There are two forms of March Madness: college basketball and DC. I can’t tell you much about college basketball (my bracket busted pretty quickly with the first-round defeat of the Buffs!); however, I truly think we made it to the final four with our March trip to Washington.
Each March, the National League of Cities (NLC) hosts its Congressional Cities Conference to help build and strengthen municipal-federal relationships. This is an important aspect of municipal leadership, and Colorado city and town leaders take full advantage of it. More than 70 municipal officials from 20 different cities and towns attended, including youth commission delegations from Brighton, Commerce City, and Loveland.
As part of the NLC event, a variety of Hill movers and shakers and numerous federal agencies spoke with municipal leaders. CML also arranges special visits for our folks.
This year, we heard from Mark Matthews, the Washington, D.C., reporter for The Denver Post. He gave us important insights into Colorado’s congressional delegation and some of the key issues he is following, such as the construction of the VA hospital in Aurora, transportation infrastructure funding, the ongoing federal response to the Animas River spill, and the impacts on Florence of a potential Guantanamo Bay prison closure.
We visited two very important agencies, the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Small Business Administration (SBA). While debate and deliberation on Capitol Hill is mightily important, the real action is now and always has been at the federal agency level. These federal officials love to visit with local municipal leaders, and these meetings are never a disappointment and always informative.
While at DOT, we received a presentation on the recently passed federal transportation bill and got information on the train noise regulations docket recently opened by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). Mark Radtke on our staff is working with a number of cities and towns in the state to coordinate responses to the FRA rule; contact him for more information.
I had the honor of escorting a dozen folks to SBA. In Colorado, there are nearly 560,000 small businesses employing nearly a million people - that is about half of Colorado’s private workforce. It is important to appreciate the vital work of SBA and the importance of small business to our state. In that regard, consider taking the “Startup In A Day” pledge. This is a national challenge issued to cities and towns to help develop, implement, and streamline online tools that let entrepreneurs learn more about the startup process in their community, including how to register and apply for all required licenses and permits – all in one day or less. I know we have a lot of municipalities in the state trying to streamline and simplify local business regulations, and the League has been active in streamlining aspects of the local collection of sales and use taxes. Also, May 1-7 is National Small Business Week, and I hope you will adopt a proclamation declaring it so in your municipality. At the same time, reaffirm your support to Colorado’s delegation to pass legislation in the Congress leveling the playing field for Main Street small businesses by supporting the Marketplace E-Fairness bills pending before the House and Senate. This is a top priority issue for CML and our membership.
We also stopped by the Brookings Institution, one of the most influential think tanks in D.C., to meet with key leaders from the Metropolitan Policy Program. It was a lively conversation around infrastructure and advanced industries, such as clean tech. I am indebted to my pals Bruce Katz and Marek Gootman for helping put this meeting together. I follow their Twitter feed (@BrookingsMetro), and so should you. (By the way, mine is @SamMamet.)
We spent time at the White House with President Barack Obama’s terrific intergovernmental team led by former Louisville, Ky., Mayor and former Lt. Governor for the Bluegrass State, Jerry Abramson. He and his team are some of the sharpest, most hard working, and nicest people you are going to find in D.C. And, they are responsive.
Among the topics included in this conversation were criminal justice reform, community policing (I was able to give them our brand new Community Policing guidebook, written by my colleague Meghan Dollar), and opioid abuse, which is one of the most serious health epidemics facing our nation. City and town leaders have an important role to play in this policy arena, and you will hear from CML on next steps very soon.
A highlight for all of us was the honor to breakfast with Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner. These two guys represent the best Colorado has to offer back in Washington. They are incredible leaders, work exceedingly well together, and care deeply about all of us. Both have been great personal friends for many years and wonderful supporters of all of you and of CML. Among the issues covered were train noise, Colorado’s pressing infrastructure needs, Internet taxation, education and workforce training, prescription drug abuse, tax-exempt municipal bonds, and immigration policy. It was a free- wheeling and wide-ranging conversation.
Intergovernmental relations is about building partnerships, gaining trust and respect, and working together to solve problems extending beyond your own city or town borders. Connections do matter, and I am interested in how you make connections locally and regionally.