NLC Sets 2007 Lobbying Agenda
by Christine Becker and Sherry Conway Appel
Telecommunications reform, immigration and securing continued federal funding to support local initiatives will be NLC’s top lobbying priorities for the new 110th Congress. The National League of Cities will also work to draw federal attention to critical housing issues such as predatory lending, foreclosure prevention and revamping the country’s mortgage finance system.
The proactive advocacy agenda emerged from a leadership meeting last week in San Diego involving NLC officers, standing committee chairs and constituency group presidents.
The 31 NLC leaders who attended the meeting also committed to launching a proactive approach with the new Congress to address major challenges affecting the quality of life in their communities — the surge in violent crime, strategies for future transportation funding, and promoting sustainable communities and energy efficiency.
NLC President Bart Peterson, mayor of Indianapolis, convened the leadership meeting to shape an agenda that would take advantage of the major transition in Congress and to build broad support for key priorities among NLC member cities.
“This is a period of transition in our country,” Peterson said. “In the ’70s and ’80s, the federal government led the way; in the ’90s the states were the stars in innovation. But it is pretty clear that in this decade, cities are where the action is.”
“From a lobbying viewpoint, this is a vitally important year for NLC given the changing circumstances in Washington,” Peterson added. “We need a little attitude in how we approach lobbying, focusing on not only what the key issues are, but also on how we present ourselves as innovative leaders in hometown America.”
The group drew on the work of NLC’s policy and advocacy committees and input from the 2006 annual business meeting in Reno, Nev., to define the most pressing lobbying priorities for 2007 and ongoing policy issues that NLC will shape and pursue both in 2007 and beyond.
“We had the best, the brightest, and the most involved participating in this important meeting,” said NLC First Vice President Cynthia McCollum, council member from Madison, Ala. “And we went further than simply looking at what’s going on in Washington. We also want to shape policy at the local, state, and federal levels on other critical issues, including transportation funding, the full range of public safety issues, and efforts to promote sustainable resources and energy efficiency.”
In addition to defining the top priorities, the group discussed Mayor Peterson’s interest in launching a dialogue on the effect of media violence on America’s quality of life in general and on young people in particular. A summit on the impact of media violence on young people and on local strategies for dealing with those impacts is set for mid-April in Indianapolis.
NLC Second Vice President Kathleen Novak, mayor of Northglenn, Colo., said the work of the leadership group in shaping the issues agenda is essential to NLC’s long-term success as the voice for America’s cities and towns.
“We need to recognize the importance of this meeting and this group to NLC’s effectiveness,” Novak said. “Every person in this room represents a unique constituency both in your hometowns and within the National League of Cities. When we bring all these interests, experiences, and capacities into alignment, we become an organization that is almost unstoppable.”
Committee and constituency group leaders explored how the priorities that emerged from the meeting will shape their group work agendas during the coming year. For example, Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources Committee Chair Debbie Quinn, councilmember from Fairhope, Ala., said her group is committed to shaping the NLC agenda on sustainability and energy efficiency based on policy work over the past few years.
The Immigration Task Force, chaired by Los Angeles Councilman Dennis Zine, will address community impacts of increased immigration while supporting lobbying efforts to reform federal immigration laws.
And, the five NLC constituency groups plan to link their work plans to the NLC lobbying agenda — and use their Congressional contacts to support the priorities.
“It is important for NLC to think long-term in working together to strengthen our cities and towns,” Peterson said. “But we also need to stay alert because Congress is meeting now to pass laws and pass a federal budget which will affect our communities now.”
“We’re leaving this meeting with a good sense of what NLC is about and what issues matter to our cities and towns right now,” Peterson added. “So, let’s do this together – and tell everyone else about the innovation that’s happening in our communities and the issues we intend to focus on this year and beyond.”
The 2007 lobbying agenda will be the basis for program planning for the March Congressional City Conference and the focus for Capitol Hill meetings when city leaders come to Washington. The conference gets underway at the Hilton Washington and Towers on Saturday, March 10, with committee meetings and leadership training sessions and concludes with group lobbying efforts on Tuesday afternoon, March 13, and Wednesday morning, March 14. Visit the NLC website at www.nlc.org for regular updates on the conference schedule and program.
Source: National League of Cities.