In Washington, NLC Leaders Represent City Priorities

September 8, 2017 - (4 min read)

For Washington, DC, August is a quiet month. With Congress in recess and the President typically on vacation, the federal government has a chance to hear from constituents and work on long-term plans and issues. For NLC’s Federal Advocacy Committees, however, that pause in the action is golden opportunity.

This week, over three dozen city leaders traveled to Washington to represent cities, meeting with Congress, the White House, federal agencies, and more. Over the course of the fly-in, NLC members achieved several victories — and educated key government officials on the priorities of city leaders across America.

Committee leaders notched one victory with the passage of a continuing resolution that preserves level funding for three months and delays the possibility government shutdown. Additionally, NLC members educated Congress on the important of protecting the State and Local Tax deduction in upcoming tax reform discussions, driving home the absolute importance of this commonsense exemption that is under consideration for elimination. Discussing budgetary matters, they also shared examples of how programs such as CDGB, TIGER and HOME are essential to providing critical services to residents in communities of all sizes.

After an opening briefing at NLC headquarters and several Congressional meetings on Wednesday, NLC hosted an informal reception with local elected officials and federal agency intergovernmental affairs officials to build better bonds between local and federal leadership.

On Thursday and Friday, NLC took to the Hill in force — meeting with nearly 40 Members of Congress to discuss a wide variety of issues such as appropriations, tax reform, infrastructure and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

NLC Second Vice President Karen Freeman-Wilson, mayor, Gary, Indiana, at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

During these meetings, NLC members stressed the importance of SALT and tax-exempt municipal bonds, the challenges local communities are facing with infrastructure, and the importance of robustly funded programs that provide cities with the money they need to provide vital services to their communities. These messages were carried to Congressional leadership, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the Chairs and Ranking Members of important Congressional committees and subcommittees.

Thursday also saw the NLC members bring their message to federal agencies and the White House. Over 25 local elected officials meet with DJ Gribbin, Special Assistant to the President for Infrastructure Policy, to discuss infrastructure and the role cities must play in any future infrastructure package.

NLC President Matt Zone, Councilmember, Cleveland, meets with Labor Secretary R. Alexander Acosta in Washington, DC.

Also on Thursday, an NLC delegation including NLC President Matt Zone and Second Vice President Karen Freeman-Wilson met with Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta to discuss the importance of workforce development programs, and the role that workforce development will play in an infrastructure package. Members spoke with the Secretary about the labor challenges that they are facing in their communities, and the programs that have been most successful in developing stronger and better educated work forces.

Following their meeting with the President’s special assistant, NLC members also meet with senior leadership from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs, Office of Policy, Office of Federal Affairs, and Deputy Assistant Administrator D. Lee Forsgren from the Office of Water. In the meeting, members stressed the importance of programs like the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, regional restoration efforts in the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay, the challenges around stormwater and wastewater management, and their role in an infrastructure package.

Additionally, some NLC members meet with senior officials at the U.S. Department of Transportation to continue the discussion on the transportation infrastructure needs of local communities. They discussed the necessity of funding existing DOT programs and streamlining project approvals. NLC also stressed the need for direct funding to cities through programs such as TIGER and infrastructure grants. They also expressed cities’ desire to help build a great infrastructure package that leverages money for cities.

NLC committee leaders advise a senior USDOT official on infrastructure priorities.

Through these activities, NLC found a great deal of support for funding the programs that matter the most to cities — such as CDBG, infrastructure grants and other programs that directly connect cities to federal funding.

NLC is confident that Congress and the Administration will continue to engage with local leaders in upcoming discussions on tax reform, infrastructure, appropriations and immigration. Cities are an unparalleled source of knowledge, ideas and experience, and an important partner in building a stronger, more prosperous country.