Here at the National League of Cities (NLC), we’ve been busy these first 100 days of the Trump administration. While everyone is grading the administration and discussing the president’s performance, we’ve decided to take a look back at our advocacy efforts to amplify city voices to the administration and Congress.
Here’s a breakdown of what we’ve been up to during President Trump’s first 100 days in office:
We Met the New Faces in Town
Since the election, NLC has committed itself to making inroads with the new administration and the 115th Congress. Back in December, we met with transition team officials to discuss city priorities long before the inauguration. We also set out to meet with the offices of each new member of Congress. So far, we’ve held more than 360 meetings on the Hill with members of Congress and their staffers.
We also had the administration come to us. Both Secretary DeVos of the Department of Education and EPA Administrator Pruitt addressed delegations of local officials at our Congressional City Conference (CCC) in March.
Our state municipal league fly-in this February included 42 meetings between state league leaders and congressional offices. During our CCC, we provided grassroots training to local officials and organized more than 200 meetings on the Hill attended by nearly 500 of our members.
We Changed the Narrative around Cities
We set out to aggressively refute mischaracterizations of cities that developed during the presidential campaign last year. We delivered our message that cities are partners to the Trump transition team in December and have been continuing it ever since. Our goal was to highlight how cities are economic centers that drive this great nation. Cities are home to 80 percent of our residents and produce the lion’s share of our national GDP. Local governments own half of the nation’s bridges, 78 percent of the nation’s road miles and 95 percent of the nation’s water infrastructure. We are continuing to reaffirm that cities are not a problem; rather, they are a crucial part of the solution.
We Testified Before Congress
Multiple Congressional committees have wanted to hear from cities. Since January, our members testified at three congressional committee hearings: President Zone testified on Brownfields before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure; Mayor Sal Panto of Easton, Pennsylvania, testified on Brownfields before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce; and Councilmember Jermaine Reed of Kansas City, Missouri, testified on the impacts of unfunded mandates on local budgets before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
We Stood Up against Threats to Federal Funding to Cities
We took a firm stance against attempts to cut federal funding to so-called “sanctuary cities.” The fact of the matter is that cities do comply with current immigration law and many routinely collaborate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). We welcomed a court ruling against the “sanctuary city” executive order, which would have ultimately put American cities at risk. Our message is simple, if the federal government is unable to enforce the nation’s broken immigration laws, it should not attempt to shift that burden onto cities.
We Continue to Push Back on Efforts to Preempt Local Control
On the regulatory front, NLC and the state municipal leagues submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defending city authority to review applications for wireless infrastructure against preemption threats. NLC cautioned the FCC from pursuing additional preemption powers, arguing that Congress’s existing authorization for the agency does not intend for the FCC to strip local governments of their authority over the rights-of-way.
We Made Sure Health Care Reform Doesn’t Shift the Burden to Cities
Facing a health care reform proposal that could have dramatically shifted costs of unreimbursed care onto cities, we launched an action alert to activate our members. Our members told Congress that they must support and work toward a health care system that protects mental health and drug addiction services, does not raise the total number of uninsured Americans, keeps requirements for essential health benefits and does not place an unfair burden on local governments.
We Told Congress We Need a Better Budget Proposal
The president’s “skinny” budget proposal included massive cuts to domestic programs vital to cities. We urged Congress to throw out the administration’s proposal and create a plan focused on building prosperity, expanding opportunity and investing in our future. But we didn’t stop there. During CCC, more than 600 local officials signed our letter to Congress to save Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and other key areas of federal funding to cities.
We also took advantage of Congress’ April recess to activate our members in home districts through our #FightTheCuts campaign. This fight may be far from over, but local leaders from Alaska to New Jersey met with their members of Congress, placed op-eds and held constituency events in an effort to protect federal funding for local programs with proven results.
We Affirmed that Cities Will Continue to Lead
Congress just narrowly averted a federal government shutdown by passing a seven-day continuing resolution to fund the government through next May 5. But as local leaders continue to demonstrate, they will lead even if there is continued uncertainty in Washington.
Whether it’s a city like Fayetteville, Arkansas organizing a town hall style event to educate constituents on the potential impacts of drastic cuts to domestic funding, or one of the 150 local elected officials who signed the #Cities4Climate letter to President Trump reaffirming their commitment to acting on climate change — we as local leaders will continue to lead, period.
We’ve made it our mission to highlight the good work that cities and city leaders do every day, and we will continue to listen to your stories and advocate to make sure that local priorities are Washington’s priorities. Please continue to share your cities story with us by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the author: Irma Esparza Diggs is a senior executive and director of federal advocacy at the National League of Cities. Follow Irma @iediggs