Why Engaging with NLC Helps Your City

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Getting involved with an NLC committee, council or constituency group gives city leaders an edge when it comes to knowing the best practices – and the right people – they need to get the job done for their constituents.

Our constituency groups have been established over the years to reflect the diverse interests and backgrounds of NLC’s membership, and they work collaboratively with NLC to contribute to leadership development, policy formulation, advocacy, and program activities.

This is a guest post by Melodee Colbert-Kean.

I often hear from both new and long-term NLC members about the value of “finding a home” within NLC – whether that home is a federal advocacy committee, a member council, or a constituency group. NLC membership offers extensive networking opportunities, and getting involved with one of these groups gives city leaders an edge when it comes to knowing the best practices – and the right people – they need to get the job done for their constituents.

NLC’s federal advocacy committees in particular are charged with developing our policy positions, and they serve as lead advocates in support of our legislative priorities. Given the challenges that cities faced this year, and the challenges that lie ahead, it’s important that we have strong city leaders, strong advocates, and strong NLC members. This year, the federal advocacy committees served as our lead advocates on many of the issues that matter most to cities. Here’s a quick breakdown of what each committee accomplished.

Finance, Administration and Intergovernmental Relations (FAIR) – Darius Brown, Councilmember, Wilmington, Delaware

The FAIR Committee addressed the many fiscal and infrastructure issues that might pose challenges in the next year. The committee reaffirmed its support for preserving the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds, noting their importance in making Main Street infrastructure improvements. This work builds the foundation of our engagement with the next administration and a new Congress as tax reform and infrastructure are at the forefront of their agendas. Passing e-Fairness legislation was another advocacy priority for NLC, and this year the committee worked hard to put online and Main Street retailers on a level playing field.

Energy, Environment and Natural Resources (EENR) – Ron Nirenberg, Councilmember, San Antonio, Texas

The EENR Committee continued its advocacy efforts on climate change and water infrastructure, focusing on the intersection of the issues as well as financing mechanisms for new and existing infrastructure and integrated planning and affordability issues for communities. NLC continues to urge Congress to resolve the ongoing drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan. On climate, building on NLC’s participation in and support for the U.N. Climate Agreement, NLC and cities across the country advocated support for the Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions.

Human Development (HD) – Leta Mach, Councilmember, Greenbelt, Maryland

The HD Committee continued its advocacy efforts to ensure strong, healthy and welcoming cities for all. This work focused on education and training, specifically the programs and services that can support youth as they prepare for and enter the workforce. The committee also strongly advocated for Zika funding as part of the stopgap spending package passed in September and support to cities during these times of public health crisis.

Community and Economic Development (CED) – Craig Thurmond, Mayor, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

Building off our Cities Lead work this year, the CED Committee developed a resolution supporting a federal agenda for local economic development and entrepreneurship. Economic development and local entrepreneurship remain the top issues for our nation’s cities and towns, according to a comprehensive analysis of mayoral state of the city speeches. Specifically, the resolution calls for an increase in access to capital for small businesses and entrepreneurs and development programs for cities.

Transportation Infrastructure and Services (TIS) – Patrick Wojahn, Mayor, College Park, Maryland

The TIS Committee made several policy changes to help ensure a positive federal response to a rapidly transforming transportation network. For the first time, the TIS committee passed policy addressing long-standing racial inequities both in our transportation infrastructure and in a planning process that has too often ignored communities of color and low income as well as other underserved communities. The committee also passed policy calling on the federal government to partner with cities on the rollout of automated, shared and electric vehicles, as well as policy calling for the Federal Aviation Administration and Congress to not pass any law or regulation that preempts local authority in the regulation of when, where and how drones operate within our communities. Finally, the committee passed a comprehensive resolution calling for Congress and the administration to work on increasing the gas tax and indexing it to inflation and fuel efficiency standards to ensure the long-term health of the Highway Trust Fund.

Public Safety and Crime Prevention (PSCP) – Anthony Anderson, Councilmember, SeaTac, Washington

The PSCP Committee worked on advancing local efforts to improve police-community relations through increased training in de-escalation tactics, racial and implicit bias, and the use of nonlethal force to cultivate police officers as leaders in and guardians of their communities. The committee also advocated for the passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) to authorize additional funding for local governments to combat the opioid epidemic. Finally, the committee’s work focused on advancing policies to reduce gun violence and mass shootings in our communities.

Information Technology and Communications (ITC) – Sheri Capehart, Mayor Pro Tempore, Arlington, Texas

The ITC Committee handles issues relating to technology and telecommunications services, from traditional telephones and cable to broadband internet. This year, the committee focused on consumer protection, expanding access to affordable broadband internet, and opposing state preemption of municipal broadband networks. The committee also worked hard to promote the inclusion of broadband in policy debates about infrastructure and best practices in smart city technologies.

I would like to personally thank the chairs and vice chairs of the advocacy committees for their service to NLC this year and their leadership on these important issues. I also want to thank all the NLC members who served on the committees for bringing their voices and perspectives to the table to develop policy and advocate at the federal level on the issues that matter most to cities. I encourage all NLC members to join a committee, council or constituency group today so that you, too, can take your involvement in local government to the next level.

If you are interested in joining a Federal Advocacy Committee in 2017, the deadline for applying is Nov. 23, 2016. The application can be found here.

About the author: Melodee Colbert-Kean is the president of the National League of Cities and a Joplin, Missouri, councilmember.