Protecting the Inauguration Requires the Nation’s Cities to Come Together

An inauguration requires an incredible amount of law enforcement officers to keep spectators and protesters safe. Such a feat is only accomplished with the help of local police officers from around the country.

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On Thursday afternoon, more than 3,000 local and state police officers from around the country were sworn in at the D.C. Armory as temporary U.S. deputy marshals to protect the inauguration and parade route. (NLC photo / Brian Egan)

Thousands of Americans convene in Washington every four years to witness and celebrate the peaceful transition of power from one president to the next. As Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), chairman of the Committee on Inaugural Activities, noted in his opening remarks at the inauguration this morning, up until America’s second inauguration there had been “many [leaders in history] who had gain control of a government, but few who had peacefully given it up.”

The entire inaugural process showcases and features and Americans from cities all around the country: high school marching bands, church choirs and local leaders. But what is often not covered by the media is the number of city police forces that have come together to help keep Washington, D.C. safe during today’s events.

Twenty-eight thousand federal and non-federal law enforcement officers have been deployed to protect inaugural spectators and protesters over the long weekend. Although this ceremonial transfer of power is a truly Washington experience, more than 3,000 of these officers are wearing the uniforms of local and state police forces from around the country.

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Director of the U.S. Marshals Service administered the oath yesterday afternoon. (NLC photo / Brian Egan)

Every four years, thousands of local police officers from cities are invited to protect the incoming president’s parade route along Pennsylvania Avenue. Officials expected 700,000 to 900,000 people to attend the president’s inauguration, which places a tremendous need for additional law enforcement officers from outside of Washington.

Yesterday, visiting officers convened for a morning of security briefings and a unique ceremony — their swearing in as temporary U.S. Deputy Marshals. On the day before each inauguration, the Director of the U.S. Marshals Service swears in the 3,000 plus visiting officers. NLC headed to the D.C. Armory to watch the ceremony.

Officers from Minneapolis to Miami were in attendance to take the oath.

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Muriel Bowser opened the ceremony on Thursday by thanking the more than 3,0000 officers in town this weekend. (NLC photo / Brian Egan)

“The world will see just how much American law enforcement regards and protects this ceremony of a peaceful presidential transition,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C at the opening of the ceremony.

The mayor’s gratitude and thanks to the officers in town were echoed in closing remarks by Peter Newsham, the interim chief of police for Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department, “my closing remarks are the same as the mayor’s opening, thank you for your service.”

While today may be about the peaceful transfer of power, it is important to recognize the city police and staff that keep it peaceful.

brian-headshot About the author: Brian Egan is the Public Affairs Associate for NLC. Follow him on Twitter @BeegleME 

 

Congratulations President Trump – Now Let’s Work Together

Regardless of party affiliation and policy disagreements, the model of local input in the federal process over the recent years should be replicated, not rejected.

(Wikimedia Commons)

(Wikimedia Commons)

This is a guest post by Mayor Craig Thurmond.

Today, hundreds of thousands gather in Washington, D.C. to witness the 58th Inauguration in American history. People have traveled across the nation to watch Donald J. Trump be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. On behalf of the National League of Cities, we congratulate incoming President Trump and look forward to a productive partnership with his administration over the next four years.

Inauguration Day is an important ceremony for our country as it embodies the peaceful transition of power upon which our democracy is built. As a local elected leader, I recognize what it means for me to be present at this historic event.

While today we witness the passage of power on the federal level, we can’t forget that hundreds of thousands of local elected leaders around the country take part in the same action – swearing an oath to faithfully execute the duties of the offices we hold. Like the new president, we commit ourselves to supporting the Constitution of the United States, which is why we must recognize the importance of building federal partnerships for cities across the country, such as my city of Broken Arrow. Our political system relies on the collaboration of all three levels of government: local, state and federal. It is therefore critical that cities have a voice when it comes to the federal policies created in Washington – and it is even more critical that Washington listen.

Over the past eight years, the National League of Cities has praised certain policies of the Obama Administration and deeply criticized others. One policy that should be commended is the Administration’s willingness to work with local leaders who strive to make their voices heard in Washington. Regardless of party affiliation and policy disagreements, the model of local input in the federal process over the recent years should be replicated, not rejected.

On Tuesday, I heard incoming Vice President Mike Pence speak at the U.S. Conference of Mayors. I urge you to read the full transcript when it becomes available. For now, I wanted to call your attention to his message about partnership: “We’re working for the people, after all. The president-elect and I are determined to forge strong partnerships between the federal government and the cities of this country. Make no mistake about it, we both believe that you have the most important jobs in public service.” As members of the National League of Cities, local elected officials like myself know that NLC is the best-placed organization to help build those bridges.

I am proud to celebrate the inauguration of our 45th President. I implore him to find local voices to put in his White House and to always seek out the local perspective. I feel optimistic about the role cities will play in this new administration, but I know that good federal leadership always thinks about how its policies will be enacted at the local level.

That’s why I came to Washington this weekend: to congratulate our new president, and let him know that America’s cities are willing and ready to work with his administration. And that’s why I’ll be back here in March for the 2017 Congressional City Conference – because cities need a voice in Washington.

craig_thurmond_125x150About the author: Craig Thurmond is the mayor of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. He was first elected to City Council in 2001 and served as Vice Mayor from 2003-07 and again from 2010-12.

Meet Your City Transportation Advocate

“My ask of the new administration is that we start putting money directly in the hands of cities – that’s where the outcomes would be the greatest.” – NLC’s Matt Colvin

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Matt Colvin is the principal associate for transportation advocacy. (Brian Egan/NLC)

With a new administration and a new Congress, the National League of Cities’ Federal Advocacy team will be busy elevating the voices of cities throughout 2017 and beyond. As part of our 2017 initiative we’re introducing our Federal Advocacy team members and sharing with you what’s on their minds for 2017. Every week leading up to the Congressional City Conference we will feature a “Meet Your City Advocate” spotlight. To kick the series off, I sat down with our transportation and infrastructure lobbyist, Matt Colvin, principal associate for transportation advocacy.

Name: Matt Colvin

Area of expertise: Transportation and Infrastructure

Federal Advocacy Committee: Transportation and Infrastructure Services

Hometown: Los Angeles

Follow on Twitter: @MatthewAColvin

Hey Matt, thanks again for sitting down with me today. To get started, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where you’ve been? What you’ve done? And most importantly, why you are passionate about cities?

Sure! I’m originally from Los Angeles, but lived with family in Barrington, Illinois after high school — it’s a suburb northwest of Chicago. I started community college out that way and then transferred to the University of San Diego where I earned a B.A. in political science and environmental studies. After moving around a bit, I wound up working on Capitol Hill for Senator Menendez and later for Congressman Sires — both represent New Jersey. I went on to serve as a federal policy manager for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership prior to joining NLC.

Why cities? Well, with the exception of the small Jamaican fishing village that I lived in while serving in the Peace Corps, I’ve lived most of my life in large cities. On top of that, serving for members of Congress — both former mayors — representing New Jersey, a state with 7 of the 10 most densely populated cities in the country, ingrained in me an interest and deep respect for city leaders and the work that they do.

So, why transportation policy?

I’ve always been a rail and cars type of guy. I even once took a train from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles.

Oh wow!

But to be honest, I didn’t see myself going down this path when I moved to D.C. The interest in transportation and infrastructure has always been there, but I saw myself headed down a career path in environmental advocacy.

I started doing energy, environment, and transportation policy work for Senator Menendez, who chairs the Senate subcommittee with jurisdiction over transit. Working on the passage of the MAP-21 transportation bill for him in 2012 really sparked my interest in the issue area. Later, when an opportunity came up to staff Congressman Sires on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I jumped on it.

Transportation lets you get at the cross section of energy and the environment. These policies that you work on get mobilized in a way that not many other areas do not in the current political climate. The best part is that this line of work leads to both economically and physically healthier and stronger communities.

As a side note, the transportation policy community is refreshingly non-partisan. It very much feels like an area of broad consensus in an increasingly partisan world. We all want better infrastructure in our communities. Of course there is still disagreement about how and when things get done, but it’s nice to see that we all want things to get done.

What do you see in store for transportation policy and cities in 2017 with a new administration and Congress?

I think it’s still a bit of an unknown. The Trump Administration is talking about a trillion-dollar infrastructure program that will use tax credits to spur public private partnerships. I think it’s early to tell exactly what  his final proposal will look like, but I think it’s exciting that we just came off of a campaign in which both parties passionately discussed transportation and infrastructure.

The American Society of Civil Engineers report card gave America a D+ across all areas of infrastructure. Our infrastructure used to be the envy of the world, but we’re at a place now where bridges collapse and congestion is costing our families thousands of dollars every year and we still don’t see more federal funding to bring our infrastructure truly into the 21st century.

Congress and the administration are talking about doing something here, and we need this investment. Elaine Chao, the nominee for Secretary of Transportation, has discussed this need in her confirmation hearing. She also indicated that whatever comes down the pipeline in the next few years will likely be a mix of funding and financing tools, so I think cities should see that as a sign of hope. I also see this as a positive message that cities can bring to the Capitol Hill when they come to advocate; we should look into public private partnerships as part of the solution, but we still need that revenue.

My ask of the administration is that we start putting money directly in the hands of cities, that’s where the outcomes would be the greatest.

Outside of Washington, the intersection of transportation and technology is only going to advance in 2017. We’re going to have more and more questions and answers as to how these new technologies interact with our existing infrastructure. Whether it’s autonomous vehicles or ridesharing, it’s all pretty exciting.

Finally, a fun question, what is your spirit city? With which city do you identify the most?

San Diego. I mean for the weather alone. I think San Diego has some of the most incredible public spaces — from all of the beaches to Balboa park. But seriously, that 75-degree weather year round is pretty great.

Join us at CCC and meet Matt Colvin as well as the rest of your City Advocates. Visit the CCC website to register now!

brian-headshot About the author: Brian Egan is the Public Affairs Associate for NLC. Follow him on Twitter @BeegleME 

Improving Community Health in the Garden State

Guest author Deborah Levine shares with mayors and community leaders her city’s blueprint for coordinating better overall health outcomes in their communities.

The city of Trenton holds a weekly farmer’s market at Trinity Cathedral, a safe and accessible location for West Ward residents. (photo: New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute)

The city of Trenton holds a weekly farmer’s market at Trinity Cathedral, a safe and accessible location for West Ward residents. (photo: New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute)

This is a guest post by Deborah Levine.

New Jersey is geographically, economically and ethnically diverse. We are also diverse in terms of health outcomes. Life expectancy, for example, varies widely across the state, ranging from 73 years in Trenton to 87 years in neighboring Princeton Junction. So how do we address the varying health needs of our residents?

At the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, we help communities bring their resources and residents together to create healthier places for people to live and thrive, and our Mayors Wellness Campaign gives New Jersey mayors tools and strategies to champion healthy and active living. The Mayors Wellness Campaign celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, and serves over 380 mayors and communities across New Jersey.

A new and exciting project of the Mayors Wellness Campaign, supported by a three-year partnership grant with the United Health Foundation, allows us to work intensively with civic leaders and health care providers in three specific communities: Jersey City, Trenton, and Cumberland County. We are helping these communities address pressing health challenges identified in their Community Health Needs Assessments (CHNAs). CHNAs are created by tax-exempt hospitals every three to five years to monitor and improve community health outcomes. Here is our blueprint for mayors and community leaders to coordinate better overall health — a framework we believe can help any community.

Cumberland County offers free health screenings and healthy recipe ideas to residents. (photo: New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute)

Cumberland County offers free health screenings and healthy recipe ideas to residents. (photo: New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute)

The Blueprint

  • Read the CHNAs of hospitals in your community to identify pressing health challenges. As we looked at CHNAs from hospitals across New Jersey, the CHNAs from Jersey City, Trenton, and Cumberland County stood out, as each identified the need for improved health literacy and chronic disease management, and increased access to healthy lifestyle initiatives.
  • Connect with existing community partnerships. Through our work with Jersey City, Trenton, and Cumberland County, we focused on strengthening existing partnerships among public and private entities. In Jersey City we partnered with Jersey City Medical Center and the Jersey City Department of Health and Human Services. In Trenton we partnered with the Trenton Health Team. In Cumberland County we partnered with Inspira Health Network and the Cumberland County Health Department.
  • Identify community goals. Jersey City, Trenton, and Cumberland County are strikingly different from each another, and so are their health goals. Jersey City is the second largest city in New Jersey, and one of its top priorities is increasing access to healthy food. Trenton is the state capital and was once a major manufacturing center. One of its top priorities is to improve health literacy. Cumberland County is a large rural county that boasts sweet New Jersey produce, and is home to a large migrant farmer population. In 2010, Cumberland County was ranked 21st out of 21 New Jersey counties on the Robert Wood Johnson County Health Rankings and Roadmap. This sparked the creation of the Cumberland Salem Gloucester Health and Wellness Alliance, which prioritizes healthy corner stores and workplace wellness programs.
  • Invest in no-to-low cost sustainable programming. Jersey City, Trenton, and Cumberland County were all making strides in addressing health challenges, but with limited staffing and financial resources the sustainability of these programs was questionable. The Quality Institute’s Mayors Wellness Campaign supports educational opportunities for residents of Jersey City, Trenton, and Cumberland County, and funds educational materials in languages unique to each community’s populations. We have also formed a relationship with Aunt Bertha, a social services search engine, to create unique search engines for Jersey City, Trenton, and Cumberland County.
  • Maintain the momentum. Once you have identified the health needs of your community, establish ongoing partnerships with local champions like hospitals, health departments, and volunteers who can identify opportunities for health and wellness activities. Through the Mayors Wellness Campaign, the Quality Institute harnesses partnerships between civic and provider leaders in Jersey City, Trenton, and Cumberland County to drive change at the local level. It is through these partnerships that true change happens.
Jersey City conducts a supermarket education tour. (photo: Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop)

Jersey City conducts a supermarket education tour. (photo: Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop)

Healthy Partnerships

In response to recent CHNAs, Jersey City, Trenton, and Cumberland County are harnessing local partnerships and taking action by investing in their residents at a grassroots level. Jersey City Medical Center and the Jersey City Department of Health and Human Services partner to hold health fairs and educational supermarket tours. The Trenton Health Team partners with more than 50 local organizations including two hospitals, a Federally Qualified Health Center, and the City of Trenton Department of Health and Human Services to improve the health care experiences and outcomes of its residents. Inspira Health Network and the Cumberland County Health Department collaborate through the Cumberland Salem Gloucester Health and Wellness Alliance to improve community health education, physical activity, and chronic disease management among Cumberland County residents.

No two communities have identical health needs – but when municipal leaders and community providers join together and put forth a mighty effort to address the overall health of their residents, real advances become possible.

deborah_levine_125x150About the author: Deborah Levine is the Director of Community Heath at the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute. In this role, Ms. Levine directs the Mayors Wellness Campaign, serving as a resource for mayors who wish to promote health and wellness initiatives in their towns.

Connecting the Dots: Leveraging Community Benefit Programs with City Leadership

 “When you look at maps of neighboring communities and ZIP codes and see significant disparities in life expectancy within a couple of miles – sometimes blocks – you’re compelled to advance policies to address those gaps in a meaningful way.” – Mayor David Baker of Kenmore, Washington.

Mayors and other city leaders address health issues every day, and they need a variety of strong partnerships to fully leverage the assets in their cities. (Getty Images)

Mayors and other city leaders address health issues every day, and they need a variety of strong partnerships to fully leverage the assets in their cities. (Getty Images)

This is a guest post by Nancy Zuech Lim and Sue Pechilio Polis. The post was originally published on Health Progress, the journal of the Catholic Health Association of the United States.

We know community benefit programs work with a variety of local partners, including faith-based organizations, nonprofits, local health departments, even other hospitals. But another type of critical partner is often overlooked: local city leaders.

Where we live, work, learn, grow, play and pray impacts our health and well-being. These, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life, are known as the social determinants of health. According to the World Health Organization, “conditions such as environment, housing, economy and policies impact the health and well-being of our communities.” Access to meaningful educational and economic opportunities vary by place and ultimately affect how long and how well we live – and mayors and city leaders play a pivotal role in ensuring access to those opportunities.

To be truly healthy, one not only needs high quality health care but also access to high quality early childhood programs, good schools, good jobs, affordable housing, safe and active transportation options, places to play, and healthy foods. Mayors and other city leaders address these issues every day, and they need a variety of strong partnerships to fully leverage the assets in their cities.

Hospitals and city officials can work together to address the social determinants of health and well-being through policy, structural and environmental changes in order to ensure sustainable improvements for city residents. Here are the steps they can take on three different levels:

  1. Individual and family level: build awareness of healthy behaviors, address barriers, and support ways that basic needs can be met.
  2. Neighborhood and community level: build communities that decrease barriers to ensure the healthy choice is the easy choice in every neighborhood.
  3. Policy level: promote policies that support healthy choices and healthy behaviors. Because community benefit programs are moving beyond hospital walls, the time is ripe for hospitals to further align efforts with city leaders and departments. Conducting Community Health Needs Assessments (CHNAs) together to identify priority health needs and develop implementation strategies is one way for hospitals and city leaders to build a fruitful and ongoing partnership. Some hospitals already are collaborating with city leaders and other community partners. A few examples:
  • Baton Rouge, Louisiana Mayor Melvin L. “Kip” Holden, through his Healthy City Initiative, brought together area hospitals such as the Baton Rouge General Medical Center, Lane Regional Medical Center, Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, the Surgical Specialty Center of Baton Rouge, and Woman’s Hospital to conduct a joint CHNA and implementation strategy, putting them on a course for greater collaboration to address systematic issues that influence health.
  • Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System municipal leaders and community partners took a holistic view of health in South Carolina and worked together to address all health indicators, including education, housing, access to healthy food, and economic stability. Together, they won the 2015 Robert Wood Johnson Culture of Health Prize in recognition of their progress in making changes that led to improvements in the health and well-being of local residents.
  • Vincent Hospital Frankfort in Indiana works with city and county leaders and community partners as part of the Healthy Communities of Clinton County Coalition. The coalition works to improve health through policy, system and environmental changes, complete streets and tobacco-free programs.
  • The D.C. Healthy Communities Collaborative is a local partnership among four District of Columbia hospitals (Children’s National Health System, Howard University Hospital, Providence Health System and Sibley Memorial Hospital), four Federally Qualified Health Centers (Unity Health Care Inc., Community of Hope, Mary’s Center and Bread for the City), and two ex-officio members (the D.C. Primary Care Association and the D.C. Hospital Association) that conducted a joint CHNA in the nation’s capital. In collaboration with the D.C. Department of Health, the collaborative is developing an implementation strategy to address the priority health needs in the District of Columbia.
  • Saint Thomas Health, Nashville, Tennessee, collaborates with Metro Nashville Public Schools to provide the Saint Thomas Health Scholars Program, a free program for selected high school seniors to promote health care careers through mentoring and training for the medical assistant certification exam.
  • Trinity Health, based in Livonia, Michigan, created the Transforming Communities Initiative that uses a wide variety of funding mechanisms for direct community health improvement in awarded locations.

Further examples of health systems working with city leaders to address affordable and healthy housing are: Bon Secours Baltimore Health System, Saint Agnes Healthcare in Baltimore, Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C.

Successful efforts in this arena start by developing key partnerships that include city officials. Here are a few tips for community health care organizers:

  • Share with your mayor/city leaders. Share your CHNA, implementation strategy and community benefit report with your mayor, councilmembers, local school superintendent, and health department director. Offer to provide key city officials with an overview of your CHNA process, community benefit programs, and the community support you provide.
  • Know your city’s plans and priorities. Become familiar with your city’s master plan, school wellness plan, and health department plan. Listen to your mayor’s State of the City address. Lincoln, Nebraska’s “Taking Charge” program is an example of a city using its budgeting process to improve community health and well-being. The program uses an outcomes-based budgeting and evaluation process that identified community priorities and set outcome goals.
  • Meet and discuss. Meet with city leaders to learn more about their efforts to improve health and well-being. Share and discuss how social determinants affect the health and well-being of your community. Consider using key resources like County Health Rankings & Roadmaps and Community Commons to map by ZIP codes the areas of greatest need. Highlight areas of focus that overlap and initiatives that complement city goals.
  • Assess together. Share information and assessment processes. Consider working towards one needs assessment for the city, and look for other ways you may be able to collaborate and leverage resources.
  • Align efforts to improve health and well-being. Build on each other’s strengths and expertise, and work together to address barriers to healthy lifestyle behaviors, health care and the social determinants of health. Look for ways your programs and efforts may support each other’s goals and initiatives.

Interested in learning more about social determinants of health? Click here to view a short video by Julie Trocchio, senior director, community benefit and continuing care, in CHA’s Washington, D.C. office.

About the authors:

nancy_lim_125x150Nancy Zuech Lim is a community health and benefit consultant with the National League of Cities on the Institute for Youth, Education and Families’ Early Childhood Success portfolio. She can be reached at lim@nlc.org.

 

sue_polis_125x150Sue Pechilio Polis is the Director of the Health and Wellness team in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education and Families. She can be reached at polis@nlc.org.

Federal Advocacy in 2017: In a Year of Transition, Cities Seek Certainty and Opportunity

NLC is advocating for what may be cities’ most important federal priority in 2017: promoting a positive narrative around cities to the incoming administration and new lawmakers in Congress.

(Getty Images)

The majority of decision-makers inside the Obama Administration understood that the overall success of federal policies requires good local input and leadership. NLC will continue to build a strong relationship between local leaders and the White House during the Trump Administration as well. (Getty Images)

In the nation’s capital, the remarkable success of the Republican Party in the 2016 election surprised many and started a fresh debate over the message voters wanted to deliver to Washington. Outside the Capital Beltway, Americans remain deeply divided in ways that could impact the division of power and authority within the intergovernmental partnership.

For a non-partisan organization like the National League of Cities (NLC), representing 19,000 cities of every size, such divisions are a concern for sure. Fortunately, NLC was not caught off guard by the election outcome because our 2017 Advocacy Agenda began taking shape two years ago, when our bipartisan leadership first started thinking about what a presidential transition would mean for cities.

In 2015, NLC convened a number of highly respected city leaders to form a Presidential Election Task Force with the goal of forging a truly bipartisan campaign platform for cities. The campaign, Cities Lead, was built on a platform of three issues important to every city: public safety, infrastructure, and the economy. City leaders around the nation used the Cities Lead Playbook to engage with the presidential candidates of both parties and to obtain assurances and commitments that areas of broad bipartisan consensus would remain on solid ground — regardless of the party in power.

Thanks to the work of that task force, NLC was able to create engagement opportunities during President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign and spotlight city leaders at the Republican National Convention (and Democratic National Convention). On election night, when the Trump campaign declared victory, NLC was there to congratulate him as the president-elect of the United States.

There is a fair amount of uncertainty about the priorities of the next administration and the 115th Session of Congress, but we are certain of at least three areas of common ground between the incoming administration and cities: the need to create greater resources for infrastructure, a desire to help cities and neighborhoods reduce crime and grow opportunity, and a focus on creating and retaining jobs.

It is unfortunate that the president-elect too often relies on mischaracterizations of cities, and there appears to be an urgent need for city leaders to build relationships with stakeholders inside and outside of the new administration. That’s why NLC is taking the lead and focusing on what may be cities’ most important federal priority for 2017: promoting a positive narrative around cities to the Administration and new lawmakers in Congress.

In 2008, then-Candidate Barack Obama said along the campaign trail that “we need to stop seeing our cities as the problem and start seeing them as the solution.” There is little question that, within the recent intergovernmental partnership, local governments were empowered by the greater value placed on cities by the outgoing administration.

Place-based programs prospered across federal agencies and allocated federal funding directly to local governments, including those programs strongly associated with NLC like the My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge and the Mayors Challenge to End Veterans Homelessness. The appointment of multiple former mayors and city officials to lead federal agencies, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Transportation, sent a message about the value of local leaders and ensured a city point of view inside the Obama Administration and at every cabinet meeting.

Of course, there were many actions taken by the Administration which drew criticism from NLC, including President Obama’s repeated proposals to cap tax exempt municipal bonds to achieve a balanced budget, and the $1 billion cut to the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program early in his first term that has yet to be reversed.

The fact remains that, as the result of a strong relationship between local leaders and the White House, the majority of decision-makers inside the Obama Administration understood that the overall success of federal policies depends on good local input and leadership.

This, then, is our main advice to the incoming administration: gain local insight.

Alongside our Cities Lead Advocacy Agenda, NLC also remains focused on specific legislative priorities. Our top asks for Congress this year are to protect tax-exempt municipal bonds, to authorize the collection of sales tax on internet purchases, and to allocate funding for infrastructure directly to local governments.

NLC has built a history of progress and success with both Democratic and Republican leadership in Congress, and we are poised to continue that success. Over the previous session of Congress, NLC helped deliver legislative victories for cities: a five-year transportation bill that puts more money in the hands of local governments; a water bill that includes resources for cities with contaminated water, like Flint, Michigan; a public health bill that significantly increases resources to battle the opioid epidemic tearing through communities; and spending bills that have largely maintained level funding for local priorities — just to name a few.

What’s most impressive is that Congress sent all of these measures to the president without tampering with municipal bonds.

New challenges and opportunities await cities, and NLC, in the coming year. Yet, as a non-partisan organization, NLC is the best-placed organization to build a new partnership for cities with the incoming administration, to advance policies where we are aligned, and to express opposition without fear of reprisal.

In turn, we are asking city leaders to help us in our mission by reintroducing their city to members of Congress (and Congressional staff) in their district as well as to the new administration officials in federal agencies overseeing the programs that matter most to their city.

mike_wallace_125x150About the author: Michael Wallace is the Interim Director of Federal Advocacy at the National League of Cities. Follow him on Twitter @MikeWallaceII.

Living Dr. King’s Legacy: Affordable Housing and a Call to Serve

Throughout the civil rights movement, housing was inextricably linked to the call for equality. But also tied to the movement was the recognition of a need to serve.

mlkblog

Cities including Columbus and Parma, Ohio, are partnering with The Home Depot Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, and Purple Heart Homes to provide homes as part of their service to those in need.

As the nation pauses to reflect on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it is worth remembering that our country’s immediate response to his death was to pass legislation related to housing discrimination.

Alongside his calls for racial equality, Dr. King regularly urged people to join him in service. Only two months before he was killed, Dr. King spoke at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and said, “Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Recognizing that one form of service is taking action to ensure everyone has their basic needs met, Dr. King made civil rights, community service and housing justice fundamental components of his work.

In cities across the country, local leaders are partnering with nonprofits and philanthropies to ensure the housing needs of the most vulnerable are met. The homeless, seniors, veterans and people with disabilities have unique housing needs that can require individualized responses.

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

One way cities are supporting these responses is through the donation of city-held properties. During NLC’s City Summit in Pittsburgh, the work of the City of Columbus was highlighted, as was their partnership with National Church Residences, a leading non-profit housing provider.

Columbus officials spoke about how they have revitalized entire sections of their community. As part of the city’s South Side Renaissance, the city has cleared an 11-acre site, demolished 60 blighted properties, and acquired over 100 properties.

In collaboration with philanthropies and nonprofit affordable housing developers, there are now 40 new single-family homes designated as rent to own opportunities and 14 homes for direct homeownership. In addition, a high-density multi-phase development is in process that will result in 116 units of senior housing and 62 units of permanent supportive housing.

One partner in this work was Habitat for Humanity, whose work in support of veterans has been previously been highlighted on Citiesspeak.

In the ongoing environment of dwindling resources from all levels of government, partnerships with philanthropies are critical for developing, preserving and modifying homes. In service to veterans and their families, The Home Depot Foundation has committed to invest a quarter of a billion dollars to veteran-related causes by 2020. Since 2011, the Foundation and Team Depots, associate-lead groups of volunteers, have improved more than 26,700 homes and 6,900 veteran facilities in more than 2,000 cities.

Also in Ohio, a partnership between Purple Heart Homes and The Home Depot Foundation has been highlighted as an example of service work made possible because of the connections between cities, philanthropies, and non-profit housing providers.

As we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King, local leaders have an opportunity to reflect and recommit themselves to their mission of service to the community. Beyond today, that commitment must live on to not only help those in need, but also inspire those around us to join us in service.

 
Elisha_blogAbout the Author: Elisha Harig-Blaine is the Principal Associate for Housing (Veterans and Special Needs) at NLC. Follow Elisha on Twitter at @HarigBlaine.

Five Ways Your City Can Benefit from the “Solar in Your Community” Challenge

Offering $5 million in cash prizes and technical assistance over 18 months, the Challenge supports local teams across the country in their efforts to develop programs or projects that bring solar to their communities.

There are 19 megawatts of solar installed in the city of Portland. Pictured is the Oregon Convention Center. (Jeremy Jeziorski)

This is a guest post by Odette Mucha.

In 2016, solar energy was the largest source of new generating capacity in the United States. With more than one million solar projects now operating across the country, the U.S. has over 35 gigawatts of total solar installed capacity – enough to power the equivalent of 6.5 million average American homes. This is an industry that is growing fast.

Despite this rapid growth, however, solar energy remains inaccessible to nearly half of American households and businesses, as well as many local governments and nonprofits. There are several reasons for this:

  • Nearly half of all rooftops cannot host solar due to insufficient roof space, lack of control over the roof (renters, condos), or shading.
  • While the federal Investment Tax Credit has grown the solar market, it excludes individuals and organizations with no federal tax liability, such as cities, nonprofits, low income individuals, and retirees
  • Low income populations face even greater challenges, often due to poor roof conditions, lower than average credit scores, and lack of access to affordable financing.

And yet, these communities stand to benefit the most from going solar – from stabilizing their energy costs to reducing air pollution. Cities go solar through the Solar in Your Community Challenge, a program launched by U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative to expand solar access to those who have, to date, been left out of the growing solar market.

The Solar in Your Community Challenge encourages the development of innovative financial and business models that serve low and moderate-income communities, local governments, and/or non-profits. Offering $5 million in cash prizes and technical assistance over 18 months, the Challenge supports local teams across the country in their efforts to develop programs or projects that bring solar to these segments of their communities, while proving that these business models can be widely replicated and scaled up.

Why should cities participate in the Solar in Your Community Challenge?

  1. Save Money on Municipal Electricity Bills

Local governments, which own approximately 10 percent of commercial buildings (schools, office buildings, public assembly buildings, etc.), spend approximately $14.7 billion on electricity – 12 percent of total commercial building expenditures (EIA data). Solar energy can cut cities’ monthly electricity bills and make funds available for other priorities.

  1. Create Local Jobs

The solar industry is a proven driver of job growth. As deployment has soared, so have solar jobs – there are nearly 209,000 solar workers in the U.S. today, with more than half of them in installation jobs that can’t be outsourced. Further, these workers are paid competitive wages, with installers making a median wage of $21 per hour.

  1. Help Low Income Residents

Low income households pay a large portion of their income towards electricity bills. An analysis by Groundswell found that the lowest income households spent nearly 10 percent of their income, over four times more than the average consumer. Access to low cost solar can provide price stability and bill relief to low and moderate income households.

  1. Improve Resiliency

Cities around the country are facing increased threats from natural disasters and are taking steps to plan for them. During extreme weather events, solar energy can help prevent outages, provide energy for critical facilities, and aid in recovery efforts. Solar can also provide energy to remote areas.

  1. Meet Environmental Goals

Using solar power instead of conventional forms of energy reduces the amount of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and other pollutants that are emitted into the environment. Reducing the amount of pollution translates into cleaner air, reduced water consumption, and improved health.

Cities can participate in the challenge in two ways – as part of a program team or a project team.

Program teams create new programs that enable the installation of solar for use by low income households, governmental organizations and/or nonprofits. Program Teams will be led by governments, utilities or financial institutions.

Project teams develop and install a new solar system or a portfolio of systems that benefit low income households, governmental organizations and/or nonprofits using innovative and scalable business practices. Project Teams can be led by anyone, but should include a combination of key organizations like cities, solar developers, utilities, financial institutions and community organizations.

The application deadline to participate in the Challenge is March 17, 2017. Click here to learn more about the Solar in Your Community Challenge and apply today!

odette_mucha_125x150About the author: Odette Mucha is a Technology Manager at the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative. She is the manager of the Solar in Your Community Challenge.

Trump May Not Be Able to Remove Federal Regulations Himself – But Someone Else Could

Three federal regulations of particular interest to cities might be on the chopping block following the inauguration, but the incoming administration would face difficulties removing them on its own.

A conservative Supreme Court could be the key to removing federal regulations under a Trump presidency. (Getty Images)

A conservative Supreme Court could be the key to removing federal regulations under a Trump presidency. (Getty Images)

President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly stated that one of the goals of his new administration is to get rid of federal regulations. Three on the chopping block of particular interest to state and local government include:

  • the Clean Power Plan (CPP), President Barack Obama’s signature climate change measure
  • the regulations defining “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS), a significant term in the Clean Water Act defining the federal government’s jurisdiction to regulate water
  • the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime regulations, which extend overtime pay to four million workers

Despite the fact that the new administration has a menu of options when it comes to removing final federal regulations, the most effective options are probably the most difficult for the president to achieve. If any or all of these regulations go, it won’t likely be the result of the direct efforts of the new president – the U.S. Supreme Court would likely be responsible.

What Are Trump’s Options?

Perhaps the cleanest way to undo final regulations is to rewrite or eliminate the statutory language being interpreted in the regulation. For example, the WOTUS final rule includes eight categories of jurisdictional waters. Congress could simply rewrite the Clean Water Act to define WOTUS differently from the final regulations. But getting such a change through Congress would probably be impossible as Senate Democrats would certainly filibuster any change they saw as offering less environmental protection than the final regulations.

The Trump Administration could also instruct federal agencies to rewrite regulations, but a number of challenges arise with this option. First, the agency would have to come up with new proposed regulations – and depending on the regulation, this might take a lot of time. Take the Clean Power Plan regulations, for example; they are more than 300 pages long. In addition, once new regulations are proposed, they are subject to a public comment period of either 60 or 120 days. The agency must then consider hundreds or thousands of comments before issuing final rules. Finally, when this process is complete, the new regulations would almost certainly be subject to a court challenge. Changes to agency rules must be non-arbitrary, and supporters of any of the three regulations discussed in this post would likely be willing to sue.

Another option when it comes to dealing with disfavored regulations is to simply fail to enforce them by giving agencies inadequate funding to engage in rigorous enforcement or instructing agencies to make enforcement of particular regulations a low priority. This strategy would be more effective for some regulations than others. For example, if President-elect Trump instructed the Department of Labor to ignore employees being classified as “white collar” when they should not be per the FLSA, employees could pursue lawsuits against their employers for this violation without Department of Labor involvement.

Agencies also have the option of issuing interpretations of regulations that can take those regulations in a different direction than originally intended. This strategy would not work well for dismantling seismic regulations like the Clean Power Plan or very simple, straightforward regulations like the FLSA overtime rules. Also, these interpretations can be subject to court challenge as arbitrary and can be overturned with the stroke of a pen by the next administration.

The CPP, the WOTUS regulations, and the FLSA regulations are all currently being challenged in court on various grounds. The Trump administration can also refuse to defend these laws. But the lawsuits are unlikely to simply go away because interveners would probably step in to defend them. For example, states and local governments have already intervened to defend the Clean Power Plan, and the Texas AFL-CIO has sought to intervene to defend the FLSA overtime regulations.

Enter Justice Kennedy

Before President-elect Trump was elected, all three of the cases described above were likely headed to the Supreme Court. Despite his hostility towards them (and maybe even because of it), these regulations will probably still end up before the Supreme Court.

It is perhaps unfair to speculate how a Supreme Court Justice might look at these regulations (which are all being challenged on different legal grounds) based solely on whether that Justice is a conservative or a liberal. Nevertheless, these labels indicate general legal philosophies and leanings.

Conservative Justices – for a variety of reasons which may differ depending on the regulation – might generally be more likely to view these (and other regulations) with more hostility than liberal Justices. A conservative Justice is more likely to see any or all of these regulations as an attack on federalism or as an example of federal agency overreach. Regarding the CPP or the WOTUS rule in particular, a conservative Justice may see these measures as part of a pro-environment policy agenda rather than as a manifestation of clear law.

While we don’t know who President Trump will nominate to fill Justice Antonin Scalia’s vacancy, all signs point toward President Trump nominating (and the Senate ultimately confirming) a reliable conservative. But this nomination will not change the balance of the Supreme Court before Justice Scalia died; it would remain a 5-4 conservative Court with Justice Anthony Kennedy in the middle.

So, unless membership in the Supreme Court changes again soon, the fate of these regulations may lie in the hands of a person as puzzling, powerful, and unpredictable as Donald J. Trump: Justice Kennedy.

lisa_soronen_new_125x150About the author: Lisa Soronen is the Executive Director of the State and Local Legal Center and a regular contributor to CitiesSpeak.

Mayors – Here’s How to Deliver an Effective State of the City Address

For many mayors, the start of the new year means it’s time to deliver their annual State of the City address, a speech which reviews the previous year’s accomplishments and sets the policy agenda for the year ahead.

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Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto delivers his annual State of the City address on January 26, 2016. (photo: Pittsburgh City Paper)

Your State of the City address has great potential to both inform your community and rally them to action – and success, of course, depends on the quality of your speech and its delivery. To aid in that effort, National League of Cities (NLC) has developed a new guide, “How to Deliver an Effective State of the City Address.Here’s a brief overview:

Developing Content

A good speech owes as much to the research as it does the writing. No rhetorical device can make up for a lack of substance. The time before the speech is delivered is a critical moment when arguments should be crafted, statistics assembled, and personal anecdotes collected.

Mayors should also decide on a central theme for their speeches, which helps listeners follow along. Before writing your speech, consider the headline you want to see in your local newspaper the following morning. This will help determine the key messages you want to deliver.

Drafting Your Speech

In addition to developing the content of your speeches, NLC’s how-to guide helps you structure your State of the City address by providing examples from past speeches delivered by other mayors. A speech of this type should contain five critical components: an attention grabber, a problems section, a solutions section, a visualization of how the solutions will help, and a call-to-action. From introduction to body to conclusion, our guide will help you craft a complete and persuasive argument.

Delivering the Address

State of the City speeches increase government transparency, helping local leaders connect with constituents, network with businesses, and tout accomplishments of the region. To resonate with your audience, you must know its particular needs and interests. Be sure to address them in your speech with the correct tone and substantive arguments. Finally, remember that you are writing for the ear – practice your speech aloud to make sure it sounds good and fits your presentation style.

View NLC’s full guide here.

Trevor Langan 125x150About the author: Trevor Langan is the Research Associate for City Solutions and Applied Research at the National League of Cities.