by Stacey Levitt
In 2012, NLC and city leaders will press Congress and the President to put aside their partisan differences, stop their political gamesmanship and take action to create jobs, grow the economy and invest in the nation's infrastructure.
The NLC Officers affirmed these federal advocacy priorities following a leadership planning meeting held in Washington, D.C., on January 6, with the Board of Directors and Leadership Group chairs.
"Election years are typically defined by political gamesmanship, with each party trying to advance its election results," said NLC President Ted Ellis, mayor, Bluffton, Ind. "But the polls are clear; residents are frustrated by Congress' failure to act. There is no ambiguity: the economy, jobs and infrastructure investment are fundamental priorities. Members of Congress would be well served to take a page from cities that must and are making tough decisions every day. They need to do the same and start working to ensure the nation's prosperity."
Specifically, as part of its 2012 legislative agenda to address these priorities, NLC will advocate for Congress and the Administration to:
• Authorize a new federal surface transportation program that recognizes the central role of transportation to metropolitan and regional economies and includes a strong local voice in decision making;
• Protect funding for the Community Development Block Grant program and other federal programs that support investment in cities and towns;
• Pass legislation that will provide cities with authority to collect taxes on Internet sales and thereby level the playing field for hometown retailers; and
• Reauthorize the federal elementary and secondary education program and federal job training program to help ensure our residents have the skills they need for the future.
In addition, as Congress continues to search for strategies to shrink the federal deficit, city leaders in the meeting cautioned Congress to use a balanced approach and not to do this solely on the backs of cities by passing down unfunded mandates, restricting local government authority or relying on cuts to domestic programs only.
"The nation cannot cut its way out of this economic situation," said Ellis. "It must determine the cuts that make the most sense while prioritizing the investments that will make the nation competitive for years to come."
During the leadership meeting, the group acknowledged that Congress is unlikely to fix the broken immigration system this year, but renewed the call for comprehensive immigration reform as a critical priority for cities and towns.
City leaders will gather in Washington, D.C., to advocate for these priorities during NLC's Congressional City Conference, March 10-14. Conference sessions will include workshops on key federal issues, leadership training sessions and opportunities to visit with administration and congressional representatives. Attendees will also hear from national political observers about the political landscape and the 2012 elections, including David Brooks, op-ed columnist for The New York Times, Ed Gillespie, former counselor to the President and former chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Terry McAuliffe, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and of Hillary Clinton for President.Details:
Register for the conference at www.congressionalcityconference.org