In January 2017, America’s cities faced a precarious moment.
After several years of runaway growth in downtowns and neighborhoods, major cities were at their most wealthy, safe, and vibrant point in decades. Meanwhile, mid-sized cities and small towns continued to struggle with growing challenges — and a divisive 2016 campaign season had laid those inequalities bare.
Over the year that followed, city leaders took a central role in American life like never before. As leadership stalled in Washington, mayors and councilmembers picked up the mantle of causes like inequality, economic growth, climate change, civil rights, transparency, discrimination, and public safety.
Now more than ever, city leaders deserve a voice on national and regional issues. This year at CitiesSpeak, we’ve been proud to provide a platform for outstanding leaders and thinkers on local issues. Here are our top eight stories from 2017:
1) Eight Ways the Arts Can Boost Your Local Economy
“The arts and culture sector can have a larger impact on your city’s economy (in terms of GDP) than other industries like tourism and transportation — but city leaders often don’t recognize the economic value and impact of the arts in their community.” (Jay Dick, Americans for the Arts)
2) How One City is Connecting Start-Ups and City Government
“While our talented workforce does great things every day, there is always room for improvement and innovation. We are constantly making internal evaluations on ways to make our performance more efficient, but sometimes it is necessary to look outside the government for insight into best practices.” (the late Mayor Edwin Lee, San Francisco)
3) Four Ways to Fund Effective Economic Development In Your City
“For cities, effective economic development demands informed, careful leadership from elected officials. It also demands funding — for investing in infrastructure, programs, education, and incentives. ” (Emily Robbins, NLC)
4) How Will Amazon Choose its Second Headquarters?
“How will the tech giant choose a winner? For an informed answer, we asked six of our experts representing diverse fields — transportation, partnerships, technology, education, and leadership — to weigh in on the keys.” (NLC Staff)
5) 6 Ways the City of Decatur Became a Model of Inclusion
“What is the role of local government in creating a space for community dialogue among residents? How do you bring everyone to the table, especially those who have not traditionally felt welcomed or included?” (Linda Harris, Decatur, Georgia)
6) 15 Cities Selected for New “Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation” Initiative
“Across the country, issues of racial equity continue to spark unrest in communities. In cities and towns both small and large, our country has been made to repeatedly stare into the face of our scarred past — and to acknowledge the long road ahead.” (Leon T. Andrews, Jr. and Aliza Wasserman, NLC)
7) Five Ways to Promote Civic Health Through Community Design
“Living near a well-attended, popular park is associated with higher levels of civic trust, including greater satisfaction with local government. Interestingly, this finding holds true whether or not respondents report visiting the park themselves.” (Suzanne Nienaber, Center for Active Design)
8) The Untold Story of Mid-Sized Economies
“Until now, our glimpse into mid-sized cities has been limited to a fuzzy picture of places that are not rural, not mega-cities, but someplace in between. But digging deeper reveals an even more dynamic economic landscape.” (Christiana McFarland, NLC)
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If you’re a city leader or thinker interested in writing for CitiesSpeak in 2018, contact Sam Warlick and the National League of Cities at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author: Sam Warlick is the senior content strategist at the National League of Cities and the editor of CitiesSpeak. He is a Nashville native and lives in Washington, DC.