NLC Leaders Set Pace for 2013 Action

January 14, 2013

By Amy Elsbree

NLC's leadership team gathered in Washington, DC, last week to discuss the organization's legislative priorities for 2013 and to offer strategic guidance to NLC's new executive director on how to increase NLC's impact in federal policy making and its relevance to city leaders.

Led by NLC President Marie Lopez Rogers, mayor, Avondale, AZ and attended by the NLC Board of Directors, committee and council chairs and constituency group presidents, the meeting was the first official NLC event for new Executive Director Clarence Anthony, who started in the role on January 2.

As part of the meeting, the NLC leadership team attended a White House briefing on the President's agenda for his second term and the Administration's position on key challenges facing the country. (See related story.)

An overall theme at the meeting was the need for urgency. "NLC is at a pivotal point," explained Rogers. "We must grab the opportunity we have with Clarence Anthony, our new executive director, to make some bold changes and lay the groundwork for growth going forward. We are in a competitive environment...both in the DC policy making arena and in the information arena. We must ensure that our messages are heard and that city leaders experience tangible value from their NLC membership."

The NLC leaders heard from a leading expert in the field of association management, Harrison Coerver, about the trends threatening the association industry such as more time pressures, less desire to "belong," a more diverse membership, generational differences, growing competition especially through the internet, and the shift from print to digital consumption of information.

Coerver's recipe for creating a thriving association includes reexamining the governance model, empowering the CEO and staff, defining the membership market, rethinking the scope of products and services, and catching up in the technology world. Coerver counseled the NLC leaders, "Address these changes with a sense of urgency and a willingness to do more than tinker. You must understand that how you connected to NLC is probably not how the leaders of the future are going to get connected and bold change will be required."

Following Coerver's talk, the NLC leaders participated in a collaborative working session addressing the challenges facing NLC and the role the NLC Board and committee chairs can play in guiding the organization in this time of transition.

In terms of the federal legislative agenda, the leaders discussed a set of priorities that are expected to be on the table for Congress this year including immigration reform, the ability for local governments to collect taxes owed on remote online purchases, protecting the income tax exemption for municipal bonds, and proposals to reduce gun violence. Other issues discussed which remain top priorities are transportation, climate change, education, and workforce development. The NLC leaders also affirmed NLC's ongoing work to fight unfunded mandates, protect local authority and protect funding for investments in cities through the deficit reduction efforts.

The theme of urgency and the need for quick action were reiterated in the context of the legislative priorities. With literally no break taken between the end of the last Congress and the beginning of the new one, the need for action has remained steady to protect city interests in the deficit reduction debates. With expected action coming on immigration reform and the other city priorities, staff and NLC leaders agreed that the organization must maintain its vigilance and quick response time in the coming months.