ICMA at the White House

The ICMA Executive Board met with Obama Administration officials on August 28 on policy issues and to commemorate the 100th anniversary of ICMA.

ARTICLE | Aug 28, 2014

100th Anniversary Commemorated

The ICMA Executive Board gathered in the Indian Treaty Room in the East Wing of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on August 28 to meet with Obama Administration officials on policy issues and to commemorate the 100th anniversary of ICMA.  

Rohan Patel, White House special assistant to the president and deputy director of Intergovernmental Affairs kicked off the meeting by praising local leadership on the ability to make progress on significant issues such as early childhood education and innovations in dealing with environmental issues resulting from climate change. “There is nothing more exciting than what is going on at the local level in our cities and counties,” he said. He also praised ICMA for the USAID-funded CityLinks program. 

National Resource Network cited

Mark Linton, director of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities initiative, specifically thanked ICMA for its creativity in establishing the National Resource Network (NRN). NRN was created out of demand from cities around the country to have access to experts, technical advice, and information that can help them address the mounting challenges of growing inequality, high unemployment, under-performing schools, aging infrastructure and vacant and blighted properties. It will help cities address these challenges through on-the-ground expert engagements and advisory services, among other forms of assistance.  

Linton discussed the next steps in the roll out of this initiative, which will help all local governments find and access federal resources for areas of need. He also highlighted the peer networks and 311 services that are part of the NRN rollout in response to a comment from ICMA Regional Vice President Troy S. Brown, city manager, Tracy, California who expressed the need for local governments to get the word out about initiatives that might benefit other communities.  

The administration’s Climate Action Plan and other environmental topics were covered by Michael Boots, acting chair, Council on Environmental Quality. While acknowledging that there are limited funds, he and Patel stressed efforts to streamline administrative processes and to leverage the resources that are available.  They also asked for feedback on proposed Clean Power Plan regulations issued in June 2014 that are intended to cut carbon emissions from power plants.  

Members share concerns

Environmental issues can be challenging for local governments to address, especially when the source of pollution may be in another country, noted ICMA Regional Vice President Mary Jacobs, assistant city manager, Sierra Vista, Arizona. While the cities of Sierra Vista and Fort Huachuca are committed to improving the quality of the water in the San Pedro River, their headwaters are across the border in Mexico, she observed. 

ICMA Regional Vice President Rod Gould, city manager, Santa Monica, California, agreed that new efforts to help distressed communities were good, but reminded the administration that certain existing programs are particularly effective in producing results, including Community Development Block Grants, tax exempt municipal bonds, Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing, and Section 8 rental housing assistance. 

Immigration addressed

Wrapping up the briefing, Felicia Escobar, special assistant to the president for immigration policy, and Julie Rodriguez, deputy director of public engagement spoke about the administration’s efforts surrounding the issues of immigration, including using the tools available under existing immigration laws and working with the legal community to help relieve backlogs. ICMA Regional Vice President Robert Harrison, city administrator, Issaqua, Washington, suggested that cities need help from the federal government to facilitate employment eligibility for skilled immigrant workers. Harrison pointed out that this issue affects high-tech companies that might move their operations if they can’t access a workforce with the appropriate skills.

The White House staff later presented ICMA with a letter and proclamation acknowledging the organization’s centennial anniversary.

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