I never imagined I’d see the year 2020. When I thought about it – even just a few years ago – I envisioned flying cars and space travel. I foresaw a world where our society’s most basic needs – shelter and safety – would be met. I presumed the tenants of local democracy would win out, and partisanship would fall by the wayside.
Frankly, I thought wrong. Yet, here we are in 2020 – we made it(!) – and I’m still infinitely hopeful that my predictions can come true during this decade. For that to happen, however, my eternal optimism must be met with commitment to action for shared priorities – commitment from the National League of Cities (NLC), from local leaders across the country, from state municipal leagues, and from our partners at the federal level.
To start this decade on the right track, there are three commitments we must make together: To restore respect for local democracy, to ensure a full and accurate count of our residents in the 2020 Census, and to call on President Trump and all presidential candidates to commit to the nonpartisan Leading Together Cities Agenda.
These commitments are achievable, and that notion fills me with hope. And as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so rightly said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” In 2020, that hope must also be met with action.
We must restore respect for local democracy.
Cities, towns and villages are the level of government closest to the people – and they function best when their elected leaders have authority over purely local matters. From the founding of NLC in 1924 to today, the desire for local decision-making has linked municipal officials across time, geography and political ideology.
Unfortunately, local democracy is under attack. Over the past several years, NLC has documented the misuse and abuse of preemption, where a state removes local authority over policymaking on issues ranging from anti-discrimination measures to wage rates and paid leave policies. As we enter a new decade, it’s time to reverse the trend of preemption and commit to local democracy.
To support local leaders, NLC recently released a municipal action guide with tangible strategies for advancing local decision-making in the face of state preemption. Next month, we are taking our commitment to local democracy a step further with updated Home Rule principles for the 21st century. These principles articulate a foundational vision of local decision-making and will foster long-overdue reform in local-state relations. I am hopeful that they will set a vigorous vision for local democracy in 2020 and beyond.
We must ensure a full and accurate count of our residents in the 2020 Census.
The 2020 Census is critical to the future of cities, towns and villages. It’s our once-a-decade opportunity to get an accurate picture of the people who live in our communities – and gather critical data that are foundational to our democratic system and economy.
Census figures are not only the basis for defining federal, state and local political districts, they also determine how more than $1.5 trillion of federal funding is allocated across state and local governments. Numbers from the census also enable local governments to make more strategic decisions on infrastructure planning, economic development and business decisions. And, they fuel critical medical, economic and social research.
We have no choice but to do everything we can to ensure an accurate count of our residents this year. NLC has produced a municipal action guide to help local leaders prepare for the upcoming census, and has a Local Census Preparedness Network, where we share the latest information and contacts to support communities. The 2020 Census is a shared responsibility and we must commit to ensuring its accuracy, together.
We must call on all 2020 presidential candidates to adopt the nonpartisan Leading Together Cities Agenda.
News, predictions and commentary about the presidential election are everywhere we turn – social media, news outlets, water cooler conversations, and even our places of worship. At a time when it feels like partisanship can’t get more toxic, nonpartisan local priorities must win out. That’s why it is crucial that we work together to call on President Trump and all Democratic presidential candidates to commit to the Leading Together Cities Agenda in 2020 and in the first 100 days of their term.
The Leading Together Cities Agenda is a reflection of the concerns and challenges that are impacting residents all over America—concerns that will influence voters’ election day decisions, both in local elections and in state and federal elections. It was developed by the nonpartisan NLC Presidential Election Task Force to focus on common-sense solutions for growing the economy, promoting public safety, and investing in 21st century infrastructure. The agenda isn’t red or blue – it’s American, and it’s driven by the needs and desires of local leaders who want to create a better tomorrow in partnership with our president.
We need the person holding the highest office in the land to work with local leaders on priorities we’ve had for years – building sustainable infrastructure, creating a skilled workforce, ending housing instability and homelessness, and reducing gun violence. I hope every local leader and partner will work with NLC to call on our candidates to adopt this agenda and commit to leading together. There are several actions that every local leader can take right now on our Leading Together website.
Our decade will be defined by the priorities we set today. Let’s usher in a new era partnership in American politics and governance.
Infinite Hope in 2020
I can’t tell you if my hopes for 2020 will all come true, but I can tell you that I will remain filled with infinite hope and a drive for fulfilling the mission of NLC.
And while I never imagined I’d see the year 2020, I did sit in a flying car last week at CES.
My vision for this decade isn’t far off and with infinite hope and action, we can achieve our commitments.
About the Author: Clarence E. Anthony is the CEO & Executive Director of the National League of Cities. Follow him on Twitter: @ceanthony50.