By Emily Pickren
Strong communities promote equal access to opportunities for all residents, and cities are strongest when they work together. This was the message NLC President Chris Coleman delivered at the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ (USCM) Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C. last week.
In his remarks to the group, Coleman, mayor of St. Paul, Minn., emphasized the shared mission of NLC and USCM: to support cities and towns from the ground up by providing building blocks to create strong and vibrant communities.
With Congress in perpetual gridlock, Mayor Coleman recognized that now more than ever mayors must work together to advocate for legislative action on their priorities.
Mayor Coleman also acknowledged that NLC and USCM must work together to get Congress to act on a number of other issues critical to strengthening local economies – transportation, education and marketplace fairness. NLC recently highlighted these issues as ones President Obama should address in his upcoming State of the Union speech.
“NLC and USCM must work in partnership with the federal government to build new and maintain existing transportation and infrastructure projects. We must also work together to protect local interests in any surface transportation bill,” Coleman noted.
In the education reform arena, he encouraged a continuing partnership between the two organizations to help close the achievement gap. “In the coming year we call on Congress to complete the long-overdue reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and support city-school system partnerships to provide quality education to the next generation.”
Coleman also discussed local governments’ lobbying efforts over many years to force online retailers to collect sales taxes as a way to level the playing field with brick-and-mortar businesses and replenish coffers at city hall. While a Marketplace Fairness bill passed the Senate last year, it has yet to find traction in the House. Coleman said that NLC and USCM need to continue to combine efforts to convince Congress to take action on the Marketplace Fairness legislation.
These are all big, challenging issues that cities face. But as Mayor Coleman noted in a recent interview with NLC, “cities don’t have the luxury of not tackling every issue, because every issue is going to affect their community.” And this is precisely why, he emphasized, that it is so important for NLC to work collaboratively with groups like USCM to make sure the voices of local governments are heard in our nation’s capital.