A New President. A New Congress. Why You Need to Make it to CCC This Year.

At the Congressional City Conference, you’ll unite with over 1,500 leaders on the same mission as you – to make your community (and your state, our country, and the world) a better place. (Jason Dixson)

Washington is a-changin’.

No matter what side of the political spectrum you fall on, 2017 will usher in major changes in Washington with a new President, new Administration, and new Congress. Hear from and meet members of the new Administration and better understand the priorities for the President’s first 100 days in office, especially from the local government perspective. In the general and workshop sessions, you’ll learn about current and emerging topics and position yourself to make the best decisions for your city.

Your voice matters.

Make an impact for your city and for cities across America. The Congressional City Conference is not just about education. Advocacy is one of the key purposes of the National League of Cities, and this conference is our major advocacy push for the year. Participate in our annual Capitol Hill Advocacy Day on Wednesday, March 15 – we’ll arrange meetings for you to discuss the issues that matter to cities with your members of Congress. You’ll also have the opportunity to attend our Advocacy 101 workshop training during the conference, where you’ll learn the ins and outs of advocacy, including how to speak up in Washington and from your hometown throughout the year. Don’t underestimate the impact of your voice!

Surround yourself with bright people.

Your next great idea may come from your neighbor in the general session audience. Or someone you bump into in the conference hallway between workshops. Or perhaps the early risers at that breakfast session that piques your interest. The point is, at each conference we hear about how valuable the networking is at NLC conferences. These events serve as a space to share ideas with other local officials from cities large and small across the U.S., hear different perspectives, and open your mind to new possibilities for your community.

Renew your energy for your role as a local official.

At the Congressional City Conference, you’ll unite with over 1,500 leaders on the same mission as you – to make your community (and your state, our country, and the world) a better place. Bring your ambitious spirit to Washington to get the boost you need in accomplishing your work at home. Make a resolution now to be part of this event and start planning your March trip!

Visit the CCC website to register now!

headshot2About the author: Ali Clark supports the marketing and digital engagement functions of the National League of Cities. She develops and executes strategies to increase awareness about NLC’s conferences and events, and ensures members and interested parties can find the information they need online.

NLC Has Changed Its Membership Model. Here’s What’s In Store For You.

Driven by a singular focus on enhancing your membership experience, our new membership model is divided into regions; we advocate for local government, so we’re taking a local approach. Meet your new Member Services and Engagement team and see what they can do by focusing on the specific needs of your community.

New Regional Model

NLC’s new Membership and Engagement model is divided into 4 regions: Northeast & Mid-Atlantic, South, Midwest and West.

photo - Vice Mayor Dot LaMarche  Seantae Byers, Director of Member Services and Engagement 

My name is Seantae Byers, and I’m the new Director of Member Services and Engagement at the National League of Cities. My experience as a National Urban Fellow and former Program Manager of NLC Member Services gives me a unique perspective on how to create effective change for cities. I am proud of the work NLC has done throughout our 90-year history of providing a voice for cities, effective solutions to city issues, and a comprehensive network of city leaders unlike no other.

Hometown: Ekhart, Indiana
Why are you passionate about cities: Because every facet of life can be witnessed in cities. In addition, the work done in cities have an immediate impact on their residents.
Favorite food or dessert: I love Ethiopian food!
Favorite sports team: Although I truly enjoy sports I don’t have a favorite team.

Regional Representatives

arielgAriel Guerrero (Northeast and Mid-Atlantic) was formerly Director of Member Engagement – Senior Services at Lutheran Services in America. His prior experience includes serving as a National Urban Fellow and working for the New York City Department of Education.

Hometown: New York, New York! The Big Apple!
Why are you passionate about cities: I am passionate about cities because that is where the work on the ground gets done each day. It’s where we touch lives. It’s  #WhereLifeHappens
Favorite food or dessert native to your membership region: I’m a foodie so food and I have a great relationship, no matter where it’s from!
Favorite sports team: (Baseball) NY Mets – I bleed Mets Blue & Orange! (Football) NY Jets (Basketball) Orlando Magic!

katrinawKatrina Lorraine Amos Washington (South) was formerly Membership Director at the Virginia Hospitality & Travel Association in Richmond, Virgina. She has also worked in sales and communications and has a leadership role in the Junior League of Richmond.

Hometown: Bryan, Texas
Why are you passionate about cities: Cities are the foundation of our country. It’s the one place where one person is able to conceive and implement an idea to change their community and can experience the fruit of their labor. It’s real people producing real results.
Favorite food or dessert native to your membership region: Tex-Mex
Favorite sports team:Texas A&M Aggies, Houston Texans, Houston Rockets

sarahlSarah Lindsay (MidWest) was formerly Program Manager at the NACo Financial Services Center, focusing on marketing the U.S. Communities Government Purchasing Alliance. She was also on the NACo research team and was a field organizer for a presidential campaign.

Hometown: North Mankato, MN
Why are you passionate about cities:Cities and towns represent the government that is closest to the people and are responsible for taking care of the people in their communities
Favorite food or dessert native to your membership region: Cheese curds
Favorite sports team: Iowa State Cyclones

mikenMike Nelson (West) was formerly Coordinator – West Region at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. He was Mayor of the Town of Carrboro and County Commissioner in Orange County (both in North Carolina). He was also active as an NLC and LGBTLO member.

Hometown: Jacksonville, North Carolina
Why are you passionate about cities: Local government touches our lives every day, in ways big and small. Municipal officials lead by creating innovative, people-oriented solutions to problems. They get involved in local government because they genuinely care about their communities and are committed to making their corner of the world a better place. It doesn’t get better than that.
Favorite food or dessert native to your membership region: Fish tacos
Favorite sports team: Real Madrid 

It is an honor to serve community leaders that are truly creating lasting change for residents across the country. We value our partnerships, and we are confident that this new model will increase our capacity to provide you with the tools and resources you need to continue to create sustainable, vibrant communities.

You can connect with our Member Service and Engagment Team on Facebook, TwitterLinkedIn, or by visiting www.nlc.org.

meridith_st_jean_125x150About the author: Meridith St. Jean is the Associate for Marketing, Communications & Technology at the National League of Cities.


Design, Convenience and Three Lessons NLC Learned in 2016

As we close out 2016, one of the most visible legacies of the year for the National League of Cities is the change in how people see and experience us. And I mean “see” very literally.

In the same week we went from this:  old-logo    to this:     new-logo

And from this:


to this:


I was involved heavily in both transformations, so I’d like to share a few reflections about these changes and what I have learned from them.

1. My first lesson: Good design has the power to accelerate change.

As I wrote in June about the new logo, it was time for us to reflect the forward-looking attitude that is prevalent at NLC. We also were ready to give a visual identity to the letters “NLC” because this is how so many people refer to us. The rebranding of NLC also brought a new approach to our graphic design that we will continue to build.

Today, when I look at our annual report video or the recently published Future of Work report, I’m proud of how the experience reflects who we are as an organization. And as we introduce ourselves to a new Congress and Administration this year, I’m confident that the changes we have made will help us convey the value of this organization.

2. My second lesson: In spite of all of the advances in technology, proximity—the people you are physically close to–still affects who you build relationships with.

And the new look of NLC fits perfectly with our new home. NLC moved from three floors of a 1980s-era building to less than one and a half floors in a brand new, all glass office on Capitol Hill. There were many reasons for the move as, Meri St. Jean explained in an earlier post on CitiesSpeak. What I remember most clearly about the planning stage is that Clarence Anthony, our executive director, had one imperative: this space needed to inspire collaboration.

Today, most NLC staff work in an open environment, in workspaces flooded with natural light. Meeting rooms and interior offices have glass walls. Technology enables us to conduct video conferences through our computers and share our work on large screens wirelessly.

In our previous building, I could go for weeks without seeing a single person from the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families (YEF). They were in a rabbit warren two floors down. Today I often enjoy coffee-break conversations with Cliff, Audrey and others, not only from YEF, but also from program areas across NLC.

While I expected more interaction among NLC staff, I’ve been surprised by the increase in connections I and others have made with the National Association of Counties staff as well, who are now in the same building. I’ve also found more opportunities to get together with staff of related organization in the neighborhood, such as ICMA.

Our new office and the proximity of people with shared interests, both inside and outside of NLC, is certain to benefit our members.

3. Which brings us to my final lesson: Whether an office or a city, there is a trade-off between making things convenient and encouraging interaction. Don’t make the mistake of always choosing convenience.

In working with our architects, I learned that convenience is sometimes bad design. We all would like the coffee machine to be as close to our desk as possible. It’s convenient. But our priority was to inspire collaboration. If everything was convenient, how would we create opportunities for unplanned conversations—for those ideas that are sparked by a casual interaction with someone whose work or perspective is very different from one’s own? The answer was pretty simple.

The best two out of three coffee makers at NLC are in a beautiful lunchroom a space off the lobby, a stairway away from nearly everyone’s workspace.

Guess what: I take the stairs every day—several times—to get coffee. It makes me walk more, and I talk with people who I otherwise probably would not speak with on a given day.

So as we close this year, I won’t say that everything about our new brand and office is perfect, but I am very confident that NLC’s new face and home have given us the boldness to convey our message, the proximity to build relationships that will help our members and just enough planned inconvenience to spark ideas and make our work even better.

And now I think I’ll go downstairs for some coffee…

brian_derr_125wAbout the Author: Brian Derr is the Director of Marketing, Digital Engagement and Communications at the National League of Cities.

Snapshot: Helping City Leaders Act on Behalf of Youth, Children and Families

From juvenile justice reform to linking post-secondary education to workforce success, the various teams and experts at NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education and Families have helped city leaders take action on behalf of the children, youth and families in their communities. Here’s a snapshot of the work we’ve done in 2016, in no particular order. 

Baton Rouge, Louisiana Mayor-President Melvin L. “Kip” Holden and a young Baton Rouge resident ride bikes together at a Healthy Baton Rouge event.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana Mayor-President Melvin L. “Kip” Holden and a young Baton Rouge resident ride bikes together at a Healthy Baton Rouge event.

New NLC Task Force to Focus on Expanding Economic Opportunity
Launched by NLC President Matt Zone, the task force will pursue a three-pronged strategy over the next year that will include municipal engagement and peer learning, documentation of promising and emerging city approaches, and education and training for city officials.

How Your City Can Improve Utility Collections While Helping Families
The LIFT-UP program offers city leaders a win-win scenario, allowing city utilities to recoup lost revenue due to unpaid bills while enabling residents to reduce outstanding balances and late fees, connect with financial empowerment services, and reduce the chances of a utility shut-off.

A New Education Playbook for City Leaders
The YEF Council Education Playbook provides examples of 27 action steps taken by select U.S. cities to provide greater resources and opportunities for their communities and for youth from early childhood to postsecondary success.

5 Things Mayors Can Do to Create Healthier Communities
NLC’s report, Addressing Health Disparities in Cities: Lessons from the Field, provides lessons learned and examples of actions that mayors and other city leaders are taking to intentionally address childhood obesity-related health disparities.

Looking to Expand Early Education Programs? We’ve Got You Covered.
NLC has teamed up with educational partners to produce a guide that features best practices for establishing high-quality childcare and pre-K programs – complete with examples from 19 cities across the country that are leading the way.

Our City Reintegrated Ex-Offenders and Reduced Jail Populations. This is How We Did It.
Charlottesville, Virginia Councilmember Kristin Szakos shares her city’s success story about helping convicted felons reintegrate into society – and reducing the city’s jail population in the process.

The Opioid Epidemic: How Cities Are Fighting Back

The most notable success was achieved thanks to a considerable push from city and county leaders during the last days of the Congressional session.

One of the many resources available on NLC’s opioid action web page is profile of the city of Seattle’s diversion program for low-level offenders, which allows police officers to redirect individuals engaged in drug use or prostitution to community-based public health and social services rather than to jail and prosecution. (Getty Images)

Opioid overdoses and deaths continue to be the leading cause of accidental death in America. However, city leaders can take some comfort that 2016 closes with several significant successes that should ensure progress on this public health crisis in 2017.

The most notable success, the sum of $500 million appropriated by the federal government to support opioid addiction treatment, was achieved thanks to a considerable push from city and county leaders during the last days of the Congressional session. The bipartisan votes in both houses of Congress demonstrate that the scope of this public health nightmare extends to all parts of this country – urban, suburban, and rural – and impacts all ages, incomes, genders, races, and ethnicities.

The legislative advocacy success came quick on the heels of the November 17 release of, A Prescription for Action: Local Leadership in Ending the Opioid Crisis.” This joint report from the National League of Cities (NLC) and the National Association of Counties (NACo) is the culmination of a year of work by a task force of city and county leaders.

NLC and NACo agreed to launch the joint task force in February 2016. The membership included both elected and appointed city and county officials from across the Unites States. The members brought a strong background in medicine as well as criminal justice, among other fields.

Providing a perspective on behalf of the entire 22-member task force, the two co-chairs, Mayor Mark Stodola, Little Rock, Arkansas (NLC First Vice President) and Judge Gary Moore, Boone County, Kentucky said, “Although news outlets often provide little more than a running tally of the epidemic, leaders at the local level experience the human costs of this public health crisis one life at a time. It is our duty to act with urgency to break the cycles of addiction, overdose, and death that have taken hold in so many corners of this nation.”


As part of the launch of the task force report, NLC and NACo created a new web portal. In addition to providing resources to cities and counties, we are encouraging local officials to make a pledge to lead on opioid action in their communities and to work in partnership with other leaders at the local, state, and federal levels. The pledge campaign announcement is included as part of an archived webinar delivered by city and county task force members on December 15, 2016.

In addition to the special web portal created for the task force, NLC maintains a collection of resources on its own website. These resources include the drug control strategy from Huntington, W.V., the Seattle-King County Police Diversion Program, and the opioid report developed by the Massachusetts Municipal Association on behalf of communities in that state.

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.

Research, Innovation and Cities: The Year in Review

Throughout 2016, NLC’s Center for City Solutions and Applied Research presented and spoke on a wide range of city topics to audiences from San Francisco to Shanghai and everywhere in between – making sure that, wherever possible, city voices are elevated and heard.

Photo by Jason Dixson Photography. www.jasondixson.com

NLC continues to shape the national dialogue on cities, work with city leaders on the ground, and help local officials lead. Pictured here at City Summit 2016 discussing the future of autonomous vehicles in cities: Jon Shieber, senior editor at TechCrunch; Debra Lam, chief innovation & performance officer of Pittsburgh; Justin Holmes, director of corporate communications and public policy at Zipcar; Brooks Rainwater, senior executive and director of Center for City Solutions and Applied Research. (Jason Dixson)

This year has been one of growth and success for NLC’s Center for City Solutions and Applied Research (CSAR). Throughout 2016, we released impactful research across a range of focus areas – from the nuts and bolts of governing to future transportation and workforce shifts, innovation districts, and what cities need to know about drones.

We published familiar annual titles including our State of the Cities report, which analyzes the top issues for our nation’s mayors. We released the 31st edition of our City Fiscal Conditions report, which found that cities’ fiscal positions are strengthening as they continue to recover from the great recession. We finished out the year with our City of the Future research focusing on the critical role that automation and other disruptive changes are having on the workforce. At the core of each of these research products, our primary focus is analyzing how major, timely issues will impact cities.

Coinciding with our broad research agenda, CSAR experts have been on the ground in cities across the country working hand in hand with mayors, councilmembers, and city officials to build equitable, sustainable, financially sound communities that are prepared for future opportunities and challenges. And, in response to the growing opioid crisis, CSAR worked across NLC and together with the National Association of Counties (NACo) to convene the City-County Task Force on the Opioid Epidemic, which recently published recommendations to help local officials to put an end to the epidemic.

Our Rose Center for Public Leadership continued its leading work on local land use challenges with the 2016 class of Daniel Rose Fellows. Those cities included Denver, Rochester, N.Y., Long Beach, Calif., and Birmingham, Ala. The Rose Center also launched the first-ever Equitable Economic Development Fellowship, selecting six cities to participate in its inaugural year: Boston, Houston, Memphis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Charlotte, N.C. This fellowship builds the capacity of America’s cities to ensure that prosperity is shared across their communities.

CSAR’s Sustainable Cities Institute (SCI) launched new programs in 2016 that support and recognize NLC members’ efforts to preserve a clean environment, promote green jobs, and tackle climate change. The SolSmart program was launched in April to help cities make it easier for their residents and businesses to go solar. SCI also announced Leadership in Community Resilience, which is working with 10 cities from around the country to help local officials, city staff, and community partners share their experiences and advance local resilience efforts.

This year our team also incorporated NLC University into the Center, working to provide more focused programming and expanded capacity for city leaders. One example of this shift can be seen in this year’s City Summit attendance in Pittsburgh, where we had a 60 percent increase over last year. Additionally, with the hiring of new staff, we are looking to expand online learning and enhance the annual Leadership Summit.

NLC continues its work to end veteran homelessness, encouraging local leaders to make a permanent commitment to make homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring. Through our leadership on the Mayors Challenge to End Veterans Homelessness, we facilitated on-the-ground engagement and assistance to city officials nationwide. We also continue to work together with the State Municipal Leagues on an annual research project focused on the critical intersections between city and state policy. This year we published Paying for Local Infrastructure in a new Era of Federalism, offering a state-by-state analysis of infrastructure financing tools.

CSAR also hosted a number of large events across the country. In the spring, we held the third annual Big Ideas for Cities event with a range of compelling stories from our nation’s mayors, expertly facilitated by the Atlantic’s James Fallows. In the fall we hosted the Big Ideas for Small Business Summit with economic development officials from 25 cities sharing strategies for building local small business and entrepreneurial ecosystems. Most recently, we hosted the second annual Resilient Cities Summit with the Urban Land Institute and U.S. Green Building Council, which brought together mayors from 15 cities across the country to focus on critical resilience strategies. These annual events allow NLC to elevate the voice of city leaders on issues that matter to communities across America.

Through our work on these important issues, we solidified partnerships with agencies across the federal government and worked with them on key programming, ensuring we are effectively communicating the voice of cities at every level. Some of these included: Small Business Administration for Startup in a Day, the Department of Veterans Affairs on veterans homelessness, the Department of Housing and Urban Development on the Prosperity Playbook, and Department of Energy on Net Zero Energy.

Throughout the year, our team presented and spoke on a wide range of city topics to audiences local, national, and global – from San Francisco to Shanghai and everything in between – making sure that, wherever possible, city voices are elevated and heard. We continue to help shape the national dialogue on cities, work with city leaders on the ground, and help mayors and councilmembers learn and lead – and we look forward to our work in 2017.

Read our 2016 publications:

About the author: Brooks Rainwater is Senior Executive and Director of the Center for City Solutions and Applied Research at the National League of Cities. Follow Brooks on Twitter @BrooksRainwater.


What the Top Regulatory Challenges of 2017 Will Look Like

Nearly 300 government technologists were recently surveyed about the biggest issues they anticipate facing in 2017. Notably, more than half of the survey participants said their primary concerns were around the regulation of marijuana and the sharing economy.

State and local government officials throughout the U.S. have been trying to figure out how to handle the rise of Airbnb and ridesharing services Lyft and Uber for some time. (Getty Images)

Presidential politics has the tendency to drown out all other electoral storylines. If you’re in need of proof, consider this: marijuana was legalized for either recreational or medical use in eight of nine states in which it was on the ballot, including the big one: California. Cannabis is now legal in some form in 28 out of 50 states, yet that headline has barely been discussed in the mainstream media. This is just one of several public policy issues that will challenge government officials in 2017.

Another is the sharing economy. State and local government officials throughout the U.S. have been trying to figure out how to handle the rise of Airbnb and ridesharing services Lyft and Uber for some time. In San Francisco, Airbnb hosts are now required to register and pay fees to the city. But of the 7,000+ residents who rent out their homes, only a  have signed up. Many have complained about being forced to go to City Hall and wait in line to register as their primary reason for not registering.

As the New Year approaches, governments are grappling with new regulatory issues brought on by shifts in public opinion, like with marijuana, or by shifts in technology that have created new economic models, such as the sharing economy. Nearly 300 government technologists were recently surveyed about the biggest issues they anticipate facing in 2017. Notably, more than half of the survey participants said their primary concerns were around the regulation of marijuana and the sharing economy.

These public sector employees are not fortune tellers, but the findings show these issues are unlikely just fads. If our elected officials want to effectively manage these new industries and whatever comes next, they need to prioritize the use of modern agile government processes and technology. This will keep citizens safe and informed, while insuring that participants in these new economies are not deterred (from either participation, or compliance) by needless red tape or balky, outdated software.

Luckily, there are examples of success waiting to be copied. The City of Denver, Colorado, has been widely recognized for its dedication to improving citizens’ experience with government. Their innovative use of technology is a model for the rollout of an efficient and transparent legalized marijuana regulatory system. Last year, Denver collected more than $40 million of revenue from marijuana sales to fund statewide education programs to build new schools and upgrade old ones. This year, Denver became the first city in the nation to deliver a streamlined, online, registration system for short-term rental hosts.

The Mile High City had the combination of modern technology and design minded innovators in place to quickly respond to these emerging challenges. How other local and state governments from around the country end up addressing these regulatory issues in 2017 will vary. But one thing is certain: if agencies don’t start preparing now, they’ll be missing out on a substantial benefit for both their residents and treasuries.

tim-woodbury_125x150About the author: Tim Woodbury is the Director of Government Relations for Accela.