Five Issues Tackled by Youth Delegates at the Congressional City Conference

The delegates designed their own sessions focused on leadership and skill development, developed strategies to solve problems in their communities, and learned the importance of advocacy at all levels of government.

Youth delegates at the Congressional City Conference learn to lobby, advocate, and collaborate on the issues that matter most to them. (Jason Dixson/NLC)

This is the fifth post in a series highlighting NLC’s 2017 Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C., March 11-15.

Youth delegates from 37 cities across the nation convened this week at the 2017 Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C. In sessions with their peers and other youth allies, the delegates critically analyzed issues in their communities and developed strategies and solutions.

In one of the most engaging sessions, Lobbying and Advocacy: Making the Youth Voice Heard, delegates heard from former congressional staffers as well as current lobbyists and consultants about the importance of the youth voice in all levels of government and their power to make a difference on both a small and large scale.

As part of this session, each youth council represented at the conference identified a problem in their city, formulated a solution, and developed a plan to lobby local, state and federal leaders for change. They then encapsulated the problem, its solution and convincing messaging into a concise elevator pitch. Here are five issues discussed at the session:

Lack of youth involvement in local government: Delegates from Olathe, Kansas, and Fayetteville, North Carolina, identified the potential benefits of increased youth participation in local government, and each youth council took a different approach to this issue. Delegates from Olathe suggested creating a teen council to listen to other youth problems and presenting those problems to city councilmembers. Delegates from Fayetteville created a plan to lower the local voting age to 16 to increase voter turnout and local knowledge. Their strong argument: “Sixteen-year-olds pay taxes if they have jobs – and there should not be taxation without representation!”

Possible loss of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding: Delegates from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, identified the importance of CDBG funds in their city that help subsidize many youth programs. One delegate from Milwaukee noted that “these programs affect the longevity and success of youth in our city.”

Plastic pollution in cities: Delegates from Hillsboro, Oregon, described their plan to ban plastic bags in their city as “a way to save the community and contribute to a global movement.” They highlighted the fact that more than 50 percent of plastic bags are used just once and then thrown away.

Mental illness awareness and resources: Delegates from the cities of Brighton and Loveland in Colorado addressed the lack of mental illness awareness and resources in their schools and communities. Both youth councils emphasized reducing teen suicide rates and teaming up with mental health organizations to implement more programs.

Dangers of invasive species: Delegates from Buckeye, Arizona, shared a unique problem in their community: the damage created by an invasive plant, the salt cedar tree. One salt cedar tree can use up to 300 gallons of water per day, meaning that 200,000 households could use the water currently being used by salt cedar trees. Their solution? Release the Salt Cedar Creek Beetle to combat the invasive species. The delegates highlighted the documented success of this strategy, which is already underway in some areas of Texas.

Feedback from the session’s panelists allowed the youth to expand on their ideas and explore ways to make their arguments more powerful. The delegates also learned about the importance of highlighting reliable data and sharing examples of best practices in similar towns and cities.

Youth delegates are sure to take their invaluable experiences at the Congressional City Conference back to their youth councils at home to spark effective change in their communities. Their enduring engagement and involvement in all of the sessions proved their dedication to the betterment of their communities.

About the author: Alessia Riccio is the 2016-2017 National League of Cities Menino Fellow in the partnership between Boston University’s Initiative on Cities and NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.

Videos from the 2017 Congressional City Conference

This is the fourth post in a series highlighting NLC’s 2017 Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C., March 11-15.

More than 2,400 of the nation’s city officials united in Washington, D.C. this week for NLC’s annual Congressional City Conference. Whether they were first-timers or thirty-year veterans, this video provided everything they needed to know to make the most of the conference:

 

The Congressional City Conference is the perfect opportunity for city leaders to boost their leadership skills. NLC University offers thoughtfully-crafted seminars at the start of each conference in which participants learn about current resources, develop strategies, build skills, and engage in small group discussions and exercises with peers from other communities. We asked attendees what they looked forward to learning from the NLCU seminars this year:

 

City leaders came to the conference to defend Community Development Block Grants and fight the cuts to funding sources on which cities depend. We caught up with a few favorite colleagues, like NLC Immediate Past President and Joplin, Missouri, Councilmember Melodee Colbert-Kean, to hear what they had to say about the proposed cuts:

 

Paul Konz headshotAbout the Author: Paul Konz is the Senior Editor at the National League of Cities.

How Your City Can Boost Economic Mobility and Opportunity

Highlighting practical and accessible steps city leaders can take to help individuals and families meet their basic needs and move up the economic ladder, NLC President Matt Zone challenges every NLC member city to take action and sign a pledge to increase economic mobility and opportunity for their residents in 2017.

NLC President and Cleveland, Ohio, Councilmember Matt Zone announces his Economic Mobility and Opportunity Task Force at the City Summit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on November 21, 2016. (NLC)

This is the third post in a series highlighting NLC’s 2017 Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C., March 11-15.

Cities can’t wait. That’s true in so many areas where federal or state help is stymied by partisan gridlock or ideological differences. But mayors and other city leaders don’t have the option of doing nothing in the face of local challenges. They have to step up – and taking steps to expand economic mobility and opportunity is a great example of what’s possible.

At NLC’s 2017 Congressional City Conference this week, NLC President Matt Zone issued a bold challenge to NLC membership: he asked every one of the more than 2,000 city officials and community partners in attendance to commit to one action that will help local residents share in the nation’s prosperity. This challenge builds upon President Zone’s creation of an Economic Mobility and Opportunity Task Force when he assumed his NLC leadership role in November 2016.

Last fall’s elections offered a striking reminder that millions of financially strained families across America feel they are forgotten, cast aside in an economy that no longer needs their skills or contributions. Growing economic disparities highlight that families need access to well-paying jobs, affordable housing and stable incomes in their pursuit of the American Dream. These challenges are a key concern for city leaders because the financial health of every community depends on economic mobility and opportunity for its residents.

That’s why members of the Economic Mobility and Opportunity Task Force – from Atlanta Mayor and Task Force Chair Kasim Reed and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh to elected leaders from smaller cities such as Mayor Johnny DuPree of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and Councilmember Deana Holiday Ingraham of East Point, Georgia – have already pledged to take action in their cities.

President Zone’s action challenge highlights practical and accessible steps city leaders can take in four key areas to help individuals and families meet their basic needs and move up the economic ladder. They include:

Boost Working Families’ Incomes — Promote and Help Residents Claim the Earned Income Tax Credit

City officials can use their “bully pulpit” and other city communication mechanisms to promote the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) widely and inform residents about where they can obtain free tax preparation services. Most communities have a VITA (Voluntary Income Tax Assistance) program in which IRS-certified volunteers provide free tax return preparation for low- and moderate-income families at community organizations or other sites around the city. Some cities offer VITA sites directly in municipal buildings such as city hall or public libraries.

Strengthen Residents’ Financial Capability – Expand Access to Financial Education and Coaching

In many communities, financial education, coaching and counseling services are available through community organizations, credit counseling agencies, local universities, and other entities. Too often, however, city residents do not know where or how to access these services. Cities can play important roles in coordinating the efforts of local providers and using diverse communications and outreach vehicles to promote available offerings, particularly in low-income neighborhoods.

Provide New Options for Families in Debt – Implement Win-Win City Debt Collection Strategies

Cities have a unique – and often missed – opportunity to reach struggling residents by examining payment patterns of residents in debt to the city and considering payment collection strategies that financially empower families rather than impose harsh penalties for nonpayment.

The National League of Cities worked with five cities to implement Local Interventions for Financial Empowerment Through Utility Payments (LIFT-UP), a program that identified residents in debt to the cities’ water utilities and connected them to financial counseling to help them pay back the debt. In Houston, the city’s water department partnered with community organizations to train utility employees to provide financial coaching to residents with missed utility payments and work with them to develop a payment plan. The program resulted in more frequent payments and lower balances.

Expand Job Access and Pathways of Opportunity – Use City Hiring and Contracting Policies to Assist Residents in Distressed Neighborhoods

Cities can increase employment among residents considered “hard to employ” through strategic and equitable hiring and contracting policies. By targeting hiring for municipal jobs to residents from distressed neighborhoods or other high-need populations, cities can meet local employment goals and diversify their workforce. Local “first source” policies and community benefit agreements require companies that contract with city government to hire a certain percentage of city residents who meet established criteria. Community benefit agreements can also require developers to offer training and apprenticeship programs for unemployed residents.

Mayors, city councilmembers and other city officials can pledge here to participate in the action challenge by choosing to take at least one of the action steps listed above and completing a simple online form. Experienced staff from NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families and its Center for City Solutions are available to assist cities in implementing the policy and program changes associated with these actions.

Cities can’t wait – and neither can the struggling families who live in them. Now is the time for city leaders to act to expand economic mobility and opportunity for their residents and, in the process, strengthen the economic vitality of their communities.

Learn more about the Local Action Challenge for Economic Mobility and Opportunity.

Join NLC on the following dates for a webinar series designed to help cities kick-start their efforts to fulfill the economic mobility and opportunity pledge:

  • Friday, March 24 at 2:00 p.m. EST:  Boost Working Families’ Incomes – Promote and Help Residents Claim the Earned Income Tax Credit
  • Thursday, March 30 at 2:00 p.m. EST: Strengthen Residents’ Financial Capability – Expand Access to Financial Education and Coaching
  • Thursday, April 6 at 2:00 p.m. EST: Provide New Options for Families in Debt – Implement Win-Win City Debt Collection Strategies
  • Thursday, April 13 at 2:00 p.m. EST: Expand Job Access and Pathways of Opportunity – Use City Hiring and Contracting Policies to Assist Residents in Distressed Neighborhoods

Registration information for this webinar series will be available early next week.

About the author: Clifford Johnson is the Executive Director of NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.

Now Is the Time for City Leaders to Engage with NLC

With the recent potential for cuts to funding for cities, getting involved with NLC’s constituency groups, committees and councils gives city leaders an edge when it comes to knowing the best practices – and the right people – they need to get the job done for their constituents.

NLC’s constituency groups, committees and councils are currently meeting in Washington, D.C. at the 2017 Congressional City Conference. (Getty Images)

This is the second post in a series highlighting NLC’s 2017 Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C., March 11-15.

NLC membership offers extensive networking and professional development opportunities. With the recent potential for cuts to funding for cities, getting involved with NLC’s constituency groups, committees and councils can give city leaders the edge they need when it comes to knowing the best practices – and the right people – to help get the job done for their constituents.

Our constituency groups, committees and councils have been established over the years to reflect the diverse interests and backgrounds of NLC’s membership, and they work collaboratively with NLC to contribute to leadership development, policy formulation, advocacy, and program activities. Constituency groups are caucuses within NLC membership that share common interests and concerns, and they also contribute to NLC’s leadership development, policy programs and more. Our seven federal advocacy committees cover policy areas ranging from economic development and technical policy to energy and the environment. Finally, NLC councils reflect the different types of communities our members represent, from suburbs, college towns and military communities to large cities.

At the 2017 Congressional City Conference, we reached out to NLC members and delegates to find out how participation in NLC’s various member groups has added to their arsenal of skills as city leaders.

Federal Advocacy Committee – Information Technology and Communication (ITC)

“My participation in NLC’s Information Technology and Communication federal advocacy committee is honestly my favorite part of being a NLC member. I’ve worked with public, educational and government access television for most of my career, so I’ve always been interested in telecom policy. I’d always read trade magazines about the industry and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and now I have the opportunity to serve as the chair for a committee that takes me to the FCC and Capitol Hill to discuss issues I’m passionate about with the leaders in this field.

ITC and other federal advocacy committees allow you to pursue your interests and advocate for real change. I would encourage any NLC member looking to get involved to check out NLC’s advocacy committees. Find that industry or policy area that fascinates you, and join a corresponding committee. For me, ITC covers such a broad swath of topics that anyone is bound to find our meetings interesting, and technology is only becoming a bigger part of life in all cities.”

-Mesa, Arizona, Vice Mayor David Luna

NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families (YEF) Council

“The city of Caldwell has greatly benefited from our association with the YEF Council and Institute over the past twenty years that I have served as mayor. We have learned strategies to assist us in creating, partnering, and implementing many of the programs and policies adopted by our city council to promote youth and families within our community as well the mentoring element for our youth who attend annual YEF functions.

Some of the programs and steps we’ve initiated in Caldwell from information and encouragement received from the YEF Council include:

  • Creation of the first Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council (MYAC) in Idaho
  • Adoption of the City Platform for Youth and Families by the Caldwell city council
  • Partnerships created with local school districts and nonprofits to develop a third grade swimming program, mentoring programs, preschool programs and out-of-school programs
  • Creation and adoption of a Youth Master Plan
  • Development of youth programs to include the Caldwell Youth Forum and Let’s Move! Caldwell
  • Development of a college savings program, Caldwell Saves 1st

In turn, we’ve promoted the same principles we have gained from our involvement in the YEF Council to other cities in Idaho and beyond. We have done this because we believe that every child matters. Because of our passion for youth and families, we’ve seen a dramatic improvement in civility, community partnerships, graduation rates, reading skills, crime rates and youth engagement. We are truly appreciative of the solid guiding principles that have been offered by the YEF Council and YEF Institute over the years.”

-Caldwell, Idaho, Mayor Garret Nancolas

Young Elected Leaders Network

“As we continue to see history being made every year with the election of very young government officials, it’s important that we have an outlet in the midst of the organized chaos we call legislating. The Young Elected Leaders (YEL) Network has done an outstanding job of educating young leaders – and now NLC is doing its part to carve out a special place to connect seasoned leaders with those who are just beginning their journey.

I think, in some ways, the current generation of elected officials has been slow to share knowledge, and too sluggish to pass the baton on to future generations of passionate local leaders. I’m excited because our participation in NLC’s Young Elected Leaders Network is an opportunity for NLC to help guide young leaders out of our silos and onto a path filled with the resources and meaningful engagement only NLC can provide.”

-East Point Councilmember Alex Gothard

City officials who participate in these NLC member groups bring their voices and perspectives to the table to develop policy and advocate at the federal level on the issues that matter most to cities. To take your involvement in local government to the next level, join a constituency group, committee or council today.

Paul Konz headshotAbout the Author: Paul Konz is the Senior Editor at the National League of Cities.

NLC University Seminars Prepare City Leaders for an Uncertain Future

Annually, city leaders from across the nation convene in Washington, D.C. for NLC’s Congressional City Conference. Coupled with traditional conference programming, NLC University is hosting a series of pre-conference seminars designed to prepare city leaders for the road ahead.

The 2017 Congressional City Conference takes place in Washington, D.C., March 11-15. (Getty Images)

This post was co-authored by Chris Abbott and Laura Lanford. It is the first post in a series highlighting NLC’s 2017 Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C., March 11-15.

Cities are at the forefront of the national economy, public safety, infrastructure and a host of other issues. But with the increased potential for cuts to funding for cities, the need for knowledgeable, connected and engaged city leaders is more critical than ever.

City leaders need to make their voices heard – and the Congressional City Conference is the perfect opportunity for local elected officials to boost their leadership skills. From introductory overviews to in-depth explorations, NLC University seminars at the Congressional City Conference offer participants a wide range of subject areas to choose and benefit from, regardless of their background, experience, region, or size of their municipality.

NLC University is a collaborative educational and professional development initiative that focuses on four key proficiency areas: leadership, management, engagement and issue expertise. The goal of NLC University is to provide municipal leaders with an interactive and engaging approach to refine existing skills and develop strategies to better govern, serve and advocate for their respective communities.

The Value Proposition

NLC University seminars provide one of the largest opportunities for local elected and appointed city officials to receive training from leading issue experts. The interactive training sessions are offered as full- or half-day sessions in which city officials are challenged with problems and concepts relevant to current city environments. The training sessions will stretch conventional thinking by applying creative, innovative solutions.

NLCU seminar participant Lydia Glaize, councilwoman from Fairburn, Georgia, had this to say after attending the Stronger Together: City Manager and City Council Relations seminar:

“One of the best courses I’ve taken through NLC University. The presenters were knowledgeable and connected with their audience. They stated goals for the class at the beginning and wrote them down in terms of outcome-based objectives. The structure worked like a charm.”

2017 NLC University Seminar Lineup at the Congressional City Conference:

  1. Healthy Cities: Lessons Learned from Crisis Leadership
  2. Stronger Together: City Manager and City Council Relations
  3. Urban Plan for Elected Officials
  4. An Introduction to the Intersector Process: Cross-Sector Collaboration in the Public Sector
  5. Congratulations, You Got Elected – Now What?
  6. REAL Action: Advancing Racial Equity in Local Government
  7. The Role of City Leaders in Public Sector Retirement
  8. Fostering Small Business Development and Entrepreneurship
  9. Let’s Talk Climate: Messages to Motivate
  10. The Ethical Leader: Rules and Tools
  11. Understanding Public Finance
  12. Federal Advocacy 101 (offered twice)

Featured trainers and presenters include:

  • Julie Willems Van Dijk – Associate Scientist and Director – County Health Rankings & Roadmaps Program
  • Kathryn Pettit – Senior Research Associate in the Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center – Urban Institute
  • John Chesser – Enterprise Management Analyst – Mecklenburg County; Charlotte, NC
  • Janet A. Phoenix – Assistant Research Professor – George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health
  • Karen Seaver Hill – Director – Children’s Hospital Association
  • Steve Traina – Branch Manager – Institute for Building Technology and Safety
  • Erica Bueno – Program Coordinator – Institute for Building Technology and Safety
  • Brian Delvaux – Contracts Manager – Institute for Building Technology and Safety
  • Blake Ratcliff – Director – Institute for Building Technology and Safety
  • Chris Fennell – Project Leader – IBTS OnHand Resource
  • Mike Conduff – President of the Elim Group and Former City Manager – The Elim Group
  • Jim Hunt – President & Founder of Amazing Cities and Past President of NLC – Amazing Cities
  • Sean Geygen – Urban Land Institute, Washington, DC
  • Sophie Lambert – Senior Director of UrbanPlan – Urban Land Institute, Washington, DC
  • Gideon Berger – Director of the Daniel Rose Fellowship Program – The National League of Cities
  • Jess Zimbabwe – Executive Director of the Daniel Rose Center for Public Leadership – The National League of Cities
  • Jacquelyn Wax – Communications Director – The Intersector Project
  • Neil Britto – Executive Director – The Intersector Project
  • Malcom Chapman – President – The Chapman Group
  • Simran Noor – Vice President of Policy & Programs – Center for Social Inclusion
  • Julie Nelson – Senior Vice-President – Center for Social Inclusion and Director of the Government Alliance for Race and Equity (GARE)
  • Leon Andrews – Director, Race Equity And Leadership (REAL) – National League of Cities
  • John Saeli – Vice President, Government Affairs and Market Development – ICMA-RC
  • Jeannine Markoe Raymond – Director of Federal Relations – National Association of State Retirement Administrators
  • Keith Brainard – Research director – NASRA
  • David Myers – Executive Director – Ponca City Development Authority
  • Penny Lewandowski – Senior consultant, External relations – Edward Lowe Foundation
  • Dan Barry – Director – Path to Positive Communities
  • Scott Paine – Director of Leadership Development and Education at the Florida League of Cities
  • Laura Allen – Town Administrator – Berlin, MD
  • Mike Mucha – Deputy Executive Director and Director – GFOA Research and Consulting Center
  • Ashley Smith – Senior Associate, Grassroots Advocacy – National League of Cities

Join colleagues for one (or many) of the outstanding NLC University seminars offered at the Congressional City Conference. NLC University will also host a Leadership Summit in San Diego, California, October 2-5 as well as pre-conference sessions at the 2017 City Summit in Charlotte, North Carolina, November 15-18.

About the authors:

Chris Abbott is a Senior Associate at the National League of Cities University.

 

 

Laura Lanford is the Principal Associate for Leadership Training at the National League of Cities University.