Highlights from the 2016 City Summit: Leadership & Professional Development

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A quick look at some of the sessions, workshops & seminars held at last week’s national conference that helped attendees further their skills as city leaders.

More than 150 youth delegates from cities around the country engaged in multiple sessions to build their leadership skills, develop ideas for how they can support equity and youth civic engagement, and network with each other and elected officials. (Jason Dixson)

Workshops, Sessions & Panels

Mayors’ Education Task Force – This task force came together on Friday to identify educational priorities that can be lifted up and shared with the new presidential administration. Mayor Betsy Hodges of Minneapolis, Minnesota, chair of the Mayors’ Education Task Force, is committed to advocating for the educational priorities of the task force and working in partnership with President-Elect Trump’s transition team as they develop their education agenda. Mayor Jeff Longwell of Wichita, Kansas, spoke about the opportunity to build on access and affordability for skills training that will provide living wage jobs for citizens of cities across the nation, a priority that may resonate with the next administration.

Taking Action on Economic Opportunity – Aligning with NLC President Matt Zone’s commitment to make economic opportunity a centerpiece of is leadership, this workshop featured four cities that have promising strategies in place to decrease economic inequities: Boston, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Tacoma. Strategies shared included comprehensive city-wide plans to address inequities, minimum wage and paid leave ordinances, community benefit agreements, equitable economic development, and housing. Each city also shared how they are trying to implement these strategies using a race equity lens to ensure that they benefit all residents.

Addressing the Opioid Epidemic in Small Cities – This workshop focused on cities securing their own data on overdoses and overdose deaths, making use of discounts on the medication Naloxone from the U.S. Communities Government Purchasing Alliance, ending the stigma associated with the illness of substance abuse and addiction, seeking ways to offer treatment instead of incarceration, and the necessity of local officials to speak openly and lead aggressively to stem this health crisis. As keynote speaker Mayor Stephen Williams of Huntington, West Virginia, noted, “If you can name the problem, you can own the problem – and if you own the problem, you have a chance to defeat it.”

Promoting Economic Development and Public Safety through Afterschool and Summer Learning Opportunities – Mayor Jennifer Roberts of Charlotte, North Carolina, spoke passionately about the power of afterschool programs and her efforts to host an Afterschool Summit with the first 90 days of her term. Charlotte Councilmember At-Large James Mitchell, Jr., stated, “Afterschool programs not only support academic achievement, they support economic development and produce engaged citizens that our cities need.” Deputy Director Jamie Beechey from Pittsburgh Parks and Recreation and Pittsburgh Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Dara Ware Allen showcased their strong partnership to share data and improve the quality of afterschool programs throughout their city.

Law Enforcement for Today’s City – This workshop presented NLC members with three successful examples of how city leaders can achieve positive outcomes by rethinking the role of law enforcement. The cities of Tallahassee, Florida, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Irvine, California, shared local models of early diversion and support for residents with mental health needs.

Summer Jobs for Successful Futures – This highly interactive workshop centered around a discussion about how city leaders can push the number of participants in summer jobs programs upwards. Martha Ross brought the intellectual heft of Brookings to the moderator’s chair, Desmond Brown of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau brought a focus on using summer jobs to connect young people with bank accounts, and Stefani Pashman of Pittsburgh and Ronnie Steine of Nashville addressed program scaling. The consensus recommendation: set initially approachable goals and get the right systems for recruiting, placing, training supervisors, and paying participants in place.

Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness panel – On Thursday, City Summit attendees heard about how to build on the progress seen on veteran homelessness and the future of the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. Panelists included Mayor Lovely Warren of Rochester, New York, federal partners, and leaders at the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, the National Alliance to End Homelessness, and Community Solutions. Click here for more information on the Mayors Challenge.

SolSmart City Spotlight Session – SolSmart recognized seven new communities for making it faster, easier, and cheaper to go solar. The city of Indianapolis, Indiana, received SolSmart Silver designation. Charleston County, South Carolina; Inyo County, California; Perry, Iowa; Orlando, Florida; Pinecrest, Florida; and West Hollywood, California, each received SolSmart Bronze designation. Additionally, two communities previously designated SolSmart Bronze moved up to the SolSmart Gold designation: Claremont, California, and Redwood City, California.

NLC Solution Sessions – these sessions showcased best practices from 15 partners that cities can adopt to address the challenges their communities face. Industry experts along with city leaders discussed innovative solutions for economic development, mobility, technology, health, energy and human capital.

Seminars, Meetings, Receptions & More

Constituency Group Affinity Reception – This event brought together all five of NLC’s constituency groups for an evening of networking and celebration. Five individuals local to Pittsburgh, one nominated by each constituency group, were honored for their work as change agents who advocate every day on behalf of their communities. This year’s awardees were: Jim Jen, Executive Director & Chief Officer, AlphaLab, and Executive Director of Innovation Works; Maritza Mosquera, Artist, Educator, and Community-Transformation Partner; Bruce A. Kraus, Council President, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Alma Speed Fox, Trailblazer and Longtime Activist; and Natalia Rudiak, Councilmember, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

WIMG Leadership Award Luncheon and Roundtable Discussions – Carolyn H. Bell, Mayor Pro Tem of Savannah, Georgia, was announced as this year’s recipient of the annual WIMG Leadership Award. She has been a city government administrator for more than 30 years, serving as Mayor Pro Tem for almost five years, and has developed and implemented programs to help engage all levels of Savannah’s constituents. Mayor Pro Tem Bell initiated the “Ask an Alderman” program, partnering with each of the district’s aldermen to take the elected officials and city staff to the people to give them an opportunity to voice their concerns and file service requests for issues in their respective districts. She also helped launch the mayor’s summer internship program, Summer 500, for rising high school seniors. Through a partnership with the public, private, and nonprofit communities, Summer 500 successfully placed 300 youth in 112 businesses across the city of Savannah.

Afterschool Policy Advisors’ Network (APAN) Luncheon – APAN is one of the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families (YEF Institute) peer networks for local elected officials and senior municipal staff who are committed to afterschool programs or are interested in learning how to provide quality afterschool and/or summer learning opportunities for children and youth. At this event, Bela Shah Spooner, NLC’s Program Manager for Expanded Learning, shared new research with the audience on the changing future workforce, the range of skills that employers predict will be in high demand a decade from now, and how these skills can be taught in afterschool and summer learning programs to support workforce development. NLC First Vice President and Little Rock, Arkansas, Mayor Mark Stodola reiterated his strong support for afterschool programs in his city – Little Rock has a dedicated tax and funding stream that invests $5.5 million in this arena – as well as his support for the NLC’s YEF Institute. Leaders from the Wallace Foundation and the National Summer Learning Association shared information on summer learning, summer jobs, and ideas on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education. Participants engaged in a rich discussion about how to reach the neediest youth, ensure programs meet their needs and interests, partner with schools and counties, engage business, and how to get started overall. Audrey M. Hutchinson, NLC’s Education and Expanded Learning Director, said “The number of cities coordinating afterschool and summer efforts across the country continues to grow. Action happens at the local level and municpal leaders are uniquely poised to address the afterschool access gap.” NLC member cities can join APAN anytime at no cost by emailing spooner@nlc.org.

NLCU Seminar: UrbanPlan – UrbanPlan is a realistic, engaging exercise in which participants learn about the fundamental forces that affect real estate development in our communities. Participants experienced the challenging issues, private and public sector roles, complex trade-offs, and fundamental economics in play when proposing realistic land use solutions to vexing growth challenges. NLC members learned from experts recruited by the Urban Land Institute, including developers, planners, and designers.

Rose Fellowship Retreat – Mayors Ethan Berkowitz of Anchorage, Rosalynn Bliss of Grand Rapids, Sam Liccardo of San Jose, and Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C., led teams from their cities in this year’s Rose Fellowship, which will receive technical assistance on a local land use challenge from NLC, the Urban Land Institute, and their peers from the other fellowship cities. The four city teams convened for an all-day retreat where they heard from the outgoing class of team leaders from Birmingham, Denver, Long Beach, and Rochester about the work they have accomplished on land use challenges in their cities during the year-long Rose Fellowship.

Prosperity Playbook Meeting – Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro led a discussion among three mayors about successes and barriers in their cities and regions: Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee, and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. Following the mayors panel, leaders from 15 cities across the country discussed the need for cities to lead and share strategies to further fair housing, promote access to economic opportunity, and develop regional approaches to address these challenges, especially to keep these topics front-and-center with a new administration at HUD.

NLC Member Benefits – Attendees who missed any information provided at the NLC Showcase Theater or the Savings and Solutions booth can review all programs and savings available to NLC members here. You can also check out NLC’s newest member benefit, Grant Access, a database which allows NLC members to access more than 5,800 federal, state and local grant opportunities, search grant categories by funder type or funder name, and set up personalized grant alerts.

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