by Amy Elsbree
The Congress of Cities program will focus on three overarching strategies for cities: promoting strong local economies, building sustainable communities and strengthening neighborhoods and families.
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino will lead a panel of mayors discussing the most pressing challenges for cities during the Closing General Session on Saturday, December 1.
William C. Taylor, co-founder and founding editor of Fast Company Magazine, and Jen Pahlka, founder and executive director of Code for America, will talk on innovation in cities during the Opening General Session on Thursday, November 29.
Each of the strategies will be explored through the keynote addresses, workshops, peer networking sessions, mobile workshops, leadership training seminars, the City Showcase, and the Exhibit Hall. Before and after the main conference programming NLC will offer the traditional governance activities, state municipal league activities and meetings of NLC committees, councils and constituency groups.
Workshop titles and descriptions, along with mobile workshops and leadership training seminars are now available at www.nlccongressofcities.org. Conference attendees are invited to "go deep" in one of the overarching strategies for cities or to sample sessions across all three strategies.
Attendees are also encouraged to attend as an individual or as part of a city team. Because an entire community shares responsibility for the strength of the communities, NLC encourages attendees to consider inviting others from the city such as senior staff or community leaders to attend as a group.
Promoting Strong Local Economies
The foundation of a community's local economies is a vibrant business community, skilled workforce, healthy downtown and opportunities for financial empowerment. To fully realize these elements, a locally-based vision, committed leadership and coordinated policies are essential.
The "Promoting Strong Local Economies" sessions will highlight the challenges, successes and real-world experiences of economic leadership in diverse communities across the country and will provide an opportunity for elected officials and staff in the community to learn together, get on the same page about critical economic development issues and be better equipped to translate new ideas into action back home. Participants will learn how to:
• Use tools directly within the local government wheelhouse to support entrepreneurs and small businesses, as well as partner with key service providers to offer intensive programs and direct support;
• Reorient core development strategies to new economic, fiscal and political realities, including creating a more business friendly, customer service approach to attraction, retention/expansion and talent development;
• Understand the right financing tools and the economic and fiscal impacts of development projects to ensure the best outcomes for a community;
• Help economic success reach all in a community with strategies such as asset building, youth employment and career pathway connections between K-12 and post-secondary education;
• Create a sense of place and help stabilize the tax base by enhancing downtown density; and
• Leverage intersections between infrastructure, sustainability, community development and economic development.
Building Sustainable Communities
Each day, city leaders face a host of complex challenges - decisions surrounding transportation systems, water quality and supply, energy use and development patterns that directly impact local economic conditions, environmental health, social well-being, and overall quality of life. In searching for effective, long-term solutions cities across the country are turning to comprehensive approaches to meet the needs of today while preparing for the increasing demands of the future.
At this year's Building Sustainable Communities sessions:
• Attendees will learn from city leaders, issue experts, and representatives from the public and private sectors about practical strategies and innovative solutions they can implement to build strong, resilient communities.
• Engaging sessions will allow attendees to go directly to critical issues such as protecting and expanding physical infrastructure and using technology to improve efficiencies across energy, water, and transportation systems.
• In-depth sessions exploring the latest in energy efficiency, green infrastructure, and community design will be coupled with those providing skills and strategies to effectively help cities plan for, design, implement and communicate successful and far-reaching sustainability programs.
Strengthening Neighborhoods and Families
Families, homes and neighborhoods define the unique character of a community. When these environments are safe and supportive, they provide critical opportunities for a city's residents to grow, learn, and prosper. The result? A thriving community that attracts, retains, and engages residents and businesses alike. The Strengthening Neighborhoods and Families sessions will provide practical skills, tools and resources for fostering safe neighborhoods with decent and affordable housing; improving access to a variety of learning environments; promoting pathways to financial stability for families; and creating healthy and engaged communities.
Conference attendees will explore interrelated strategies and promising approaches to:
• Making the most of new data and technology strategies to improve local policy, city services, and civic engagement;
• Creating collaborative, sustainable partnerships across multiple sectors;
• Building pathways for residents to join the middle class by addressing disparities in access to key goods and services, from healthy food to mainstream financial services;
• Addressing rapid changes in population or demographics of a community;
• Developing creative financing strategies; and
• Sustaining and improving neighborhood initiatives over time.
Details: For more information and to register visit www.nlccongressofcities.org.