and the creation of bus lanes. The proposed tax drew widespread support within the city of Little Rock, but not in other parts of the county.

Local governments in Arkansas are among those in 29 states that are permitted to levy a local-option sales tax. But even where that authority is granted, additional limitations on these powers stand in the way. Voter approval is just one implementation hurdle states impose on their cities. Others include rate caps and matching requirements that restrict the ability of cities to meet growing infrastructure demands.

The infrastructure funding relationship that cities have with their states is a complex one. Declining state gas-tax revenues have made state programs and funding to cities increasingly unreliable. Some states are even diverting dedicated gas-tax revenue to balance their state budgets or raiding local revenues to help fill their own maintenance funding gaps. In the rare instances where states have budget surpluses, as in Minnesota, lawmakers are favoring one-time spending increases on transportation over permanent tax increases.

State spending priorities, both for state capital program and infrastructure grants to cities, are often not aligned with city needs or priorities. For example, in New Hampshire, the state implemented a moratorium on aid grants for water and sewer projects even though cities had already completed some of the projects with the intention of using state grants to help retire bond payments.

In short, local governments’ access to revenue-raising tools is highly uneven across the country. Our new report, “Paying for Local Infrastructure in a New Era of Federalism,” examines the wide variance: While 29 states authorize local-option sales taxes, for example, only 16 allow local-option fuel taxes. Twenty six states allow local-option motor-vehicle registration fees. Thirty-two states authorize public-private partnerships, and 27 have state infrastructure banks.

The way these tools work in each jurisdiction is very much dependent upon the political nuances, demographic makeup and the types of challenges specific to each city. The political landscape in many states is also antagonistic toward cities, particularly for new local taxes and transit projects that are perceived only to serve certain constituencies.

When paying for infrastructure becomes entwined with these sentiments, it is even more evident that cities and their local partners must find other ways. Cities with access to a state infrastructure bank, like those in California, are finding success, but often these banks are restricted to particular uses and particular cities within a state — if they are funded at all.

As a result of the limited options available to cities, some are exploring riskier ways to fund infrastructure, including direct loans and pension obligation bonds. Some are turning to smart-city technologies to increase efficiencies and decrease costs, and others are looking to unlock the value from underutilized assets like parking, lighting and obsolete payphones.

The reason cities are experimenting with a patchwork of new and traditional tools and approaches is because they have to. More funding from federal and state partners would certainly be welcomed. Even more pressing is the need for greater communication and alignment of priorities between levels of government, along with the local authority to implement creative solutions to closing the infrastructure deficit.

This post originally appeared in Governing, and is subject to copyright. It has been republished with permission.

About the Authors:

Christiana K. McFarland is NLC’s Research Director. Follow Christy on Twitter at @ckmcfarland.

 

 

Nicole DuPuis is the Senior Associate for Infrastructure in NLC’s Center for City Solutions and Applied Research. Follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicolemdupuis.

What America’s Infrastructure Needs, According to These Elected Leaders

For Infrastructure Week 2016, we asked several prominent leaders, including Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Mayor Patrick Wojahn, and Senator Jim Inhofe, to share their thoughts on American infrastructure now and in the future. Here’s what they had to say.

Fix the Federal Partnership, or Cities Will Bear the Burden of an Uncertain Transportation Future

Congressman Earl Blumenauer explains that the world of transportation is undertaking a radical change that makes vanishing fuel tax revenue the tip of the iceberg.

#TrailsMatter: The Need to Invest in Trails and Bicycle and Pedestrian Networks

College Park, Maryland, Mayor Patrick Wojahn explains why so many local governments are investing in trails – and walking and biking – as a means of transportation.

3 Ways Infrastructure Drives Economic Development

Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, Mayor Craig Thurmond shares exactly how the practice of placing a high level of importance on maintaining and expanding infrastructure has resulted in successful economic outcomes for his city.

Why Infrastructure Matters

Syracuse, New York, Mayor Stephanie Miner explains why she places a high importance on sharing innovative solutions to the infrastructure challenges facing our cities and states.

In San Antonio, Investment in Water is Priority Number One

As Councilmember Ron Nirenberg explains, San Antonio has made a number of strategic investments to diversify its water portfolio and ensure long-term water security.

Infrastructure Is the Economic Foundation of Our Communities and Country

Senator Jim Inhofe explains why he is committed to addressing the infrastructure needs of the nation with the Water Resources Development Act of 2016.

Broadband Isn’t a Luxury – It’s Infrastructure

As Arlington, Texas, Mayor Pro Tempore Sheri Capehart notes, closing the broadband adoption gap is where city leaders can shine.

About the Author: Paul Konz is the Senior Editor at the National League of Cities.

The 4 Commandments of Cities

As part of our efforts to promote professional development among city leaders, each week we’ll be featuring a new TED Talk focused on cities, community issues or local government. As this is Infrastructure Week, this week’s talk centers on one mayor’s plan to improve his city’s roads and transportation options as well as other systems.

Eduardo Paes is the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, a sprawling, complicated, beautiful city of 6.5 million. He shares four big ideas about leading Rio — and all cities — into the future, including bold (and do-able) infrastructure upgrades and how to make a city “smarter.”

Paul Konz headshotAbout the Author: Paul Konz is the Senior Editor at the National League of Cities.

Webinar: How Elected Leaders and Economic Developers Can Work Together for Cities

On May 24, the National League of Cities will join the International Economic Development Council in hosting an hour-long webinar on the ways these partnerships can advance local economic goals.

This is a guest post by Jeff Finkle, President and CEO of the International Economic Development Council (IEDC).  

Good jobs, fair taxes, and community health; these goals reflect the promises many elected leaders have made to their constituents. But how will these goals be accomplished? One key person in your community who can help to bring these promises to reality is an economic development professional.

Economic developers exist at every level of government: city, county, regional, and state. The International Economic Development Council is the premier organization offering support, certification and research for this group of professionals as they champion programs that seek to improve the economic well-being of communities by creating and retaining jobs that facilitate growth and provide a stable tax base.

Creating these programs requires support from every facet of the community, and especially from elected officials. Elected officials can support the design and implementation of public policies, raise awareness of key issues and solutions, provide the right level of resources, and help develop and communicate a common economic vision.

The support of local elected leaders is a critical factor in successful economic development. To put it simply, neither economic developers nor elected leaders will generate optimal economic results without the other.

Want proof of the dynamic results of economic development and elected leader partnerships? Next week, the National League of Cities will join the International Economic Development Council in hosting an hour-long webinar to explore these important relationships. Join us on Tuesday, May 24, from 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. EDT for “Tales from the Trenches: Elected Leaders and Economic Developers Working Together.” During this webinar, you’ll hear about successful partnerships from economic developers and elected leaders such as:

  • St. Charles, Missouri, Mayor Sally Faith, who will share how her city has upgraded their infrastructure, including adding mixed use corridors, improving parking and public service facilities, and spearheading a $63 million renovation of the Blanchette Bridge
  • Chief Executive Officer and President of the Greater Beaumont Chamber of Commerce in Beaumont, Texas, and Silsbee, Texas, former Mayor Regina Lindsey, who will share how she has worked with her local elected leaders to shape an economic development strategic plan that includes business retention, expansion, and attraction, including from foreign markets

During the webinar, our speakers will explain how elected officials can become partners in communicating your economic vision, tactics for keeping elected officials aware of trends and changes in your community and beyond, and how to engage elected officials in seeking resources including grants from state, federal and foundation sources.

The hour-long webinar is designed to benefit both economic developers and elected leaders, as well as their staff, their peers in city hall, and their colleagues at partner economic development organizations. There is no cost, and the speakers and representatives of NLC and IEDC will be available for your questions afterward. Register here for a candid, informative discussion of the ways these partnerships can benefit your city.

jeffinkleAbout the Author: As President and CEO of the International Economic Development Council (IEDC), Jeff Finkle is a recognized leader and authority on economic development.

#TrailsMatter: The Need to Invest in Trails and Bicycle and Pedestrian Networks

College Park, Maryland, Mayor Patrick Wojahn explains why so many local governments are investing in trails – and walking and biking – as a means of transportation.

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“While local officials have historically seen trail networks primarily as a means of recreation, people are increasingly using them as ways to get to work, school, or wherever they need to go.” (Getty Images)

This is a guest post by Mayor Patrick Wojahn of College Park, Maryland.

For decades, the story of our nation’s infrastructure has been one of partnership. Local governments, often best able to assess the needs of their constituents in terms of getting around and accessing jobs, retail opportunities and education, set the priorities for transportation funding on the local level. State and federal governments, on the other hand, provide the resources necessary to make those connections and coordinate transportation networks between local governments.

In recent years, local governments have realized more and more the importance of a multimodal transportation network that takes most advantage of the many ways in which people can travel from one place to another. Decades after many local transit networks were dismantled in favor of cars and buses, public transit has seen a resurgence, as local governments work to rebuild streetcar networks and pursue more recent strategies such as bus rapid transit.

Local governments have made a significant investment in safe facilities for walking and bicycling, including trails and networks of protected active transportation infrastructure. Cities all over the United States are connecting safe networks for bicycling and walking through sidewalks, protected bike lanes, cycle tracks, and multi-use trails. While local officials have historically seen trail networks primarily as a means of recreation, people are increasingly using them as ways to get to work, school, or wherever they need to go. More and more, local governments are investing in trails and walking and biking as a means of transportation.

The reasons for this are many. Currently, one-quarter of the trips that all Americans take are under one mile in distance – easy walking distance – and one-half of those trips are less than three miles in distance – easy bicycling distance. Building safe infrastructure for bicycling and walking allows people to take those trips without getting in their cars, reducing congestion. It also makes us healthier – more than 200,000 deaths per year from stroke and heart disease could be prevented through the adoption of healthier lifestyles that include 30 minutes of daily physical activity, which also improves our mood and helps combat depression. And it is better for our environment – switching from driving to biking and walking for short trips could save 1.7 billion gallons of fuel annually and reduce carbon dioxide emissions up to 14 million tons per year.

The fact that Infrastructure Week falls during May – Bike Month – and also coincides with Bike to Work Day (Friday, May 20) is an opportunity to highlight the need for continued investment in infrastructure serving bicyclists as well as pedestrians. Local governments have recognized more and more the value of these assets as a transportation resource in their communities, and in many cases have increased the investment in biking and walking. Federal participation in this effort, however, has decreased in recent years. During Infrastructure Week, organizations like Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and the National League of Cities call on Congress to increase federal investment in bicycle and pedestrian networks, and to enable local governments to build the bicycling and walking facilities that will best serve their residents.

About the Author: Patrick Wojahn is Mayor of College Park, Maryland, and also serves as chair of the National League of Cities Transportation and Infrastructure Service Policy Committee. Patrick works full-time as Director of Government Relations at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, advocating for funding for trails and bicycle and pedestrian networks on the federal, state and local levels.