NLC Leaders Gather to Discuss Federal Policy, Advocacy Opportunities

Last week, over 150 local leaders gathered in Saint Paul, MN, as part of NLC's policy development process to consider and debate proposed policy changes to NLC's National Municipal Policy. In addition to special strategy sessions on NLC's advocacy goals, the local leaders, all members of NLC's Policy and Advocacy Steering Committees, considered a wide variety of issues, including transportation funding and planning, public pensions, the growth of broadband services, economic development, and city climate adaptation and resilience.

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Members of several committees also joined Ramsey County Commissioner Jim McDonough for a tour of Saint Paul's recently redeveloped Union Depot station and new Green Line light rail. Members of these committees saw firsthand how a county-run transit facility helped to revitalize the Lowertown neighborhood in the City of Saint Paul, incorporating multi-modal transportation, a local food movement, mixed-income housing development, and a growing artist community.

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Below are summaries of the individual steering committee meetings:

Community and Economic Development

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Under the leadership of Chair Lavonta Williams, Council Member, Wichita, KS, the Community and Economic Development (CED) Committee focused on income inequality, city approaches to fostering middle class growth, and how cities are responding to uncertainty created by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's proposed rule on Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing. In addition, a representative from the International Council of Shopping Centers joined the committee for a discussion on local officials' impact on attracting retail to their communities.

The committee concluded its meeting with a review of existing policy and resolutions and plans to propose for consideration at the NLC's annual conference ones addressing local land use authority, the elimination of barriers to job creation, and maintaining jobs supported by the shipping industry.

Energy, Environment and Natural Resources

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With a focus on climate adaptation and resilience, the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources (EENR) Committee, chaired by Bill Peloza, Council Member, Auburn, WA, explored ways in which the the federal government can better support local adaptation efforts, including through the President's Task Force on Clime Preparedness and Resilience, which will issue a final set of recommendations to the President later this year. The committee also considered the impacts of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposed rulemaking on greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants on local communities. Under the proposed rule, states will be required to develop a plan for meeting state reduction targets, and local governments and utilities will play an important role.

The EPA's proposed rule on "Waters of the U.S" was also a topic of debate among committee members, who heard from Tinka Hyde, Director of the EPA Region 5 Water Division and William James, Acting Deputy Chief of Regulatory Programs for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, on the rule's impact on cities, particularly with regard to stormwater systems and green infrastructure.

NLC will submit comments on both the proposed rule for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the proposed rule on "Waters of the U.S." and encourages members to review the proposed rules and consider submitting comments as well.

The EENR Committee will meet in Fort Collins, CO in September to continue discussion on climate, energy and water issues and finalize policy changes for consideration at NLC's Congress of Cities in Austin.

Finance, Administration, and Intergovernmental Relations

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The Finance, Administration, and Intergovernmental Relations (FAIR) met in Saint Paul under the leadership of Under the leadership of Vice Chairs Cynthia Mangini, council member, Enfield, CT, and Andy Hafen, mayor, Henderson, NV. Elizabeth Kellar, Deputy Executive Director of the International City Managers Association updated the committee on recent changes in the Governmental Accounting Standards Board rules for pension accounting and the effect on cities. Neil Bomberg, NLC's Program Director for Human Development, briefed the committee on the future of public pensions and the social security system, and the impacts any changes to these could have on local governments.

The committee joined the Information Technology and Communications Committee for a panel discussion that featured representatives from AT&T, Comcast, Google, and Verizon who discussed industry investments in local economic development.

The committee concluded its meeting with a review of existing policy and resolutions and plans to propose changes to several, including those addressing federal deficit reduction efforts, medical marijuana, postal facilities, and streamline sales taxes that will be considered at NLC's Congress of Cities in Austin.

Human Development

Image removed.The Human Development committee, chaired by Vicki Welch, council member, Louisville, KY, focused on a wide range of issues from workforce development to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to wellness and education. The meeting began with a discussion of the innovations taking place in committee members' cities, and included such diverse efforts as renovating an urban bridge that has become the focus of a downtown renovation, creating a cooperative to reopen and maintain an historic movie theatre, developing an intergenerational center that is becoming an important service center for city residents, developing new strategies for attracting business, to investing in new parks and community gardens to ensure access to recreation and ways of implementing community gardens.

At the request of the U.S. Department of Labor, committee members considered the impact of changes to the current FLSA regulations on cities as employers that will help inform NLC's response to draft regulations when they are published. The committee also received an update from Audrey Hutchinson, Program Director for Education and Afterschool in NLC's Institute for Youth, Education, and Families on the status of NLC's collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education.

Information Technology and Communications

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The Information Technology and Communications (ITC) Committee, chaired by Beth Martinez Humenik, council member, Thornton, CO, discussed several issues that will have significant implications for cities as communications services transition from traditional cable and telephone delivery to Internet broadband. Tim Stelzig of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) updated the ITC Committee on the FCC's efforts to work with industry and communities to understand the impacts of this transition, particularly in physical infrastructure and emergency response.

The committee also met with members of the FAIR Committee and representatives from AT&T, Comcast, Google, and Verizon to discuss industry investments in local economic development. The committee members identified the transition to broadband, net neutrality, community broadband, and the regulatory environment as topics for further engagement with industry partners. Finally, the ITC Committee met jointly with members of the Public Safety and Crime Prevention Committee to receive updates on FirstNet, a nationwide, interoperable communications network for public safety responders.

The committee concluded their meeting with a review of existing policy and resolutions and plans to propose changes to policy on broadband networks and increasing broadband deployment during the Congress of Cities. It will continue its education of these issues with a webinar on net neutrality in the fall.

Public Safety and Crime Prevention

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The Public Safety and Crime Prevention (PSCP) Committee, chaired by Scott Somers, vice mayor, Mesa, AZ, met to discuss emerging issues in policing and criminal justice systems. Todd A. Miller, Chair of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Community Oriented Policing Committee, briefed the PSCP Committee on ongoing efforts to promote community oriented policing. Leon Andrews, Senior Fellow for Youth Development and Community Wellness in the Institute for Youth, Education, and Families provided an update on the Cities United program and other initiatives to address juvenile justice reform and youth violence prevention. Benjamin Feist, Legislative Director for American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Minnesota, provided information about individual privacy concerns regarding the collection and use of data from license plate readers, drones, and cellular devices.

The committee also considered efforts to improve interactions between local public safety and mental health services communities. Staff of Senator Al Franken (MN) provided information about S. 162, the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Act of 2013. Two judges from the Minnesota Judicial Branch Mental Health Court Program shared updates on their local mental health court program and its success in cutting costs, increasing public safety, and improving quality of life for mentally ill defendants.

Transportation and Infrastructure Services

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Chair Patsy Kinsey, council member, Charlotte, NC presided over a busy agenda of the Transportation and Infrastructure Services (TIS) Committee that focused on the impacts of regional, state, and federal decision making on local transportation. As Congress prepares to adopt a short-term extension of the current federal surface transportation program, the committee discussed potential changes to the program that would provide more local control over transportation decision making.

Former Bloomington, Minnesota Councilman Steve Elkins, now with the Metropolitan Council, reviewed the programs of the region's transportation and land use planning authority and the competitive approach to allocating resources among projects. Kevin Burke, CEO of the Airports Council International of North America, called on local officials to be engaged in the discussion of federal airport programs and support increased passenger facility charges to cover investment in airport infrastructure as a major driver of local economic development. Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin discussed the planning and funding of regional transit programs, and the need for a long term infrastructure vision at the regional and national level.

The committee identified proposed changes to NLC policy on surface transportation and the transportation of hazardous materials, which it will review during the November Congress of Cities.