By Ally Freeman
NLC leadership gathered at the White House last week to hear directly from White House staff on the President's agenda and goals for his second term. The briefing — part of NLC's annual leadership meeting — served as an opportunity for the new NLC Board of Directors, council and committee chairs, to discuss key challenges facing the country with White House representatives.
Topics including transportation, immigration, gun violence and technology innovations in cities dominated the conversation and dialogue between the NLC leadership delegation and the White House officials. Addressing the group were Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Munoz and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Todd Park. David Agnew and Jay Williams from the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs also spoke with NLC's delegation.
LaHood celebrated the success of the MAP-21 bill with the city leaders-the first multi-year transportation authorization enacted since 2005. While acknowledging it was not as comprehensive as his staff - or the audience - likely wanted in a transportation bill, he remained optimistic about plans already underway for the next round of transportation legislation. LaHood spoke of the need for a big, bold plan for infrastructure investment and called upon the NLC delegation to be engaged, willing collaborators in crafting a new bill in the upcoming year.
|NLC Leadership with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood
(3rd from right) and the White House's Jay Williams (2nd from right).
In addition to questions about high-speed rail and opportunities for sustainability in transportation, the discussion with LaHood also focused on options being discussed to finance new transportation investment — including raising the gas tax and attracting private investors to infrastructure projects. LaHood acknowledged the importance of his department's work to cities, and lauded those in the room for their contributions and partnership over the past four years.
Munoz, who heads the White House Domestic Policy Council, spoke about the scope of her office, including its focus on immigration policy. Munoz reminded the room of city leaders that everyone has a stake in the immigration debate as it affects so many facets of each community — job creation, faith communities, healthcare, education and more.
NLC President Marie Lopez Rogers, mayor, Avondale, AZ, echoed Munoz's statements, acknowledging the widespread impact of immigration policy and pledging NLC as a participant in the forthcoming debate.
During the briefing Jay Williams, Deputy Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, provided an update on Vice President Biden's gun violence task force, and encouraged city officials to continue to share ideas and thoughts with the White House.
Park, the White House CTO, closed the meeting by passionately sharing with NLC members the role he and his staff play in the White House. Park described his role as a ‘technology entrepreneur in-resident,' running an incubator of technology and data-driven projects within the White House. He and his small team oversee information technology initiatives, using the power of data and innovation to help advance President's agenda.
In addition to holding tech meetups, datapaloozas, and hackathons — all to encourage technology-driven solutions with open government data — Park oversees the first class of Presidential Innovation Fellows.
Park shared stories of data-driven success projects, telling the group he believes most of the exciting data innovations in government are occurring at the city level. He encouraged city leaders to embrace data and technology as a tool in government, offering himself and his office as a resource and partner.