NLC Leaders Discuss Future of Public Finance: Five Committees Come Together in Chicago for 'Mega-Meeting'

Article excerpt

City officials from across the country converged on Chicago for a "mega-meeting" of National League of Cities committees on the future of public finance.

NLC members from five NLC committees met together from June 10-12, led by NLC President Charlie Lyons, selectman from Arlington, Mass, and hosted by City of Chicago Aldermen Joe Moore and Ed Smith.

Lyons commented that "the meeting of these committees was a terrific success and a great thing for NLC to be able to bring together our members on the pivotal topic of fiscal and intergovernmental affairs."

The five committees coming to Chicago included the Finance, Administration, and Intergovernmental Relations (FAIR) Policy and Advocacy Steering Committee; the Municipalities in Transition Panel on Public Finance; the Municipalities in Transition Panel on Democratic Governance: the State Municipal League Subcommittee on Public Finance; and the Central Cities Council, chaired by Joe Moore, alderman from Chicago.

The Transportation, Infrastructure, and Services (TIS) Policy and Advocacy Steering Committee also held a separate meeting over the same dates in Chicago.

Several outcomes emerged from the meeting. One outcome was input on the major trends and challenges impacting city finances.

The four major challenges discussed at the meeting included:

* The unraveling intergovernmental partnership;

* A growing disconnect between economic growth and revenue systems;

* Changing and increasing service needs in response to demographic shifts;

and

* The lack of trust between government and the public.

Committee members participated in a series of breakout discussions on how NLC could address these challenges and what capacities need to be developed. Common ideas that emerged from these discussions included:

* NLC convening other state and local organizations, stakeholders, and interested parties for the purposes of collaborating on shared fiscal and intergovernmental concerns;

* Developing training and education materials for NLC members, the media and state and federal policymakers about city finances and challenges;

* Providing a consistent message for the media and state and federal officials about what cities do and why they are important: and

* Strengthening NLC's grassroots lobbying efforts on fiscal and intergovernmental issues.

Several resolutions were also adopted at the meeting, including resolutions on federal mandates and tax cuts, efforts to pass tax and expenditure limits on state and local governments and establishing a new venue for addressing intergovernmental issues.

The resolutions and themes developed at the meeting will be presented to the NLC Board of Directors at their July meeting in Boston.

Committee members also heard a number of presentations. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley addressed the entire group of city officials and challenged America's city officials to fight efforts to impose further mandates on municipal governments.

In addition, Michael Pagano, from the University of Illinois at Chicago, discussed the big challenges facing cities in terms of public finance, Joe Schwieterman from the Chaddick Institute at DePaul University outlined changes in transportation systems, and Dan Bucks, executive director of the Multistate Tax Commission, provided an update on federal legislation on the Streamlined Sales Tax Project.

Each committee also met separately over the two-day period.

Public Finance Panel

Members of the Public Finance Panel used their meeting to reflect upon the meeting with the other committees, to outline common themes heard during the joint meeting and to hear an update on the work of the State Municipal League Subcommittee.

The panel members felt that the joint meeting was a good idea, had served to generate shared perspectives and agendas across the committees, and should occur again in the future. …