By Carolyn Coleman
NLC President Ted Ellis, mayor, Bluffton, IN, and NLC First Vice President Marie Lopez Rogers, mayor, Avondale, AZ, led an NLC delegation to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC. In a show of bipartisanship, Mother Nature also made her presence known during the convention, with the threat of rain forcing convention planners to move the last night of the convention from an outdoor stadium to an indoor arena. But that didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the party faithful who gathered in Charlotte for three days of activities.
Besides nominating President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for a second term in the White House, convention delegates adopted the 2012 Democratic Party Platform, which is the definitive statement of the party's principles and ideals.
"Representing NLC at both parties' conventions has been an incredibly humbling and enlightening experience," said NLC President Ted Ellis, mayor of Bluffton, IN. "Over the course of two weeks, I have traded stories with delegates from my home state of Indiana and beyond, bent the ear of members of the national media, attended panels and informational sessions on the pressing issues affecting our nation and our citizens, and listened carefully to a number of speakers - including several colleagues in local government - outline what the candidates from each party propose to accomplish in the coming months and years, if elected," he said.
During his time in Charlotte, President Ellis met with the presidents of the National Association of Counties, Chris Rodgers, commissioner, Douglas County, NE, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Michael Nutter, mayor, Philadelphia, PA, to discuss opportunities for the organizations to collaborate on legislative and Administration priorities for cities and towns this fall. In addition, Ellis joined an event hosted by the Lumina Foundation to learn about new data and insights into the compelling advantages of education beyond high school for individuals, employers, metro markets and the nation.
Ellis, joined by Mayor Rogers, attended a real estate policy forum co-hosted by the International Council of Shopping Centers, an NLC Capstone Corporate Partner, at which Senators Mark Begich (D-AK) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Representative Joe Crowley (D-NY) shared their perspectives on the impact various tax reform proposals could have on the real estate markets and the property tax bases in cities and towns.
Ellis and Rogers also attended a policy forum hosted by the bi-partisan National Democratic Institute, at which a panel including former Republican Congressman Vin Weber of Minnesota and former Democratic Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota compared differences in the governing styles of the two presidential candidates, which could influence each Administration's relationship with cities and towns.
"My main takeaways from the conventions," said Ellis, "are twofold: first, cities must continue to ensure that our collective voice, and that of those we serve, is not lost among the campaign rhetoric; and second, the next administration, regardless of party, could stand to learn a thing or two from the innovative examples being set by its local partners. These next two months should be interesting, indeed."
Local leaders had prominent roles throughout the convention. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa chaired the convention and hosted the sessions, and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, an NLC Board member, was the convention's keynote speaker - a role that catapulted President Obama's own arrival on the national political scene at the 2004 convention. (See related blog: Running the Relay: Thoughts on Mayor Castro's Keynote.) Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Philadelphia Mayor Nutter; Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel; host city Mayor Anthony Foxx; Boston Mayor Tom Menino, and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak also took the stage during the convention proceedings.
In his acceptance speech, President Obama framed the choice voters will make in less than two months as a choice between two fundamentally different visions for America. "Ours is a fight to restore the values that built the largest middle class and the strongest economy the world has ever known - the values my grandfather defended as a soldier in Patton's army, the values that drove my grandmother to work on a bomber assembly line while he was gone," he said. "They knew they were part of something larger - a nation that triumphed over fascism and depression, a nation where the most innovative businesses turn out the world's best products, and everyone shared in that pride and success from the corner office to the factory floor."
To achieve that vision, the President asked delegates to rally around his plan to achieve a set of goals for the country in manufacturing, energy, education, national security and the deficit that will lead to new jobs, more opportunity and rebuild the economy on a stronger foundation.
Throughout his speech, President Obama criticized Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his party for focusing only on what is wrong with America and for having no plan, other than tax cuts, to improve the country.
Besides the aforementioned mayors, additional convention speakers included: First Lady Michelle Obama; former President Bill Clinton; Caroline Kennedy; U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL); and former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who led the audience in the pledge of allegiance.