By Ally Freeman
Advocate and make sure your voice is heard in Washington.
These were the messages to city leaders attending the first official day of NLC's 2013 Congressional City Conference.
Conference attendees were welcomed to Washington on Monday at the conference's opening general session. NLC First Vice President Chris Coleman, Mayor, St. Paul, MN, welcomed attendees to the meeting, encouraging them to take full advantage of the sessions, workshops and networking opportunities available throughout the conference.
Coleman also pushed attendees to utilize the opportunity in Washington to lobby Congress and push administration officials on NLC's key legislative priorities.
"We are 1600 strong and we've come together in the nation's capital to stand up for cities," Mayor Coleman said. "Our voices must be heard."
Also offering welcoming remarks were host city Mayor Vincent Gray of the District of Columbia, and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, representing the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Jay Williams, Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at the White House spoke about the critical partnership between the White House and city leaders, and reinforced the message of using this conference as a call to action, and lifting the voices of city leaders in Washington.
"There is not a more pragmatic group of elected officials than those in our local communities," Williams said.
NLC President Marie Lopez Rogers, Mayor, Avondale, AZ gave a moving opening address, articulating the three legislative priorities the organization is lobbying for throughout the whole year.
"We must press Congress to do what we've done at home - balance our budgets, work across party lines and actually make the tough decisions that we need them to make," Mayor Rogers said.
Mayor Rogers also reminded attendees that they are setting an example for the next generation, and pressed city leaders to inspire action in their communities' youth, especially the 100 youth delegates attending this week's conference.
Pollster and Communications Consultant Frank Luntz served as the session's keynote speaker, offering practical lessons for city leaders to use as they articulate their messaging to lawmakers here in Washington, as well as constituents back home.
Luntz shared examples of effective tips on crafting powerful and compelling advocacy rhetoric, reminding the city officials that they cannot assume their constituents know and understand the initiatives and accomplishments taking place in their cities and towns.