NLC Leaders Meet With President Obama

March 19, 2012
by Cyndy Liedtke Hogan

Nearly 2,000 gathered in Washington, D.C., last week for NLC's Congressional City Conference to learn about NLC's federal priorities and deliver that message to Congress and the President.

Conference speakers focused on priorities such as passing a well-funded, long-term transportation program, allowing for collection of sales taxes for goods purchased on the Internet to protect local revenues and hometown retailers, maintaining funding for hometown investment programs and modernizing the nation's job training and education programs.

Meetings held at the White House during the conference allowed the city leaders to bring their message to the Administration. Scores of other meetings with members of Congress and staff brought the message to Capitol Hill.

Fourteen NLC leaders, including its officers, were invited to the White House to meet and speak with President Obama about city priorities.

The city leaders shared with the President their stories of what is happening in America's hometowns and underscored the need for the federal government to take action to help accelerate job growth in the country and the importance of federal investments in local communities. 

"We had a terrific discussion with the President focused on how local economies can help drive the national recovery and how we can work together to bring jobs to families in our communities," said NLC President Ted Ellis, mayor of Bluffton, Ind. "The President gets it. He knows cities well and has been working to strengthen the federal-local partnership since his first days in office."

The NLC members who met with the President also highlighted for him the importance of federal investments in hometowns like the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG); the need for strong education and workforce training programs; the need to streamline regulations; and the need to fix the broken immigration system.

"I thought the meeting with the President was great. He was very attentive and really knew our issues," said NLC Second Vice President Chris Coleman, mayor of Saint Paul, Minn. "He understood the importance of investing in cities and education and some of the things that are important to the National League of Cities."

NLC First Vice President Marie Lopez Rogers, mayor of Avondale, Ariz., said, "I think the President heard what we had to say and he's anxious to help us do the things we need to do. We just need to talk to Congress next."

In addition to discussing NLC's overall priorities, the NLC leaders were each given the opportunity to speak with the President about what is going on in their own communities.

According to a statement, Coleman's discussion with the President touched on the need to rebuild schools to provide more summer programming for children; how relaxing the Federal Transit Administration's Cost-Effectiveness Index allowed Saint Paul to add more stops on the Central Corridor; how Build America Bonds were essential to building the Lofts at Farmers Market; and how grant money from the Department of Energy has made Saint Paul one of the most solar-friendly cities in America.

NLC Past President John DeStefano Jr., mayor of New Haven, Conn., spoke about the changing nature of work in his city. According to a statement, DeStefano asked the President to support training programs and interventions that help grow skills that match the jobs available today. He shared New Haven's experience with an entrepreneurial immigrant community that has grown numerous healthy businesses and jobs despite a challenging economy. He also spoke to the President about the city's School Change initiative, and asked that competitive federal grants like the Race to the Top and Investing in Innovation funds go directly to school districts carrying out reforms, rather than to states or non-profits that are more removed from classrooms. 

NLC leaders at the meeting included: Ellis; Rogers; Coleman, DeStefano; Board Member Ralph E. Becker, mayor, Salt Lake City; Past President Ronald O. Loveridge, mayor, Riverside, Calif.; Board Member Carl Brewer, mayor, Wichita, Kan.; Past President James C. Hunt, councilmember, Clarksburg, W.Va.; Immediate Past President James E. Mitchell Jr., councilmember, Charlotte, N.C.; Board Member Daniel P. Gilmartin, executive director, Michigan Municipal League; Board Member Matt Zone, council member, Cleveland; Board Member Edna Branch Jackson, mayor, Savannah, Ga.; Board Member Dwight C. Jones, mayor, Richmond, Va.; and Past President Brian O'Neill, councilmember, Philadelphia.

Get Connected to NLC Through Social Media
Attendees at the Congressional City Conference were encouraged to share their conference experience through various forms of social media. One-on-one clinics helped local officials learn how to use social media, with many NLC members contributing to a steady stream of Tweets at #cccnlc.

Don't let the social media revolution end with the conference. Continue to follow NLC on Twitter @leagueofcities. Use #cities2012 to tell your community, Congress and the Presidential candidates what cities need.

Check out NLC's YouTube channel and Facebook page for videos and more information from the conference.