This is a guest blog from President Pro Tempore Margaret Laurino of the Chicago City Council.
To my right, Council President Bernard “Jack” Young of Baltimore wants to focus on questions of equity. To my left, Vice Mayor David Luna of Mesa, Arizona says the upcoming 2020 Census is one of the top issues on his mind. And for Vop Osili, Council President of Indianapolis, partnerships with businesses and philanthropies is a key area of interest.
Today, sitting in the Chicago City Hall, I’m thrilled to welcome my fellow council presidents at the Second Annual Large City Council Presidents Convening. In partnership with the Chicago City Council, the National League of Cities convened 15 large city council presidents from across the country. Though our cities are geographically diverse, with our own issues and identities, at this convening, we begin the process of building a network that caters to our specific needs as legislative leaders.
With close to 14 million residents represented, each of us brings different strengths, different challenges and different approaches to the table. But sitting around the table at the Large City Council President Convening, I get the feeling that this event couldn’t have come at a better time.
From affordable housing and addressing the opioid epidemic to managing internal council dynamics, our jobs cover a lot of ground. Our citizens rely on us to make the right choices for them and their children every time, every day. On the council, the questions we answer everyday range from practical: from budgeting, zoning and governance — to philosophical: in what direction is our city headed, and how do we get there?
But despite the challenges that come with being on a city council, each of the cities here today came prepared with solutions. In Denver, Council President Albus Brooks is working on the first affordable housing fund. In Philadelphia, Council President Darrell Clarke is coming up with innovative responses to the opioid epidemic, calling it the “oldest new phenomenon today.” In Atlanta, Council President Felicia Moore is pushing for reforms on council procedure, trying to create a more cohesive, efficient structure.
“In America’s largest cities, city council leaders are responsible for legislation that governs millions of our residents,” said Clarence E. Anthony, CEO and executive director of (NLC). “By providing a platform to discuss different approaches to issues like affordable housing and infrastructure investment, our goal is to equip these leaders with new ideas and strategies to build stronger, safer and more economically vibrant communities.”
We don’t have all the answers just yet. But looking around the room, I feel confident that we’ll get there.
About the author: Margaret Laurino is the Alderman of the 39th Ward of the City of Chicago and the President Pro Tempore of the Chicago City Council.