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.


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.

The Secret to a Healthier City: Sharing Data

To be effective and strategic in their decision-making, city leaders striving to build a culture of health need diverse, usable, high-quality data sources that are integrated, timely, relevant and geographically precise.

“In Cincinnati, partnerships, shared expertise, and data integration have helped us as we seek answers to complex problems. Indeed, I have come to learn that seeking consultation from a housing expert may prove just as valuable to my patients and families as would a consultation from a cardiologist or gastroenterologist.” - Dr. Andrew Beck, pediatrician at Cincinnati Children’s

“In Cincinnati, partnerships, shared expertise, and data integration have helped us as we seek answers to complex problems. Indeed, I have come to learn that seeking consultation from a housing expert may prove just as valuable to my patients and families as would a consultation from a cardiologist or gastroenterologist.” – Dr. Andrew Beck, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital

This post was co-authored by Peter Eckart, Alison Rein and Nick Wallace.

Data can be a powerful tool for understanding issues, making smarter decisions, and improving results – and city leaders can help build a culture of health by supporting the collection, access and use of data to establish programs and policies that improve both economic and population health through education, transportation, housing and other critical issues.

However, collecting and using data from multiple sources and sectors is challenging, and is often hampered by the organizational, cultural, and budgetary silos that pervade municipal government. Data collected by local hospitals, the department of health, and the Mayor’s office are not often shared with one another due to real or perceived legal restrictions, turf issues, and lack of capacity. While opening access to data and allowing it to be integrated with other data types and sources is not yet the norm for city leadership, a few cities have modeled the extraordinary benefits of such efforts.

Community Health Peer Learning Program (CHP) grantee, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, has embarked on an effort to identify “hot spots” where the incidence of disease, such as asthma, is especially high. Between 2009 and 2011, children from low-income areas in Hamilton County were 88 times more likely to be admitted into the hospital for emergency asthma treatment than children from high-income areas. Pinpointing the disparities at the neighborhood level has allowed the hospital to partner with the Cincinnati Health Department to more effectively link at-risk children to home inspectors that can help to identify the existence of potential health hazards. The hospital has also built a medical-legal partnership with the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati to pursue legal advocacy when dealing with noncompliant landlords. Thus, home hazards like lead, pests, and mold have been mitigated, new roofs have been installed on several buildings and new heating and air-conditioning units have been put in. The community also recently received a $29 million grant from HUD to accelerate the rehab in one at-risk neighborhood.

Dr. Andrew Beck, a pediatrician at Cincinnati Children’s, notes, “Hospitals and social service agencies, public and private, seek to promote health and wellness among those they serve. We seek the same goal, but we generally work separately. In Cincinnati, partnerships, shared expertise, and data integration have helped us as we seek answers to complex problems. Indeed, I have come to learn that seeking consultation from a housing expert may prove just as valuable to my patients and families as would a consultation from a cardiologist or gastroenterologist.”

The example from Cincinnati makes it clear that leaders should be intentional about nurturing and encouraging a culture of data sharing across various organizations and sectors. Building these sometimes difficult but necessary data sharing relationships is core to All In: Data for Community Health, a nationwide learning collaborative that aims to help communities build capacity to address the social determinants of health through multi-sector data sharing. The two founding partners of All In, Data Across Sectors for Health (DASH) and the CHP Program recently presented together on NLC’s Culture of Health Web Forum Series. The BUILD Health Challenge and the Colorado Health Foundation’s Connecting Communities and Care have also become partners in All In, which now collectively represents 50 local data sharing projects across the country.

Here are just a few lessons from the All In learning collaboration that may be useful to cities in the early stages of multi-sector data sharing:

  1. Relationships are critical to moving data integration forward: Sharing data is as much about relationships as it is about technology. Everything that we know about making collaborations work – developing a shared understanding of the problem, willingness to work together, building trust, communicating clearly, creating a shared governance – applies even more to data sharing partnerships.
  2. Effective data sharing is a considerable time investment, and requires laser-like focus on the problem statement: It can take several years to get people to the table, build meaningful relationships, learn how other sectors operate, and develop data sharing agreements. Creating an environment for data sharing that supports and sustains this commitment requires gaining buy-in from partners and key community stakeholders to ensure their dedication to the driving purpose and continued participation over the long haul.
  3. Data can be used both to identify and characterize city challenges, and to effectively target limited city resources: City officials often know they have an issue, but data are critical for determining scale and scope, and for understanding root causes. Similarly, once these challenges are better understood, interventions are often based on the knowledge that integrated data permits better targeting of city services (e.g., lead poisoning abatement, falls prevention, city planning), and more efficient use of scarce resources.

While there is no roadmap for this complex work of building multi-sector partnerships to share data, there are several resources available to city leaders who want to learn from others who have been down a similar path.

  • Thirty cities nationwide are engaged in the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP), a peer network of open data intermediaries. The NNIP shares lessons from local partners to help strengthen capacity for data-driven decision-making.
  • Github is an open source hub that contains many technical tools for sharing data that can be adapted by others.
  • What Works Cities is a national initiative designed to accelerate cities’ use of data and evidence to improve results for their residents.
  • DASH’s Environmental Scan provides a nationwide snapshot of the current state of multi-sector data sharing initiatives for community health. AcademyHealth will soon release a scan of the national program offices supporting these initiatives.
  • The All In Data for Community Health learning collaborative regularly shares news and resources to help guide and advance the field of multi-sector data sharing for health. Sign up for the monthly newsletter to get updates.

Not sure where to access data? Check out some useful data tools for cities, including Community Commons, County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, The National Equity Atlas, and the 500 Cities Project.

City leaders play a critical role in building lasting multi-sector partnerships that help unleash the full potential of local data. As city leaders innovate and experiment, it’s critical that they share their challenges and successes. If we are agile and open to learning from others, we can maximize data infrastructure investments to achieve greater collective impact.

About the authors:

peter_eckart_125x150Peter Eckart, M.A., is Co-Director of Data Across Sectors for Health at the Illinois Public Health Institute.


alison_rein_125x150Alison Rein, M.S., is Senior Director of the Community Health Peer Learning Program at AcademyHealth.


nick_wallace_125x150Nick Wallace is an Associate for Health and Wellness at NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.

New Year, New Technology, New (Smarter) Cities

Fully connected smart cities are coming. NLC’s latest report helps cities prepare for their arrival by providing local leaders with best practices in this arena.

As cities grapple with how to invest in smart city technologies, and how to ensure that their cities remain on the cutting edge of this technological revolution, there are several things they should consider. (Getty Images)

Technology is changing us – and our cities – in an unprecedented way. This is not news to most, and the influence of technological developments and advances certainly isn’t a new development. We’ve all likely reflected on the impact of the smartphone once or twice. However, over the last year, discussions about just how quickly technology has asserted control over our lives, our economies, and the places we call home have become more dominant, and sometimes, more anxiety inducing. If 2016 was the year we realized that autonomous vehicles are here and happening, 2017 might be the year we realize that this is about so much more than cars.

Indeed, technology is becoming the critical force that defines the way our cities are run, managed, and evolving. This has culminated in a movement often referred to as the ‘Smart Cities’ revolution. While cities are ever-changing with technology driving their evolution, today we are seeing it impact everything from the buildings we use, to the way we get around, to how we live, work, and play in the urban space.

Now, as we are on the cusp of increasingly rapid shifts in cities precipitated by technology, it is worth imagining what the fully connected smart city of the future will look like – and the associated impact it will have on our everyday lives. To that end, the National League of Cities (NLC) is pleased to release “Trends in Smart City Development,” which presents case studies and discusses how smart cities are growing nationwide and globally. Created with our partners at the American University Department of Public Administration and Policy, this guidebook is meant to be a resource for cities as they lead the way forward in this exciting and ever-evolving space.

Cities are beginning to, and will continue to integrate technological dynamism into municipal operations, from transportation to infrastructure repair and more. As the integration of smart cities technologies becomes more visible in our everyday lives, we could begin to see large scale changes in our cities.

Let’s imagine a future where autonomous vehicles on our roadways and the data that they provide change traffic patterns and mobility networks as we know them. Similarly, as we move toward greater usage of shared vehicles and trips, we might be able to move away from parking either below buildings or on streets, enabling cities to recapture that land for new uses and development. Energy sources could be completely renewable in the smart city of the future as well, with technology paving the way for better integration into our cities and thereby helping to create a cleaner environment for everyone. Smart energy systems will allow cities to collect information from sources such as smart water, electric, and gas meters.

At the same time, our future cities will be safer with streetlight networks that use embedded sensors to detect gunshots or flash their lights during emergencies. These are just some of the possibilities that loom on the horizon for cities, and more, improved applications are being developed daily.


As cities grapple with how to invest in smart cities technology, and how to ensure that their cities remain on the cutting edge of this technological revolution, there are several things they should consider:

  • Rather than looking for solutions first, cities should consider the outcomes they want to achieve. They should find out what their residents and local businesses want to see happen, and turn those desires into clearly defined objectives before proceeding with smart initiatives. A city’s existing comprehensive, transportation, and sustainability planning documents can help guide the establishment of goals.
  • Partnerships may be the key to successfully deploying new smart cities systems. In an era when the first question is “how?” and the second question “how much?” cities need to get creative about how to deploy expensive, large scale projects like these. Partnerships provide many benefits to cities. They give cities access to funding and expertise that might not otherwise be available. Many public problems are complex and can be too diverse for any single organization to tackle. That makes collaboration advantageous, as cities and organizations are often able to do more together than they could alone.
  • Keep up with new developments and standards. The diversity in technology and the lack of agreed upon principles for redesigning the built environment presents a challenge for interested cities. The newness of smart development means that not much has been codified. Though this report provides a window into what some cities are doing now, smart development is a rapidly changing field. Cities interested in becoming smart should continue to look for best practices and frameworks for this type of development.

All of this is predicated on the premise that technologies can help make people’s lives better in cities. At the end of the day, technological developments will enhance our urban experience – but they also risk leaving more people behind. To this end, we must be deliberate in the development of smart cities and imbue equity as a primary goal so that the city of the future is a city for everyone.

Fully connected smart cities are coming, and NLC wants to help cities prepare for their arrival by providing local leaders with best practices in this arena. It is our hope that this report will spark conversation and action among local policymakers about how to incorporate these strategies into their own communities.

Read the full Smart City Development report.

Read the full Trends in Smart City Development report.

About the author: 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.

ADA Requirements Affect Your City. This Webinar Will Show How Seattle and San Antonio are Rising to the Challenge.

On Thursday, Jan. 12, the National League of Cities’ Institute for Youth, Education, and Families will host a webinar on how cities can comply with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements and improve outcomes for young adults with mental illness.

The ADA places an obligation on government entities to provide mental health services in the most integrated setting appropriate for the individual. Jails rarely constitute “the most integrated setting,” yet have become the default location where many Americans receive mental health services. (Getty Images)

Nationwide, cities and their partners continue to experiment with ways to avoid taking young adults to jail, especially in cases where mental health or substance disorders lead to behavior that draws the attention of police officers and community members concerned about public safety. Absent these experiments, some people with serious mental illness frequently get arrested and go to jail, often repeatedly. Once in jail, individuals whose offenses stem from mental illness stay in jail longer, and during those jail stays, their condition may worsen. Meanwhile, most jurisdictions typically cannot receive Medicaid reimbursement for expensive and limited mental health services received in jail.

In addition to the evidence of harm to the individual, less than efficient application of police effort and questionable results for public safety, cities have yet another reason to keep people with behavioral health needs out of jail: the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA places an obligation on government entities to provide mental health services in the most integrated setting appropriate for the individual. Jails rarely constitute “the most integrated setting,” yet have too often become the default location where many Americans receive mental health services. A community’s lack of appropriate services does not remove this responsibility.

To learn more about how cities such as San Antonio, Texas and Seattle seek to meet the ADA obligation by collaborating with mental health departments and providers to divert people with mental illness away from jail and into community-based services, register here for an informative and frank discussion at 1:00 p.m. EST on Jan. 12. Speakers include:

  • Eve Hill from the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice
  • Officer Joseph Smarro of the San Antonio, Texas Police Department
  • Gilbert Gonzales, Director, Department of Behavioral and Mental Health, Bexar County,Texas
  • Daniel Nelson, Seattle Police Department

Heidi CooperAbout the author: Heidi Cooper is the Associate of Justice Reform within NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.

A New President. A New Congress. Why You Need to Make it to CCC This Year.

At the Congressional City Conference, you’ll unite with over 1,500 leaders on the same mission as you – to make your community (and your state, our country, and the world) a better place. (Jason Dixson)

Washington is a-changin’.

No matter what side of the political spectrum you fall on, 2017 will usher in major changes in Washington with a new President, new Administration, and new Congress. Hear from and meet members of the new Administration and better understand the priorities for the President’s first 100 days in office, especially from the local government perspective. In the general and workshop sessions, you’ll learn about current and emerging topics and position yourself to make the best decisions for your city.

Your voice matters.

Make an impact for your city and for cities across America. The Congressional City Conference is not just about education. Advocacy is one of the key purposes of the National League of Cities, and this conference is our major advocacy push for the year. Participate in our annual Capitol Hill Advocacy Day on Wednesday, March 15 – we’ll arrange meetings for you to discuss the issues that matter to cities with your members of Congress. You’ll also have the opportunity to attend our Advocacy 101 workshop training during the conference, where you’ll learn the ins and outs of advocacy, including how to speak up in Washington and from your hometown throughout the year. Don’t underestimate the impact of your voice!

Surround yourself with bright people.

Your next great idea may come from your neighbor in the general session audience. Or someone you bump into in the conference hallway between workshops. Or perhaps the early risers at that breakfast session that piques your interest. The point is, at each conference we hear about how valuable the networking is at NLC conferences. These events serve as a space to share ideas with other local officials from cities large and small across the U.S., hear different perspectives, and open your mind to new possibilities for your community.

Renew your energy for your role as a local official.

At the Congressional City Conference, you’ll unite with over 1,500 leaders on the same mission as you – to make your community (and your state, our country, and the world) a better place. Bring your ambitious spirit to Washington to get the boost you need in accomplishing your work at home. Make a resolution now to be part of this event and start planning your March trip!

Visit the CCC website to register now!

headshot2About the author: Ali Clark supports the marketing and digital engagement functions of the National League of Cities. She develops and executes strategies to increase awareness about NLC’s conferences and events, and ensures members and interested parties can find the information they need online.

NLC Has Changed Its Membership Model. Here’s What’s In Store For You.

Driven by a singular focus on enhancing your membership experience, our new membership model is divided into regions; we advocate for local government, so we’re taking a local approach. Meet your new Member Services and Engagement team and see what they can do by focusing on the specific needs of your community.

New Regional Model

NLC’s new Membership and Engagement model is divided into 4 regions: Northeast & Mid-Atlantic, South, Midwest and West.

photo - Vice Mayor Dot LaMarche  Seantae Byers, Director of Member Services and Engagement 

My name is Seantae Byers, and I’m the new Director of Member Services and Engagement at the National League of Cities. My experience as a National Urban Fellow and former Program Manager of NLC Member Services gives me a unique perspective on how to create effective change for cities. I am proud of the work NLC has done throughout our 90-year history of providing a voice for cities, effective solutions to city issues, and a comprehensive network of city leaders unlike no other.

Hometown: Ekhart, Indiana
Why are you passionate about cities: Because every facet of life can be witnessed in cities. In addition, the work done in cities have an immediate impact on their residents.
Favorite food or dessert: I love Ethiopian food!
Favorite sports team: Although I truly enjoy sports I don’t have a favorite team.

Regional Representatives

arielgAriel Guerrero (Northeast and Mid-Atlantic) was formerly Director of Member Engagement – Senior Services at Lutheran Services in America. His prior experience includes serving as a National Urban Fellow and working for the New York City Department of Education.

Hometown: New York, New York! The Big Apple!
Why are you passionate about cities: I am passionate about cities because that is where the work on the ground gets done each day. It’s where we touch lives. It’s  #WhereLifeHappens
Favorite food or dessert native to your membership region: I’m a foodie so food and I have a great relationship, no matter where it’s from!
Favorite sports team: (Baseball) NY Mets – I bleed Mets Blue & Orange! (Football) NY Jets (Basketball) Orlando Magic!

katrinawKatrina Lorraine Amos Washington (South) was formerly Membership Director at the Virginia Hospitality & Travel Association in Richmond, Virgina. She has also worked in sales and communications and has a leadership role in the Junior League of Richmond.

Hometown: Bryan, Texas
Why are you passionate about cities: Cities are the foundation of our country. It’s the one place where one person is able to conceive and implement an idea to change their community and can experience the fruit of their labor. It’s real people producing real results.
Favorite food or dessert native to your membership region: Tex-Mex
Favorite sports team:Texas A&M Aggies, Houston Texans, Houston Rockets

sarahlSarah Lindsay (MidWest) was formerly Program Manager at the NACo Financial Services Center, focusing on marketing the U.S. Communities Government Purchasing Alliance. She was also on the NACo research team and was a field organizer for a presidential campaign.

Hometown: North Mankato, MN
Why are you passionate about cities:Cities and towns represent the government that is closest to the people and are responsible for taking care of the people in their communities
Favorite food or dessert native to your membership region: Cheese curds
Favorite sports team: Iowa State Cyclones

mikenMike Nelson (West) was formerly Coordinator – West Region at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. He was Mayor of the Town of Carrboro and County Commissioner in Orange County (both in North Carolina). He was also active as an NLC and LGBTLO member.

Hometown: Jacksonville, North Carolina
Why are you passionate about cities: Local government touches our lives every day, in ways big and small. Municipal officials lead by creating innovative, people-oriented solutions to problems. They get involved in local government because they genuinely care about their communities and are committed to making their corner of the world a better place. It doesn’t get better than that.
Favorite food or dessert native to your membership region: Fish tacos
Favorite sports team: Real Madrid 

It is an honor to serve community leaders that are truly creating lasting change for residents across the country. We value our partnerships, and we are confident that this new model will increase our capacity to provide you with the tools and resources you need to continue to create sustainable, vibrant communities.

You can connect with our Member Service and Engagment Team on Facebook, TwitterLinkedIn, or by visiting

meridith_st_jean_125x150About the author: Meridith St. Jean is the Associate for Marketing, Communications & Technology at the National League of Cities.


Design, Convenience and Three Lessons NLC Learned in 2016

As we close out 2016, one of the most visible legacies of the year for the National League of Cities is the change in how people see and experience us. And I mean “see” very literally.

In the same week we went from this:  old-logo    to this:     new-logo

And from this:


to this:


I was involved heavily in both transformations, so I’d like to share a few reflections about these changes and what I have learned from them.

1. My first lesson: Good design has the power to accelerate change.

As I wrote in June about the new logo, it was time for us to reflect the forward-looking attitude that is prevalent at NLC. We also were ready to give a visual identity to the letters “NLC” because this is how so many people refer to us. The rebranding of NLC also brought a new approach to our graphic design that we will continue to build.

Today, when I look at our annual report video or the recently published Future of Work report, I’m proud of how the experience reflects who we are as an organization. And as we introduce ourselves to a new Congress and Administration this year, I’m confident that the changes we have made will help us convey the value of this organization.

2. My second lesson: In spite of all of the advances in technology, proximity—the people you are physically close to–still affects who you build relationships with.

And the new look of NLC fits perfectly with our new home. NLC moved from three floors of a 1980s-era building to less than one and a half floors in a brand new, all glass office on Capitol Hill. There were many reasons for the move as, Meri St. Jean explained in an earlier post on CitiesSpeak. What I remember most clearly about the planning stage is that Clarence Anthony, our executive director, had one imperative: this space needed to inspire collaboration.

Today, most NLC staff work in an open environment, in workspaces flooded with natural light. Meeting rooms and interior offices have glass walls. Technology enables us to conduct video conferences through our computers and share our work on large screens wirelessly.

In our previous building, I could go for weeks without seeing a single person from the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families (YEF). They were in a rabbit warren two floors down. Today I often enjoy coffee-break conversations with Cliff, Audrey and others, not only from YEF, but also from program areas across NLC.

While I expected more interaction among NLC staff, I’ve been surprised by the increase in connections I and others have made with the National Association of Counties staff as well, who are now in the same building. I’ve also found more opportunities to get together with staff of related organization in the neighborhood, such as ICMA.

Our new office and the proximity of people with shared interests, both inside and outside of NLC, is certain to benefit our members.

3. Which brings us to my final lesson: Whether an office or a city, there is a trade-off between making things convenient and encouraging interaction. Don’t make the mistake of always choosing convenience.

In working with our architects, I learned that convenience is sometimes bad design. We all would like the coffee machine to be as close to our desk as possible. It’s convenient. But our priority was to inspire collaboration. If everything was convenient, how would we create opportunities for unplanned conversations—for those ideas that are sparked by a casual interaction with someone whose work or perspective is very different from one’s own? The answer was pretty simple.

The best two out of three coffee makers at NLC are in a beautiful lunchroom a space off the lobby, a stairway away from nearly everyone’s workspace.

Guess what: I take the stairs every day—several times—to get coffee. It makes me walk more, and I talk with people who I otherwise probably would not speak with on a given day.

So as we close this year, I won’t say that everything about our new brand and office is perfect, but I am very confident that NLC’s new face and home have given us the boldness to convey our message, the proximity to build relationships that will help our members and just enough planned inconvenience to spark ideas and make our work even better.

And now I think I’ll go downstairs for some coffee…

brian_derr_125wAbout the Author: Brian Derr is the Director of Marketing, Digital Engagement and Communications at the National League of Cities.

Snapshot: Helping City Leaders Act on Behalf of Youth, Children and Families

From juvenile justice reform to linking post-secondary education to workforce success, the various teams and experts at NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education and Families have helped city leaders take action on behalf of the children, youth and families in their communities. Here’s a snapshot of the work we’ve done in 2016, in no particular order. 

Baton Rouge, Louisiana Mayor-President Melvin L. “Kip” Holden and a young Baton Rouge resident ride bikes together at a Healthy Baton Rouge event.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana Mayor-President Melvin L. “Kip” Holden and a young Baton Rouge resident ride bikes together at a Healthy Baton Rouge event.

New NLC Task Force to Focus on Expanding Economic Opportunity
Launched by NLC President Matt Zone, the task force will pursue a three-pronged strategy over the next year that will include municipal engagement and peer learning, documentation of promising and emerging city approaches, and education and training for city officials.

How Your City Can Improve Utility Collections While Helping Families
The LIFT-UP program offers city leaders a win-win scenario, allowing city utilities to recoup lost revenue due to unpaid bills while enabling residents to reduce outstanding balances and late fees, connect with financial empowerment services, and reduce the chances of a utility shut-off.

A New Education Playbook for City Leaders
The YEF Council Education Playbook provides examples of 27 action steps taken by select U.S. cities to provide greater resources and opportunities for their communities and for youth from early childhood to postsecondary success.

5 Things Mayors Can Do to Create Healthier Communities
NLC’s report, Addressing Health Disparities in Cities: Lessons from the Field, provides lessons learned and examples of actions that mayors and other city leaders are taking to intentionally address childhood obesity-related health disparities.

Looking to Expand Early Education Programs? We’ve Got You Covered.
NLC has teamed up with educational partners to produce a guide that features best practices for establishing high-quality childcare and pre-K programs – complete with examples from 19 cities across the country that are leading the way.

Our City Reintegrated Ex-Offenders and Reduced Jail Populations. This is How We Did It.
Charlottesville, Virginia Councilmember Kristin Szakos shares her city’s success story about helping convicted felons reintegrate into society – and reducing the city’s jail population in the process.

The Opioid Epidemic: How Cities Are Fighting Back

The most notable success was achieved thanks to a considerable push from city and county leaders during the last days of the Congressional session.

One of the many resources available on NLC’s opioid action web page is profile of the city of Seattle’s diversion program for low-level offenders, which allows police officers to redirect individuals engaged in drug use or prostitution to community-based public health and social services rather than to jail and prosecution. (Getty Images)

Opioid overdoses and deaths continue to be the leading cause of accidental death in America. However, city leaders can take some comfort that 2016 closes with several significant successes that should ensure progress on this public health crisis in 2017.

The most notable success, the sum of $500 million appropriated by the federal government to support opioid addiction treatment, was achieved thanks to a considerable push from city and county leaders during the last days of the Congressional session. The bipartisan votes in both houses of Congress demonstrate that the scope of this public health nightmare extends to all parts of this country – urban, suburban, and rural – and impacts all ages, incomes, genders, races, and ethnicities.

The legislative advocacy success came quick on the heels of the November 17 release of, A Prescription for Action: Local Leadership in Ending the Opioid Crisis.” This joint report from the National League of Cities (NLC) and the National Association of Counties (NACo) is the culmination of a year of work by a task force of city and county leaders.

NLC and NACo agreed to launch the joint task force in February 2016. The membership included both elected and appointed city and county officials from across the Unites States. The members brought a strong background in medicine as well as criminal justice, among other fields.

Providing a perspective on behalf of the entire 22-member task force, the two co-chairs, Mayor Mark Stodola, Little Rock, Arkansas (NLC First Vice President) and Judge Gary Moore, Boone County, Kentucky said, “Although news outlets often provide little more than a running tally of the epidemic, leaders at the local level experience the human costs of this public health crisis one life at a time. It is our duty to act with urgency to break the cycles of addiction, overdose, and death that have taken hold in so many corners of this nation.”


As part of the launch of the task force report, NLC and NACo created a new web portal. In addition to providing resources to cities and counties, we are encouraging local officials to make a pledge to lead on opioid action in their communities and to work in partnership with other leaders at the local, state, and federal levels. The pledge campaign announcement is included as part of an archived webinar delivered by city and county task force members on December 15, 2016.

In addition to the special web portal created for the task force, NLC maintains a collection of resources on its own website. These resources include the drug control strategy from Huntington, W.V., the Seattle-King County Police Diversion Program, and the opioid report developed by the Massachusetts Municipal Association on behalf of communities in that state.

Brooks, J.A. 2010About the author: James Brooks is NLC’s Director for City Solutions. He specializes in local practice areas related to housing, neighborhoods, infrastructure, and community development and engagement. Follow Jim on Twitter @JamesABrooks.

Research, Innovation and Cities: The Year in Review

Throughout 2016, NLC’s Center for City Solutions and Applied Research presented and spoke on a wide range of city topics to audiences from San Francisco to Shanghai and everywhere in between – making sure that, wherever possible, city voices are elevated and heard.

Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.

NLC continues to shape the national dialogue on cities, work with city leaders on the ground, and help local officials lead. Pictured here at City Summit 2016 discussing the future of autonomous vehicles in cities: Jon Shieber, senior editor at TechCrunch; Debra Lam, chief innovation & performance officer of Pittsburgh; Justin Holmes, director of corporate communications and public policy at Zipcar; Brooks Rainwater, senior executive and director of Center for City Solutions and Applied Research. (Jason Dixson)

This year has been one of growth and success for NLC’s Center for City Solutions and Applied Research (CSAR). Throughout 2016, we released impactful research across a range of focus areas – from the nuts and bolts of governing to future transportation and workforce shifts, innovation districts, and what cities need to know about drones.

We published familiar annual titles including our State of the Cities report, which analyzes the top issues for our nation’s mayors. We released the 31st edition of our City Fiscal Conditions report, which found that cities’ fiscal positions are strengthening as they continue to recover from the great recession. We finished out the year with our City of the Future research focusing on the critical role that automation and other disruptive changes are having on the workforce. At the core of each of these research products, our primary focus is analyzing how major, timely issues will impact cities.

Coinciding with our broad research agenda, CSAR experts have been on the ground in cities across the country working hand in hand with mayors, councilmembers, and city officials to build equitable, sustainable, financially sound communities that are prepared for future opportunities and challenges. And, in response to the growing opioid crisis, CSAR worked across NLC and together with the National Association of Counties (NACo) to convene the City-County Task Force on the Opioid Epidemic, which recently published recommendations to help local officials to put an end to the epidemic.

Our Rose Center for Public Leadership continued its leading work on local land use challenges with the 2016 class of Daniel Rose Fellows. Those cities included Denver, Rochester, N.Y., Long Beach, Calif., and Birmingham, Ala. The Rose Center also launched the first-ever Equitable Economic Development Fellowship, selecting six cities to participate in its inaugural year: Boston, Houston, Memphis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Charlotte, N.C. This fellowship builds the capacity of America’s cities to ensure that prosperity is shared across their communities.

CSAR’s Sustainable Cities Institute (SCI) launched new programs in 2016 that support and recognize NLC members’ efforts to preserve a clean environment, promote green jobs, and tackle climate change. The SolSmart program was launched in April to help cities make it easier for their residents and businesses to go solar. SCI also announced Leadership in Community Resilience, which is working with 10 cities from around the country to help local officials, city staff, and community partners share their experiences and advance local resilience efforts.

This year our team also incorporated NLC University into the Center, working to provide more focused programming and expanded capacity for city leaders. One example of this shift can be seen in this year’s City Summit attendance in Pittsburgh, where we had a 60 percent increase over last year. Additionally, with the hiring of new staff, we are looking to expand online learning and enhance the annual Leadership Summit.

NLC continues its work to end veteran homelessness, encouraging local leaders to make a permanent commitment to make homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring. Through our leadership on the Mayors Challenge to End Veterans Homelessness, we facilitated on-the-ground engagement and assistance to city officials nationwide. We also continue to work together with the State Municipal Leagues on an annual research project focused on the critical intersections between city and state policy. This year we published Paying for Local Infrastructure in a new Era of Federalism, offering a state-by-state analysis of infrastructure financing tools.

CSAR also hosted a number of large events across the country. In the spring, we held the third annual Big Ideas for Cities event with a range of compelling stories from our nation’s mayors, expertly facilitated by the Atlantic’s James Fallows. In the fall we hosted the Big Ideas for Small Business Summit with economic development officials from 25 cities sharing strategies for building local small business and entrepreneurial ecosystems. Most recently, we hosted the second annual Resilient Cities Summit with the Urban Land Institute and U.S. Green Building Council, which brought together mayors from 15 cities across the country to focus on critical resilience strategies. These annual events allow NLC to elevate the voice of city leaders on issues that matter to communities across America.

Through our work on these important issues, we solidified partnerships with agencies across the federal government and worked with them on key programming, ensuring we are effectively communicating the voice of cities at every level. Some of these included: Small Business Administration for Startup in a Day, the Department of Veterans Affairs on veterans homelessness, the Department of Housing and Urban Development on the Prosperity Playbook, and Department of Energy on Net Zero Energy.

Throughout the year, our team presented and spoke on a wide range of city topics to audiences local, national, and global – from San Francisco to Shanghai and everything in between – making sure that, wherever possible, city voices are elevated and heard. We continue to help shape the national dialogue on cities, work with city leaders on the ground, and help mayors and councilmembers learn and lead – and we look forward to our work in 2017.

Read our 2016 publications:

About the author: Brooks Rainwater is Senior Executive and Director of the Center for City Solutions and Applied Research at the National League of Cities. Follow Brooks on Twitter @BrooksRainwater.