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California city leaders shine the spotlight on issues and solutions at NLC Congressional City Conference

March 10, 2021
City officials and state leagues from across the country brought a united message to federal leaders and lawmakers at this week’s 56th annual National League of Cities (NLC) Congressional Cities Conference (CCC).
Working together to address the challenges facing America’s hometowns is more critical now than ever before.

The largest legislative conference in the United States for local leaders featured important policy discussions and engaging general session addresses from members of Congress and administration officials. The conference also provided collaborative networking opportunities and shined a spotlight on the power of cities as we respond, recover, and rebuild from the pandemic.

League of California Cities President and El Centro Mayor Cheryl Viegas Walker, First Vice President and Walnut Creek Council Member Cindy Silva, Second Vice President and Artesia Council Member Ali Taj, Immediate Past President and Yountville Mayor John F. Dunbar, and NLC Immediate Past President and Los Angeles Mayor pro Tem Joe Buscaino led the California delegation of more than a hundred local leaders.
Top federal officials praise cities’ response to pandemic during general sessions

Vice President Kamala Harris, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, were just a few of the many federal leaders who addressed the conference attendees.

Vice President Harris, a former local government official and California native, highlighted that our country is facing a turning point in the fight against COVID-19, and recognized the valiant efforts of local leaders over the past twelve months.

“For a year we have faced a crisis of immeasurable proportions. Through it all, local leaders have been in the thick of it….Being a local leader has always been a 24/7 job, and this year I know has tested the limits. And still, you keep getting up every morning and working to make things better. On behalf of myself and President Biden, we thank you, we thank you, we thank you,” said Vice President Harris.

Transportation Secretary Buttigieg, former South Bend, Indiana mayor, spoke about how the imaginative work of America’s cities is key to rebuilding our infrastructure and creating millions of jobs. Secretary Buttigieg reminded attendees that a strong local-federal partnership is key to creating change and shaping polices that help America’s cities. “None of it happens without a rich conversation with local communities, to hear what you are already doing on the ground,” said Secretary Buttigieg.

Conference attendees were able to hear firsthand from Dr. Fauci, who participated on a panel with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky and NLC Executive Director and CEO Clarence Anthony. 

When asked what cities can do to help with COVID-19 vaccination distribution, Dr. Fauci said “Local elected officials are those closest to the ground in their community. Their communities trust you. The best thing you can do to help us is to get your citizens to get vaccinated when the vaccine is available, and encourage them not to pull back on public health measures prematurely.”

California city officials take center stage at NLC CCC

Many of California’s local elected officials and Cal Cities representatives took center stage during the conference, discussing best practices, facilitating key meetings, and sharing advocacy priorities with top federal officials.
Rancho Cordova Mayor and NLC Transportation and Infrastructure Services Committee Chair David Sander led a “listening session” during NLC’s board meeting with Secretary Buttigieg, where Mayor Sander presented NLC’s transportation priorities to the Secretary, and highlighted ways in which city leaders can work directly with the U.S. Dept. of Transportation to expand transportation and infrastructure development. Mayor Sander also led an afternoon session on “Making the case for local transportation with Congress,” where attendees learned how to make a powerful connection between local projects and federal programs.

During the Western Municipal Association Meeting, with the theme “Post COVID-19: Paths to Local Recovery,” Fremont Mayor Lily Mei participated in a panel discussion where she shared the innovative ways in which Fremont has spent its allocation of federal CARES Act dollars over the last year. Mayor Mei highlighted the creation of a new rent relief program, small business emergency grant assistance, an online marketplace to purchase e-gift cards from small businesses, and a streamlined application process allowing restaurants, cafes, and personal service businesses to expand outdoor seating.

NLC CCC also featured a State Municipal League event, led by Cal Cities Executive Director and CEO Carolyn Coleman, where state League directors, presidents, and staff received the latest update from White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and National Economic Council representatives on direct aid to cities, just as the American Rescue Plan was reaching a final vote on the House floor.

NLC Congressional City Conference concludes virtually at Capitol Hill with Advocacy Day

Capitol Hill Advocacy Day is the culmination of all the calls to action during NLC’s conference. California’s delegation of city officials met with congressional members and staff throughout the day, emphasizing the issues that keep residents up at night and underscoring that a local-federal partnership is critical to driving a national economic recovery. Cal Cities Officers discussed our 2021 Strategic Advocacy Priorities, and highlighted that cities seek to partner with federal leaders to create and implement programs and policies that fit the needs of all residents. Cal Cities Officers met with Representatives Mike Thompson, Linda Sanchez, Mike Garcia, and Mark DeSaulnier, as well as legislative staff for Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla.

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