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NLC member councils meet on pressing issues for cities at Congressional City Conference.

NLC's member councils convened during the Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C., in March to draw together representatives from member cities that face similar challenges and circumstances in their municipality. From rural development to town-gown relationships, participants were able to choose to between topic areas and city type to find the resources and experienced peer advice to help address their unique challenges.

University Communities Council

During the University Communities Council membership meeting, Cathedral City Council Member Greg Pettis addressed the statewide HEAL (Healthy Eating Active Living Cities) campaign in California, aimed at changing city policies and environments to reduce obesity and lessen health care costs associated with sedentary lifestyles. The presentation was intended to complement NLC's adoption of a HEAL resolution introduced at the business meeting in Phoenix.

In addition, Margo Pedroso, deputy director for the National Safe Routes to School Program, described a variety of town-gown partnerships that advance bicycle-pedestrian programs, projects and health outcomes in cities.

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The University Communities Council Steering Committee identified areas of focus for 2012, including stepping up its involvement with membership recruitment, advocating for workforce training and education, engaging council members with the new online community--myNLC--to provide best practices and networking capabilities and continuing collaborative opportunities with other NLC groups and outside organizations.

Small Cities Council

The Small Cities Council meeting provided small city officials throughout the country with information on programs and services that they can take back home to share with their colleagues and constituents.

Representatives from NLC's Service Line Warranty Program, administered by Utility Service Partners, shared how small city officials can help save their residents thousands of dollars on the high cost of repairing broken or leaking water sewer lines at no cost to the city.

The council heard from Doug O'Brien, deputy undersecretary, rural development, at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), who outlined various USDA programs and grants that are available to help small cities develop community facilities and jobs for their residents.

Michael Karpman from NLC's Institute for Youth, Education and Families shared an opportunity for small city success stories to be featured in a new NLC publication for developing innovative strategies to help children, youth and families succeed.

The Small Cities Council Steering Committee also met to discuss ways in which small cities can highlight their communities during the celebration of Small Cities Month in June.

Large Cities Council

The Large Cities Council met to discuss utility rate decoupling and to explore ways that cities can improve their employee evaluation programs.

Guest speaker Dr. Jeffrey L. Huston described how city leaders manage a variety of functions on behalf of their citizens, including the operation and management of gas, electric, water and sewer utilities. Such operations are capital-intensive and have significant operating budgets. Huston further discussed the economic imperative for stable utility revenues. In his presentation, Huston described the current issues and potential solutions, such as rate decoupling and presented a comparison of how investor-owned utilities differ in their approaches compared to similar publicly-owned enterprises.

Lee Benson, another guest speaker, discussed how local government entities can optimize their sustainability and maximize employee performance through the employee evaluation system and how a good system can drive that performance. Benson went on to point out that the driving alignment to winning behaviors and performances is gained through evaluation, which is also the way to gain more clarity for all employees on what is required. A good evaluation also provides greater transparency for senior leadership and managers at all levels, and helps cities run more like successful businesses.

First Tier Suburbs Council

The First Tier Suburbs Council Steering Committee meeting generated a conversation that was intended to identify priority issues for the council to focus on in the upcoming year. A number of conversations carried over from past meetings, such as efforts to reduce blight, continued focus on code enforcement and ongoing development of transit.

A new topic identified as a possible focus for the upcoming meetings was the importance of local officials communicating with their citizens, particularly the motivations and thought processes behind decisions that local leaders make. The steering committee members also focused on a challenge that many of them are facing with state governments using local funds to balance their budgets, and what can be done to plan for the future.

Recognizing that many of the issues first tier suburbs face are not unique to their communities, the leadership of the committee suggested to committee members a lineup of workshops at the Congressional City Conference that covered a wide variety of issues, rather than have a stand alone full committee meeting. These workshops focused on maintaining public safety amid cutbacks, community planning and development funding, as well as how to stabilize local housing markets.

Military Communities Peer Network

The Military Communities Peer Networking group met for the fourth time at the Congressional City Conference. Having an established core of interested and enthusiastic participants around topics that affect many NLC member communities, the group will officially be elevated to a member council beginning in January 2013. This means that interested individuals will need to submit applications to participate through NLC's governance process this fall.

At the meeting, group members heard from Jim Brooks with NLC's Center for Research and Innovation about a recent grant awarded to NLC by the Home Depot Foundation to conduct research and analysis on best practices in the veterans housing arena. Members can expect publications, webinars and possibly workshop topics on veteran housing ideas and resources as a result of this grant.

The primary speaker for the meeting was Brad Cooper, executive director of First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden's Joining Forces Initiative. Cooper addressed the participants on the key areas of the Joining Forces program, which include public awareness of veteran and military family challenges, wellness and mental health, education (for both veterans and their families), and employment.

Work is being done in each of these areas through cross-sector collaboration, but there is still much to be done, and there is a need for commitment at the local level to accommodate our returning troops and their families. The group discussed major barriers they face in addressing this population and their needs, and shared some ideas and resources to overcome these challenges.

Ultimately, the primary request from Cooper was that localities encourage veteran hiring among the community's employers. The conversation about how communities can participate in the Joining Forces program and in other veteran reintegration programs will certainly continue and NLC will make resources available as we learn about them.

Details: Interested in joining one of these councils? Contact Member Services at (202) 626-3100 or toll-free: (877) 827-2385 or e-mail memberservices@nlc.org.

by NLC Staff
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Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Article Type:Conference news
Date:Apr 2, 2012
Words:1118
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