By Tom Martin
How can cities encourage job growth and provide opportunities for all residents to succeed in a globalized world?
NLC President Chris Coleman told a crowd of local leaders gathered for the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ (USCM) annual meeting Saturday in Dallas, Texas that cities are rising to a number of diverse challenges and creating opportunities that make their communities better places to live, work and play.
“Every day I wake up thinking how we can push opportunity into every part of my community,” Coleman told the group. “If we are to provide economic stability and set a strong foundation for future growth, we must be able to draw upon federal-local partnerships that will help us to effectively solve tough challenges.”
With Congress in perpetual stalemate, Americans are looking to their local leaders to strengthen their communities and create opportunities for residents—through education, transportation and community resiliency programs. For Coleman, this means working to build healthy communities that are responsive to an interconnected world where cities compete not only with the business next door, but with businesses on the other side of the planet.
Coleman has worked extensively to improve education outcomes for youth in Saint Paul, by focusing on a comprehensive education that includes afterschool programming, outdoor experiences and building skills of city staff who work with youth.
“Our children and youth need the social and emotional preparation that enables them to be engaged in learning and become confident, caring members of our communities,” Coleman said. “To do that, our education programs – both inside the school and out — must focus on the development of the whole child.”
Transportation was also a hot topic at the USCM meeting. With the highway trust fund set to expire before the end of 2014, cities have urged the Administration and Congress to work together to reauthorize a surface transportation bill that gives more decision-making control to local governments. Coleman stressed the need for cities to work with their federal partners to make sure transportation dollars go to where they are needed most—to improve communities.
Coleman urged NLC and USCM to continue working together to accomplish our shared goals. “I’m proud of the partnership between the National League of Cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. United, we can make sure the federal government understands our challenges and is responsible to the needs of communities.”