National Elections, Regional Collaboration Focus of NLC Board Meeting in Fort Wayne, Ind.

July 16, 2012

Amy Elsbree

NLC President Ted Ellis, mayor, Bluffton, Ind., hosted the summer meeting of the NLC Board of Directors in nearby Fort Wayne, Ind. for discussions that focused on the national elections, the importance of regional collaboration for cities, and initial planning for NLC's fiscal year 2013 budget.

"Thanks to the members of the NLC Board for the hard work they put in to position NLC for the changes coming our way," said Ellis. "Whether it's national policy developments or internal actions for growing the organization, NLC stands ready to embrace the change."

The Board began their discussions by considering the potential impact on cities of the national elections. Rick Baker, former mayor of St Petersburg, Fla., and senior advisor on urban policy for the Mitt Romney campaign, and Steve Walker, deputy political director for the Democratic National Committee, addressed the Board on behalf of the two candidates for president.

Baker stressed that while state and national governments have a role to play, "If you want to know how the country is doing, you don't go to Washington. You go to cities, to the corner drug stores, to the ball fields. As our cities succeed, America will become a stronger nation."

According to Baker, a Romney administration would bring benefits to cities through economic growth, greater local control, and regulatory reform. Baker added that as President, Romney would give local officials a vocal role in policy development.

Speaking on behalf of President Obama's campaign, Walker shared his view of the administration's accomplishments that have benefited cities, including the Affordable Care Act, investments in rural infrastructure, the rescue of the auto industry and Wall Street reform.

Walker also highlighted specific elements of the President's economic agenda that have provided support to cities. Chief among these are housing foreclosure reform, the neighborhood revitalization initiative, the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, and the Stronger Communities Stronger Cities program.

Following the discussion with the campaign surrogates, the Board reviewed NLC's federal legislative priorities and celebrated the final passage of the reauthorization of federal transportation programs, one of NLC's top priorities for 2012. NLC participated in the recent signing of the bill at the White House.

"It was an honor to be at the White House for the signing of the transportation bill," said NLC First Vice President Marie Lopez Rogers. "The credibility of NLC and the NLC staff and the critical importance of who our members are gave us front row seats. This says a lot for our membership and our relationship with the White House."

Board members also discussed the upcoming national party conventions and how NLC can leverage the events to remind national policy makers of the importance of building strong cities. See related story: NLC Prepares to Head to the National Political Conventions.

Holding the meeting in Fort Wayne provided the opportunity for board members to learn firsthand about the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership from John Sampson, president and CEO, and Katy Silliman, director of Vision 2020, an effort to establish a collective vision, mission and slate of priorities to achieve for the region.

Sampson emphasized the critical role all size communities in the region play in the partnership. "The central city needs the towns around it," said Sampson. "Towns need the central city to work. Here in Northeast Indiana, the smaller city mayors have been very influential in how the region works."

Ellis, a key participant in the partnership as mayor of Bluffton, stressed that the effort is not solely government driven, pointing out that individual companies and the business community provided the impetus and now share the vision for the region.

"Through the Vision 2020 initiative, we brought everyone together for common agreement on a vision and then common messages about how to communicate that vision," said Silliman.

Sampson added, "Without a long term vision, it's very hard to build community." For more information, visit Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership

As the meeting, Board members engaged in small group discussions with NLC's Capstone Corporate Partners on some of the current challenges facing cities such as the application of technology to city functions and citizen engagement, sales tax parity and its impact on city revenue, and the transition to civilian life for returning veterans.

"This engagement is an excellent example of the richness of NLC's Corporate Partners Program and its commitment to open dialogue and exchange of ideas," said Ellis. "The chance to sit across the table with corporate leaders to focus on solving the challenges facing our cities is invaluable."

Capstone Partners participating included Visa, Wells Fargo, Esri, The Home Depot Foundation, ICMA-RC, and the International Council of Shopping Centers.

In organizational business, the Board heard current fiscal year 2012 financial reports and provided guidance to staff for the preparation of the fiscal year 2013 budget. The Board reviewed trends in membership dues revenues and directed staff to evaluate the current dues structure and possible changes to the dues billing cycle. The Board also heard updates from the Building Committee, the Bylaws Committee, the Investment Committee and the Audit Committee.

The Board celebrated the Clarksburg, W.Va., milestone of saving more than half a million dollars for their citizens with the NLC Prescription Discount Card. Clarksburg Councilman and NLC Past President Jim Hunt was recognized for his leadership in bringing the program to Clarksburg and championing the program with NLC members. The NLC program now has over 580 member cities participating and has saved over $9 million for citizens in those cities.