City Leaders – Here’s Why the Better Buildings Summit Should Be on Your Calendar

More than 900 participants at the Department of Energy’s 2017 Better Buildings Summit will share proven approaches to cutting energy use in their buildings over the next 10 years.

Among other offerings, the Better Buildings Summit will provide city leaders a sneak peak of cutting edge and emerging clean technologies that will increase energy efficiency in buildings and infrastructure. (Getty Images)

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is hosting the Better Buildings Summit May 15–17 in Washington, D.C. The Better Buildings Summit is a national meeting where leading organizations across key sectors showcase solutions to cut energy intensity in their buildings portfolio-wide by 20 percent over the next ten years. As one of the premier events for energy and sustainability professionals, the summit is the forum to engage with peers, explore innovative organizational strategies, learn about financing and technology trends, and much more. Check out the agenda for a list of all the sessions and watch this video to learn more.

The summit features numerous sessions and workshops designed to give city leaders fresh insights, inspiration and practical advice. They include:

All-In: States, Localities, Utilities and Nonprofits Creating Solutions for Underserved Communities

DOE is partnering with states, localities, utilities, housing agencies and nonprofit organizations to support the planning and implementation of clean energy programs in disadvantaged communities as part of its Clean Energy for Low Income Communities Accelerator. Session attendees will gain a better understanding of the diverse opportunities to ensure equitable and affordable access to energy efficiency and solar energy in American communities.

An Electrifying Transition: Electrification Barriers and Opportunities

A shift toward greater electrification is needed to effectively reduce energy waste and costs, increase energy independence, strengthen industry, and create jobs. This three-hour workshop explores the opportunities and barriers for state and local governments to electrify their transportation sectors, building technologies and ports. Join the workshop to discuss the latest trends, success stories and innovative strategies in electrification.

Expect the Unexpected: Planning Energy-Resilient Communities

The nation’s energy sector is subject to an increasing number of threats from natural and human events. Greater resilience is required to confront these risks, including a comprehensive plan and infrastructure with the ability to avoid disruptions, minimize impacts, and recover from and adapt to a changing environment. Attend this three-hour workshop to learn about the technologies, planning and partnership approaches governments are pursuing to overcome these challenges.

Shedding Light on LED Street Lights

The Better Buildings Outdoor Lighting Accelerator dove deeply into the deployment barriers of LED street lights, a performance technology with evidence-based energy savings and other benefits for many cities. Partners will share advice for overcoming the challenges for successful LED street lighting conversion projects. Attendees will leave with actionable information and resources to plan their own projects.

Reimagining Cities! Achieving Efficient, Resilient and Sustainable Communities Through Zero Energy Buildings

Exemplary Zero Energy Buildings (ZEBs) are setting the standard for more sustainable communities. Over the last year, ZEB projects grew by 74 percent and have covered every climate zone in the U.S. This session will cover the planning, innovative technologies and processes that make Zero Energy Buildings a reality while highlighting ZEB projects in Denver and Washington, D.C.

Addressing the Energy-Water Nexus: The Next Wave of Challenges and Solutions

Our nation’s energy and water systems are inextricably linked. Solutions that address the interdependencies of these systems are growing in importance as concerns over water scarcity continue to rise. In this session, experts from the public and private sectors will share their perspectives on key technology, business and policy solutions that address the energy-water nexus.

There are also great opportunities to tour high-performance buildings, speak with technical experts from national labs, and network with public sector peers:

  • Monday, May 15: Local government meet-up and post-summit networking event
  • Tuesday and Wednesday, May 15 and 16: Ask-an-Expert between sessions to get technical advice on building technologies or reserve a meeting to get one-on-one assistance with your community’s energy performance data
  • Tuesday May 16: Meet & greet with attendees during an evening networking event

Register now and get an invite to join the summit app community!

Financial assistance is available. A limited number of travel stipends and registration scholarships are available upon request for representatives from state or local government energy/sustainability offices that do not have administrative funds available for such purposes through an existing federal funding agreement with DOE or another federal agency. Please submit financial assistance requests through the registration website.

The Better Buildings Summit is produced by the U.S Department of Energy.

About the author: Nick Kasza is a Senior Associate with the Sustainable Cities Institute at the National League of Cities. He is part of a team that administers the SolSmart program and helps deliver technical assistance to cities pursuing SolSmart designation.

Racing to Be First: How Autonomous Vehicles Will Affect Our Communities

A new National League of Cities report addresses the most pressing questions that local officials might have concerning self-driving vehicles.

Autonomous vehicles are already on our city streets — and for the foreseeable future, a variety of vehicles will operate on our roads with varying levels of automation. (Getty Images)

The full version of this post can be found on Route Fifty

The race towards fully autonomous vehicles has shifted into overdrive. In the past year, major partnerships and acquisitions between tech firms and traditional automakers have signaled the race is heating up for the future of transportation — and the stakes are high.

Traditional automakers like GM, Ford, Daimler and Fiat are taking the competition posed by Google’s Waymo and Elon Musk’s Tesla seriously — partnering with car-sharing platforms like Uber and Lyft as well as acquiring their own autonomous capabilities in firms like Cruise Automation. Nearly every major auto manufacturer has set a target for full autonomous production by 2021 or before, while autonomous vehicles are already on the streets of Pittsburgh and Tempe, Arizona. If major investments by the sector’s most prominent firms are anything to go by, producers are betting that the future of mobility, especially urban mobility, will be in autonomous fleets of shared vehicles collecting reams of data as they drive through our city streets.

Read the full version on Route Fifty.

About the authors:

Nicole DuPuis is the principal associate for urban innovation in NLC’s Center for City Solutions and Applied Research. Follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicolemdupuis.

Elias Stahl is the urban innovation intern in NLC’s Center for City Solutions and Applied Research.

President’s Budget Threatens Cities’ Ability to Act on Environmental & Infrastructure Issues

Cuts in the administration’s budget proposal threaten funds that cities rely on to invest in water management, clean energy and revitalization efforts across the country. Here’s how these cuts could impact your city.

Proposed cuts to regional water restoration programs would cost local governments $427 million in funds to help clean up waterways and natural environments like the Chesapeake Bay. (Getty Images)

This April recess, NLC is encouraging city leaders to engage with their members of Congress while they are at home in their districts for two weeks. Don’t let Congress leave America’s cities behind — join us this week and next as we #FightTheCuts proposed in the administration’s budget.

This post was co-authored by Mayor James Diossa, Peter Friedrichs and Will Downie. It is part of a series on the 2018 federal budget.

Proposed cuts to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) threaten the funds that cities of all sizes rely on to invest in water management, clean energy and revitalization efforts across the country, with many of the programs directly benefiting the most vulnerable members of society. Here’s how these cuts could impact your city.

Water

While President Donald Trump’s proposal increases funding for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund programs and calls for level funding for WIFIA — a loan and loan guarantee program for large water infrastructure projects — it eliminates the Rural Utilities Services’ Water and Waste Water Loan and Grant Program under the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This program provides critical funds for rural communities across the country to maintain water infrastructure and address their unique water needs. Together, these water infrastructure programs helped small cities like Garber, Oklahoma, (population 842) protect their community’s drinking water by replacing aged water pipes and large cities like Boston (population 645,966) complete a landfill closure and reduce rainwater infiltration.

Regional water restoration programs like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Chesapeake Bay Initiative are also slated for elimination — a move that would cost local governments $427 million in funds to help clean up waterways and natural environments. These funds allowed the village of Shorewood, Wisconsin, to reduce contamination at Atwater Beach by investing in improved sewer systems and the city of Port Huron, Michigan, to restore 5,000 square feet of fish habitat and provide recreation areas for residents. Even if funding is slashed, cities will still have to meet the federal requirements for pollution reduction, creating an unfunded mandate.

Land

Although not specifically mentioned in the proposal, two key programs that help local governments establish local parks and greenways and revitalize abandoned properties may face cuts: the Land Conservation Fund and the Brownfields Redevelopment Program. The DOI Land and Water Conservation Fund helped the city of Seattle develop its now famous Gasworks Park. Without the assistance, the city would not have been able to transform an old gasification plant and its surrounding area into one of Seattle’s landmark public spaces. Meanwhile, the city of Central Falls, Rhode Island, was able to use a $200,000 EPA Brownfields grant to restore an abandoned mill building into successful mixed-use retail and business space. Together, these programs grow local economies by creating jobs, increasing property values, and attracting businesses and private capital.

Energy

The DOE Weatherization Assistance Program and the State Energy Program — which together provide over $300 million in assistance to local governments to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, including assistance to low-income residents to help lower their energy bills — are proposed to be eliminated. These programs allowed the city of Philadelphia to invest in innovative weatherization ideas that led to an increase in the total number of weatherized homes in the city, a reduction to the weatherization cost per home, increased energy savings, and new weatherization jobs in Philadelphia.

Air and Climate

The president’s proposed budget also targets programs that help cities reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and meet their climate action goals. The EPA Diesel Emission Reduction Program encourages cities to switch to cleaner-burning diesel vehicles. Last year, the program provided $7.7 million to 90 different cities to provide safer and cleaner school buses through replacement and retrofitting rebates. In addition, the proposed budget would eliminate climate change research and partnership programs totaling $100 million that cities rely on for data and information on climate change impacts on their communities.

Personnel

Out of all the federal agencies, EPA faces the biggest hit overall with a proposal to cut funding by 31 percent and eliminate 3,200 jobs, or 20 percent of its employees. These staff cuts will have a negative effect on EPA’s role as a regulator and will impede the ability of local elected officials to do their jobs. EPA approves a variety of permits and facilities that local governments rely on, like wastewater treatment plants. A “slimmed down” EPA will still have to process permits and projects, but a smaller staff will lead to delays and reduced technical assistance and will hurt local governments’ ability to provide the safe and clean environment they are entrusted to maintain.

Cities across the country will suffer under the White House’s budget plan. The president’s proposal will see cities large and small working with fewer funds and a less responsive regulatory regime, crippling their ability to provide vital services and infrastructure to their citizens. These cuts are bad for every city in the country, and pose a threat to the environment, our economy and our future.

Learn more about NLC’s #FightTheCuts campaign here.

About the authors:

James Diossa is the mayor of Central Falls, Rhode Island.

 

Peter Friedrichs is the director of planning and economic development for the city of Central Falls, Rhode Island.

 

Will Downie is an intern with the National League of Cities’ Federal Advocacy team.

How the President’s Budget Proposal Could Stop the Transit Revolution in Its Tracks

Included in the administration’s first budget proposal is a $499 billion cut to one of the federal government’s most successful transportation funding programs: TIGER Grants.

TIGER Grants fund innovative transportation projects such as this light rail system in Seattle. (Getty Images)

This April recess, NLC is encouraging city leaders to engage with their members of Congress while they are at home in their districts for two weeks. Don’t let Congress leave America’s cities behind — join us this week and next as we #FightTheCuts proposed in the administration’s budget.

This post was co-authored by Michael Wallace and Sam Warlick. It is part of a series on the 2018 federal budget.

While on the campaign trail, President Donald Trump often spoke like a true champion of American infrastructure. “Our airports, bridges, water tunnels, power grids, rail systems — our nation’s entire infrastructure is crumbling,” he wrote in 2015, “and we aren’t doing anything to fix it.”

His first three months as president have told a different story. Included in the administration’s first budget proposal is a $499 billion cut to one of the federal government’s most successful programs: TIGER Grants.

Created in 2009, TIGER Grants fund innovative transportation projects like light rail, regional buses, bicycle networks and new freight systems. The process is competitive, transparent and application-based, meaning that the grant winners must demonstrate outstanding economic and community benefits.

Over the past eight years, TIGER grants have supplied $5.1 billion in new funding to some of America’s most innovative urban and rural transportation projects. They include:

  • The QLINE Streetcar in Detroit, which will link the city’s resurgent downtown to some of its most economically-challenged neighborhoods
  • The Texas Rural Transit Asset Replacement project, which upgraded facilities and buses serving low-income, elderly and disabled riders across the state
  • Montana’s Poplar Airport Regional Access Project, which improved bike/pedestrian access and economic development opportunities in rural and tribal communities
  • The nationally-renowned Atlanta Beltline Trail, a green pedestrian and bicycle corridor redeveloped on an abandoned rail corridor

Under the White House’s “skinny budget,” the TIGER Grant program would be crippled. It would cut off the flow of federal investment in innovative transportation infrastructure — a key investment that has helped drive our nation’s economic recovery.

The ball is now in Congress’s court. With two weeks left to present a full budget for adoption, the House of Representatives can keep their promise to reinvest in infrastructure and create prosperity for all communities.

On behalf of city leaders, we strongly encourage Congress to stand with cities across the country and stop cuts to successful, valuable federal programs — including TIGER grants.

About the authors:

mike_wallace_125x150Michael Wallace is the Program Director of Federal Advocacy at the National League of Cities. Follow him on Twitter @MikeWallaceII.

 

Sam Warlick is a Senior Communications Associate at the National League of Cities.

Your City Can Receive Funding From the Volkswagen Settlement

Cities can use funds from the Volkswagen Clean Air Act settlement to invest in new vehicles, improve energy efficiency, provide public energy infrastructure and more.

Funds from the VW settlement can cover up to 100 percent of the cost to upgrade, repower or replace diesel-powered government vehicles with either newer, cleaner-burning models or vehicles that run on alternative energy. (Getty Images)

The settlement of the Volkswagen (VW) Clean Air Act violation case has created a unique opportunity for cities across the country to take advantage of more than $2 billion available for investment in new, cleaner vehicles and improve energy infrastructure in their communities.

In punishment for VW’s violation of the Clean Air Act by cheating on the emissions tests of more than 500,000 vehicles, VW will pay out $14.7 billion to alleviate the environmental damage created by their actions. $2.7 billion of this settlement will go into an Environmental Mitigation Trust that will be given directly to states to fund projects that reduce Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) emissions at the local level.

The funds will be given out proportionally based on the number of violating vehicles bought and used in the state, ranging between $381.28 million for California and $7.5 million for Wyoming, with states like Florida, Oklahoma and Washington receiving $152.38 million, $19.09 million and 103.96 million respectively. Cities are well positioned to take advantage of this money – and taking the initiative now ensures that local governments can put these funds to use in their communities.

The Environmental Mitigation Trust will be managed by a trustee, who will be confirmed in the coming weeks. To access the funds, each beneficiary must submit a certification form, signed by the governor, which designates a state agency to manage fund allocation no later than 60 days after the trustee’s confirmation. The designated agency will then have 150 days to create and submit mitigation plans detailing how the funds will be used, who the recipients will be, and how it will oversee the distribution. This document from the National Association of State Energy officials provides a complete breakdown of the Environmental Mitigation Trust’s timeline.

Cities can use the funds in a variety of ways to improve energy efficiency and provide public energy infrastructure, and many of the projects can be fully funded through this trust. Specifically,

  • the trust funds can cover up to 100 percent of the cost to upgrade, repower or replace diesel-powered government vehicles with either newer, cleaner-burning models or vehicles that run on alternative energy;
  • the trust funds can cover up to 75 percent of the cost to replace or repower non-government vehicles;
  • the trust funds may be used to buy, install, operate and maintain new Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) supply equipment such as LV1, LV2 and DC fast-charging stations in public areas, work places and multi-unit dwellings; and
  • other uses for the funds are allowed under the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) Clean Diesel Grant program, including truck stop electrification plans and idle reduction equipment. More information on eligible programs can be found on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s DERA website.

Cities can get involved in this program in several ways to secure available funding for use in their communities. For example, cities should prepare by identifying local projects that seek to reduce NOx emissions in their communities in collaboration with state agencies, local EPA offices, Clean Cities coalitions, and other community stakeholders. Cities should also identify which agencies will be charged with creating the mitigation plan in their state, and what the process and timeline will be for accepting public comments. Much of this information can be found online through state websites or governor’s offices. Once the beneficiaries have been chosen by the trustee, cities can submit their project proposals to the designated agencies to have their projects added to the state’s mitigation plan.

More information and details on the settlement and its associated time tables and deadlines, along with additional tools designed to help cities effectively submit their proposals, can be found in this document released by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

About the author: Will Downie is a federal advocacy intern at the National League of Cities. He is a senior at George Washington University studying political science and international affairs with a concentration in economics.

NLC Announces 2017 SolSmart City Challenge

Cities can earn national recognition and prizes by showcasing their support for solar energy.

(SolSmart)

Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative, the SolSmart program helps cities remove regulatory barriers to solar deployment and implement best practices to harness economic opportunity. (SolSmart)

Solar energy experienced a record-setting year in 2016 as 14,762 megawatts of solar PV became operational across the U.S. For the first time ever, solar energy was the leading source of new electric generating capacity added to the U.S. energy mix, beating out wind and natural gas. Cities played a strong role in making that happen.

From coast to coast, there are examples of cities leading the way by installing solar panels on the rooftops of city halls, fire stations, libraries and old municipal landfills. Cities also realize they can promote solar in other ways, and are making it easier for local homes and businesses to install solar by streamlining their permitting processes or updating zoning codes.

Cities that embrace solar energy recognize the value it brings to the community: local, well-paying jobs. The National Solar Jobs Census 2016 from the Solar Foundation found that 1 out of every 50 new jobs added in the U.S. was in the solar industry. The report documented 260,077 solar workers in 2016 ­– just as many as in the natural gas industry.

The National League of Cities (NLC) supports local solar energy leadership and is a proud partner of SolSmart, a program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative. SolSmart recognizes leading solar communities and empowers additional communities to become solar leaders through customized technical assistance. NLC recently recognized the latest group of SolSmart designated communities at its 2017 Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C.

New SolSmart Communities:

  • SolSmart Gold: New York City and Louisville, Kentucky
  • SolSmart Bronze: Maricopa County, Arizona; Moab, Utah; Plano, Texas; Salt Lake City; and Summit County, Utah

SolSmart Communities Achieving a Higher Designation:

  • SolSmart Gold: Denver
  • SolSmart Silver: Charleston County, South Carolina, and Pinecrest, Florida

NLC wants to see more cities become SolSmart designees. To that end, we are launching the 2017 SolSmart City Challenge, a new national competition for cities to showcase their support for solar energy. The SolSmart City Challenge will run from Monday, April 3, until Friday, June 30. Cities can join the challenge by completing a SolSmart scorecard.

The SolSmart City Challenge has two categories (one winner from each).

  1. SolSmart City MVP: This award will go to the city with the highest verified points total after the initial submission of a SolSmart scorecard.
  2. SolSmart Most Improved: This award will go to the city with the highest verified points improvement between initial submission of a scorecard and resubmission of a SolSmart scorecard. Cities in this category will work with SolSmart technical assistance providers to complete more actions and acquire more points. Resubmissions must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on June 30. Only one resubmission is allowed.

The prizes for the two winners of the SolSmart City Challenge include:

  • Travel reimbursement to attend the 2017 NLC City Summit, November 15-18 in Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Presentation opportunity at the City Summit during a workshop on Energy & Climate
  • Presentation opportunity during a future NLC webinar on SolSmart
  • Recognition in NLC communication platforms, including The Weekly, the official newsletter of the National League of Cities, as well as NLC’s official blog, CitiesSpeak, and our social media channels
  • SolSmart City Challenge Winning Certificate

Email Nick Kasza if you’d like to get started on the SolSmart scorecard or learn more about the SolSmart City Challenge. If you have a story or picture to share about solar energy impacting your community, send it to Nick and it may be featured in a future blog post.

Please note: the 2017 SolSmart City Challenge is open to new city submissions only. Cities that submitted a SolSmart scorecard prior to April 3, 2017, are not eligible. Previous submissions, SolSmart Early Adopter Communities, and communities with a SolSmart Advisor are also ineligible for the SolSmart City Challenge.

About the author: Nick Kasza is a Senior Associate with the Sustainable Cities Institute at the National League of Cities. He is part of a team that administers the SolSmart program and helps deliver technical assistance to cities pursuing SolSmart designation.

Want to Close the Digital Divide? For Cities, Partnerships Are Key

In New York, the Bronx city government was able to provide 5,000 families living in public housing with tablets and internet service. Here’s how they did it.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (center), along with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro (left) and Terry Hayes, Senior Vice President, Northeast Region, T-Mobile, gather in December 2016 to celebrate the work to connect 5,000 families living in public housing in the Bronx with tablets and internet service. (photo: EveryoneOn)

This is a guest post by Chike Aguh.

In New York City, approximately 20 percent of households currently don’t have the internet at home and have no mobile internet options. In the Bronx, it is a staggering 26 percent of households. The majority of the unconnected are minority and poor.

At EveryoneOn, we have seen this time and time again: low-income individuals yearning for a connection to the digital world but not being able to find a way to afford it. Luckily, cities are meeting this call and implementing public-private partnership solutions.

For example, in 2016, the Bronx city government worked with T-Mobile to provide 5,000 families living in public housing with tablets and internet service. It was a $2 million investment, and part of a larger $10 million commitment by the New York City government to bring affordable internet access to all of New York City by 2025.

“Increasing internet access across the city is not just a noble goal – it’s a necessary one. These days, the internet is virtually a requirement for people searching for jobs or students doing homework,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Along with free Wi-Fi internet through T-Mobile networks, the 5,000 residents were given tablets loaded with applications and links to city services. In addition, residents were offered information sessions on how to use the tablets. By combining these efforts with digital literacy training from the New York Public Library’s Bronx branches, residents now have access to the three-legged stool of digital inclusion: affordable internet access, a device on which to access the internet, and training on how to use both.

During the launch, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro highlighted HUD’s innovative ConnectHome program, which connects residents in HUD-assisted housing, and praised New York City’s commitment to digital inclusion efforts.

“The ConnectHome program is providing children and families with the tools they need to stay competitive in this 21st century global economy,” said Castro in a news release. “With this new commitment to ConnectHome, T-Mobile and the city of New York are making a meaningful impact to close the digital divide for thousands of New York public housing residents.”

While the Bronx and New York City – along with other cities such as Seattle, Kansas City, Missouri, and Charlotte, North Carolina – have helped close the digital divide, the United States as a whole still has a long way to go in making sure that all people have access to the life-altering power of the internet. According to the American Community Survey, more than 60 million people are currently living on the wrong side of the digital divide. This divide affects both rural and urban residents, but disproportionately those that are poor and minority.

This lack of access and use of the internet impacts almost every aspect of daily lives. For example, Pew Research has found that approximately 80 percent of students need the internet to complete their homework, and that the vast majority of people have used the internet to research and apply for jobs. If you have the internet at home, high school graduation is more likely, which can lead to $2 million more in lifetime earnings.

These are just a few of the numbers that can be improved if we work together to connect people to the internet at home. At EveryoneOn, we have worked since 2012 to help connect people to the social and economic opportunities provided by the internet. So far, we have connected more than 400,000 people in the United States, with the goal of connecting one million people by 2020.

We believe that partnerships are a way for all cities to meet the digital needs of their residents. For cities and communities, support of digital inclusion efforts through community planning, public-private partnerships and monetary investments are substantial ways to help the unconnected enter the digital on-ramp. By working together, the goal of ending this digital divide is attainable. The digital inclusion needle can be moved with just a little push.

About the author: Chike Aguh is the chief executive officer of EveryoneOn, a national nonprofit that creates social and economic opportunity by connecting everyone to the internet. EveryoneOn serves as the nonprofit lead of HUD’s ConnectHome program. Follow Chike on Twitter @CRAguh or EveryoneOn @Everyone_On.

Meet Your City Technology and Communications Advocate

“It can seem tempting to default on the side of industry in the hopes of spurring innovation, but obviously you cannot prioritize the needs of one entity or company over those of all the other actors in the room – namely, local governments.”

Every week leading up to the Congressional City Conference, we will continue to feature “Meet Your City Advocate” spotlights as part of a series introducing you to NLC’s Federal Advocacy team. This week, I sat down with Angelina Panettieri, principal associate for technology and communications advocacy at NLC.

Angelina4.jpg

Angelina Panettieri is the principal associate for technology and communications at NLC (Brian Egan/NLC).

Name: Angelina Panettieri
Area of expertise: Technology and Communications
Hometown: near Winchester, Virginia
Federal Advocacy Committee: Information Technology & Communications (ITC)

Angelina, thanks for your time today. To start off, can you tell us about your background?

I grew up out in the country near Winchester, Virginia. So, fun fact: I never lived in a real city until college. Undergrad was the first time I lived in a place with sidewalks. I earned a BA and an MPA from George Mason University. I always knew I wanted to work in policy, and have worked for several other organizations before joining NLC. One of my first jobs was with a group that represented smaller chemical companies. I later joined an association that works with pharmacists. Now I work in technology and communications policy for cities, so you can see that I’ve always been interested in wonky technical topics. I started at NLC a few years back, working in grassroots advocacy.

So what specifically attracted you to technology and communications policy? 

It always interested me. It’s an area that seems to be growing. Technology and communications are areas that will likely shape our lives the most over the immediate future — and that means a lot for cities. Technology is starting to determine how we move around, what our housing looks like, what are jobs are, how we treat our patients.

There’s something we often say — broadband is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. I compare it to the rural electrification project. Like the families that remained off-the-grid in the first half of the 20th century, we’re rapidly moving toward a world where internet is a necessary ingredient to success. Many people don’t realize that a huge portion of NLC’s members are small cities, and these are the places that are still working to get online. It’s exciting for me to advocate for them.

What do you think 2017 has in store for technology and communication policy, as far as cities are concerned?

I think this year will be interesting. We haven’t heard a lot from the president about where he wants to take tech policy – other than outspoken support for infrastructure and manufacturing, which will inevitably involve technology. Congress has had a backlog of technology-focused bills that they were not able to pass last year; I expect they will have more success this year. These bills are largely noncontroversial: expanding available spectrum, incentivizing infrastructure that includes broadband, etcetera. There are two places, however, that I think we should focus on: the FCC and state legislatures.

The new FCC chair, Commissioner Ajit Pai, has already indicated that he will shake things up over there. Our goal is to maintain a dialogue with all the commissioners and ensure that major policy changes are only made after the needs of cities have been considered. It can seem tempting to default on the side of industry in the hopes of spurring innovation, but obviously you cannot prioritize the needs of one entity or company over those of all the other actors in the room, namely local governments.

On the state side of things, we are seeing telecom and other technology bills moving very quickly through state houses. NLC doesn’t lobby state legislatures, but in this policy area in particular, we are seeing states drive a lot of what’s happening on the ground. I think Congress will continue to watch what’s happening in states as inspiration for federal policy in the future. But I may be jumping ahead to a 2018 or 2019 prediction.

Did you want to touch upon the 5G comment period going on right now?

Yes, of course! We’re involved in a proceeding at the FCC that’s focused on the local government permitting process for small cell wireless infrastructure. This is all leading up to the deployment of a new 5G wireless standard. The wireless industry is working to provide faster service to its customers, which requires moving up the spectrum. As you go higher, you need smaller antennas to broadcast a signal, and you need many more of them located closer together.

It’s a competition to offer the best 5G first, which means every company has already started applying for permits to install hundreds of thousands of these “small cells.” Now, the FCC is looking into whether existing regulations and permitting processes – mostly at the local level – are slowing this deployment down. NLC is most concerned about maintaining cities’ rights to protect their residents’ rights of way, and ensuring that they continue to get proper compensation for its use. 5G needs to happen without overwhelming and ignoring the needs of local governments.

Fascinating! And now for the hardest question: what’s your spirit city?

I have had a lot of time to think about this, so I can say with certainty: Wildwood, New Jersey.

Get out! You know I’m a South Jersey kid, so shore trips to Wildwood define my childhood.

I did not know that!

I’m glad someone doesn’t hear my accent. Why Wildwood, is it all of that Googie architecture?

Yes, I love Googie architecture! Really, I love everything about Wildwood. They have such a great pride in their history and fully embrace how quirky it is. I could spend every summer of my life there. They’ve doubled down on the classic fifties beach image and they run with it.

Join us at the 2017 Congressional City Conference and meet Angelina and the rest of your City Advocates.

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

 

Reminding Washington That Cities Lead

Leading up to the 2017 Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C., city representatives held 42 meetings this week with federal officials, working to build local-federal partnerships and tell Congress why city priorities will help to move America forward.

(NLC)

(clockwise from top middle) White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs Deputy Director Billy Kirkland addresses state league leaders; Maryland Municipal League President and Edmonston, Maryland, Mayor Tracy Gant and Maryland Municipal League Executive Director Scott Hancock meet with Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD); New York State Conference of Mayors President and White Plains, New York, Mayor Tom Roach and New York State Conference of Mayors Executive Director Peter Baynes meet with Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY); Mississippi Municipal League President and Magee, Mississippi, Mayor Jimmy Clyde and Mississippi Municipal League Executive Director Shari Veazey meet with Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS); State municipal league leaders descend on Capitol Hill for day of action. (NLC)

This post was co-authored by Carolyn Berndt, Angelina Panettieri and Ashley Smith.

State Municipal Leagues Join NLC to Advocate for Cities on Capitol Hill

This week, more than 35 executive directors and local leaders from 20 state municipal leagues across the country traveled to Washington, D.C. for an inaugural fly-in to advocate for city priorities on Capitol Hill and with the Trump Administration. At meetings and a briefing on Capitol Hill, state municipal league partners and NLC staff advocated for our top legislative priorities, including the tax exemption for municipal bonds, reinvestment in municipal infrastructure and e-fairness. Together we ensured that federal decision-makers heard loud and clear that local leaders are ready to build local-federal partnerships that will help to move America forward.

The fly-in began on Tuesday with a briefing hosted by NLC’s Federal Advocacy staff, which provided state municipal league executive directors and local leaders with an update on the new political dynamics in Washington, D.C., as well as substantive updates on NLC’s 2017 federal legislative priorities. NLC President Matt Zone, council member, Cleveland, and NLC Executive Director/CEO Clarence Anthony welcomed fly-in attendees to NLC’s office and spoke about the importance of advocating for cities during this time of change in Washington. In addition, Billy Kirkland, the newly appointed Deputy Director for the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, addressed the state municipal league executive directors and local leaders and opened the door to future collaboration between the administration and cities.

On Wednesday, the state league leaders descended on Capitol Hill for a day of action to advocate for city priorities, including investments in municipal infrastructure and protecting municipal bonds, as well as introducing cities to newly elected members of Congress. In their time on the Hill, they met with more than 45 congressional offices across 15 states. Additionally, state league leaders and NLC staff met with staff directors of two key House committees to discuss issues important to cities – brownfields reauthorization and unfunded mandates – and with the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Wireless Bureau to urge the FCC to avoid a one-size-fits-all mandate to preempt local authority on small cell wireless facility siting.

The day of action also included a briefing on Capitol Hill for senators, members of Congress and their staffs. Rep. Drew Ferguson (GA-3), a former mayor of West Point, Georgia, spoke at the briefing about the need for stronger federal-local partnerships.

Local Leaders Call on Congress to be a Partner to Cities

This Thursday, NLC hosted a Congressional briefing, “City Hall 101: The Role of Cities in Moving America Forward,” to urge members of Congress and staff to consider the best ways to partner with cities to solve some of the most pressing challenges of our time. With a focus on the economy, infrastructure and public safety, NLC President and Cleveland, Ohio, Councilmember Matt Zone opened the briefing by calling on Congress to support local efforts to combat public health crises like the opioid epidemic, to give city leaders a voice in how federal infrastructure dollars are invested, and to protect the tax-exemption for municipal bonds that helps cities invest in infrastructure to grow their local and the national economy.

“Cities are the builders of America’s infrastructure. We are the creators of economic opportunity for our residents. And we are leaders in finding creative solutions to the challenges facing our communities and our nation,” said Councilmember Zone.

Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-GA), a former mayor of West Point, Georgia, and a newly-elected Congressman, spoke about his perspective of coming to Washington, D.C. after serving at the local level and the need for stronger federal-local partnerships. He spoke eloquently about the role of economic development and education in helping to move people out of poverty and into the middle class. In closing, Ferguson said, “The health of the nation can be measured by the health of our cities.”

Christy McFarland, NLC Research Director, discussed two recent NLC reports, City Fiscal Conditions and Paying for Local Infrastructure in a New Era of Federalism, which served as background on the health of city budgets, including revenue and expenditures, and the fiscal capacity of cities to be a partner with federal government. “City finances are stable. Cities are in a positive trajectory to growth, but city finances are vulnerable to economic swings. And the authority of local governments to raise revenue is often constrained,” McFarland said.

Council Member Zone was joined by Mayor C. Kim Bracey, York, Pennsylvania, and First Vice President of the Pennsylvania Municipal League, and Commissioner Gil Ziffer, Tallahassee, Flaorida, and First Vice President of the Florida League of Cities, to share experiences from their cities on some of the challenges they are facing at the local level.

Mayor Bracey and Commissioner Ziffer talked about the impact that homelessness has on their communities. In Tallahassee, the city utilized a public-private partnership to build a homeless shelter that provides other wrap around services including medical assistance, mental health services, and job retraining that has become a model for other cities in Florida.

Although York is a city of 43,000 and only 5.2 square miles, Mayor Bracey shared the city experiences the same kind of societal issues, good and bad, that larger cities face. While crime is going down and homeownership is up, homelessness, particularly among children, is a big challenge for the city. Programs like the Community Development Block Grant help the city leverage other public and private sector dollars to address the issues.

As the conversation turned to the topic of infrastructure, Councilmember Zone said that cities need a diverse array of financing options in order to improve our nation’s transportation and water infrastructure. While private sector financing is critical for cities in terms of increasing investments, Councilmember Zone said public-private partnerships might work for large projects, but it will not work for the types of Main Street projects that are needed in smaller communities nationwide.

(NLC)

(NLC)

Florida Local Leaders Travel to D.C. to Advocate for Federal Issues Impacting Cities

City officials from Florida traveled to Washington, D.C. this week to meet with members of Congress and advocate for key federal issues that affect municipalities.

The Florida League of Cities, led by FLC First Vice President Commissioner Gil Ziffer, Tallahassee and FAST Chair Mayor Joe Durso, Longwood, brought 28 members of the Federal Action Strike Team (FAST) and three staff members to meet with members of the Florida congressional delegation. The advocates first received a briefing from NLC’s Federal Advocacy team, then traveled to Capitol Hill. During their meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday, FLC FAST members advocated for the tax exemption for municipal bonds, federal infrastructure funding, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), the FEMA Public Assistance Program, and e-fairness legislation.

(NLC)

The Florida League of Cities FAST Strike Team visited Washington, D.C. this week to advocate for city priorities and attend a number of key meetings. (NLC)

State League Directors and City Leaders Talk Brownfields, Unfunded Mandates with Committees

During NLC’s State Municipal League Directors and Presidents Fly-In this week, local leaders met with staff directors of several House committees to discuss issues important to cities: brownfields reauthorization and unfunded mandates.

NLC President Matt Zone, councilmember, Cleveland, Mayor Harry Brown, Stephens, Arkansas, and President of the Arkansas Municipal League, Town Administrator Mel Kleckner, Brookline, Massachusetts, and President of the Massachusetts Municipal League, along with Arkansas and Massachusetts state municipal league representatives discussed with the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment the need to reauthorize the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Brownfields program. The committee, which shares jurisdiction over brownfields with the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is currently drafting legislation and will likely hold a hearing later this spring. NLC members voiced their support for addressing the local liability concerns and improving the flexibility of the program in the reauthorization bill.

Additionally, President Zone, Mayor Brown, Ken Wasson, Director of Operations for the Arkansas Municipal League, and Sam Mamet, Executive Director of the Colorado Municipal League, met with the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Intergovernmental Affairs Subcommittee to discuss how unfunded mandates place a burden on local governments, particularly small towns with limited financial resources. NLC leaders also discussed with committee staff how to ensure that the local voice is heard throughout the rulemaking process. Recently, NLC compiled feedback from local elected officials on unfunded mandates and regulatory reform proposals at the request of the committee. The committee will likely hold a hearing on these issues later this spring, and is seeking ongoing feedback from NLC and cities on how to reduce the burden on local governments.

State League Advocates Urge FCC to Respect Local Authority

In a meeting with the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Wireless Bureau, advocates from the Georgia Municipal Association, Massachusetts Municipal Association, and League of Minnesota Cities urged the FCC to avoid a one-size-fits-all mandate to preempt local authority on small cell wireless facility siting. The meeting was held in response to a public notice published by the FCC in December that requested feedback on the current state of small cell deployment in cities.

The state municipal league advocates discussed the widely varying challenges faced by cities throughout the nation in working to improve wireless coverage for city residents, while preserving their residents’ rights of way, safety, and city planning priorities. They also shared their cities’ specific challenges, particularly the proliferation of excess or abandoned pole infrastructure in the rights of way, challenges in balancing repeated requests to site wireless infrastructure in densely populated cities, while neighboring rural towns lack service, and the difficulties for local planning officials to acquire adequate staff support for processing of unpredictable influxes of siting applications. The advocates also provided information about the great variation between their states’ respective laws on city authority in wireless siting.

About the authors:

Carolyn Berndt is the Program Director for Infrastructure and Sustainability on the NLC Federal Advocacy team. She leads NLC’s advocacy, regulatory, and policy efforts on energy and environmental issues, including water infrastructure and financing, air and water quality, climate change, and energy efficiency. Follow Carolyn on Twitter at @BerndtCarolyn.

Angelina Panettieri is the Principal Associate for Technology and Communication at the National League of Cities. Follower her on twitter @AngelinainDC.

 

Ashley Smith is the Senior Associate, Grassroots Advocacy at the National League of Cities. Follow Ashley @AshleyN_Smith.

Cities Turn to Home Energy Score to Help Residents Save Money and Reduce Energy Waste

An upcoming webinar will show how cities can provide their residents with reliable, low-cost, and easy-to-perform home energy assessments.

Cities like Berkeley, California, and Portland, Oregon, are using the Home Energy Score to help residents easily assess their homes’ energy usage. (RCKeller/Getty Images)

When the city of Berkeley, California, launched its Building Energy Saving Ordinance (BESO) in December 2015, other cities around the country started paying attention. The city’s ordinance requires owners of single family homes to disclose their home’s estimated energy use by getting a Home Energy Score at the time of sale.

Looking for a reliable, low cost, and easy-to-perform home energy assessment, the city landed on the Home Energy Score – a standard rating system created by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The Home Energy Score attracted the city for other reasons as well. First, DOE’s national laboratories and partners had thoroughly tested and analyzed the score. The scoring system is easy to understand and lets consumers compare one home to another anywhere in the country. The Home Energy Score is an “asset score,” meaning the score is based on the home’s physical structure and major mechanical equipment, not how current occupants use the home. Lastly, the scoring tool and training/testing for assessors are both available at no cost.

While the city was excited to embark on this new approach, they didn’t want to slow down real estate transactions and therefore included a provision that provides a 12-month grace period after a home’s purchase should the seller not have the home scored prior to sale.

The city of Portland, Oregon, is pursuing a similar path with its Home Energy Score policy, which its city council unanimously passed on December 14. The ordinance requires sellers of single family homes—both existing and new construction—to obtain a Home Energy Score prior to listing, and to include the score and accompanying report in any real estate listings, in addition to providing a copy to prospective buyers. With 10,000 home sales per year, the city of Portland is poised to grow the Home Energy Score market exponentially (more than 55,000 homes have been scored across the United States since the program launched in summer 2012). The ordinance goes into effect January 1, 2018.

A number of states and utilities have also taken action on the Home Energy Score by incorporating the score on a voluntary basis into statewide initiatives or residential energy efficiency programs sponsored by utilities. The Colorado Energy Office launched a statewide Home Energy Score program in 2015 with the aim of integrating the score into real estate transactions so that the energy efficiency of homes can begin to be recognized and valued. By building up a pool of home inspectors to offer the score at point of sale, as well as integrating the score into utilities’ existing programs, the state is well on its way to making home energy information readily available in the real estate market.

Cities with municipally-owned utilities can play a leading role in driving residential energy savings. Columbia Water and Light in Missouri has done just that by integrating the Home Energy Score into its Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program. With more than 7,000 homes scored to date, the municipal utility views the Home Energy Score as a valuable addition to their toolbox, helping to raise awareness about the value of energy efficiency improvements and being able to quantify energy savings.

Cities are interested in energy planning for a wide variety of reasons, ranging from infrastructure management and resiliency to resource and environmental stewardship. Given that the residential sector accounts for more than 20 percent of the nation’s energy use, homeowners can play a significant role in in ensuring that energy resources are used efficiently.

Register here for a free webinar on Wednesday, February 22 at 3:00 p.m. EST to learn more about how your city can use the Home Energy Score to more readily engage residents and help them understand how to save on monthly costs while improving the comfort of their homes. The webinar will also give examples of how the cities of Berkeley and Portland are using the score to provide reliable, low-cost, and easy-to-perform home energy assessments.

About the author: Nick Kasza is a Senior Associate with the Sustainable Cities Institute at the National League of Cities. He is part of a team that administers the SolSmart program and helps deliver technical assistance to cities pursuing SolSmart designation.