For nearly 100 years, an organization called the National League of Cities has brought together a group of nonpartisan leaders from cities across the United States to share innovative solutions and work on efforts to influence federal policy. With more than 2,700 cities forming the organization, the NLC is recognized as a powerful and reliable partner organization and is well respected by policymakers at the federal level.
The organization is comprised of a number of federal advocacy committees and constituency groups that take a deeper dive into the issues affecting the communities we serve. I currently serve as vice chair of the Human Development Committee, alongside Councilwoman Kacy Kostiuk of Takoma Park, Maryland, and Mayor Pro Tempore D.D. Adams of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I also serve on the Hispanic Elected Local Officials Board, in addition to my new appointment as second vice-chair of Women in Municipal Government.
This year, the Human Development Committee undertook another comprehensive review of its chapter of the National Municipal Policy, which is used to drive the NLC’s agenda at the federal level. With the review, we addressed the effects of the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, from which there will be a need to fill the infrastructure jobs that will be critical to maintaining our nation’s roads, bridges, water systems, and broadband networks; an increased focus on trauma-informed care, access to health care, substance abuse and mental health services, and even lowering truancy rates as needs that must be addressed at the federal level; and support for ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, a comprehensive human rights treaty on children’s rights.
Another important topic that we discussed was addressing the impact that increased student loan payments have on the financial security and economic mobility of our residents, especially in BIPOC communities. We passed a resolution urging the federal government “to continue collecting data disaggregated by race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, religion, and gender identity and to support data that sheds light on the intersecting forces of racial disparities, underlying conditions, and poverty that affect how an infectious disease spreads and provide resources that address the disproportionate effect on impacted communities.” We all saw first-hand what happened during the COVID-19 pandemic and how it disproportionately impacted our residents in San Antonio.
As a committee, we also believe that the federal government should ensure that all seniors have access to healthy foods to help prevent some of the diseases that plague our residents. Additionally, upon my insistence, my fellow Human Development Committee members agreed to replace the word “citizens” with “residents,” recognizing that many of the folks we serve are not citizens but contribute to our economy and should be treated fairly. I was fortunate to be able to present all these changes on behalf of our committee to the Resolutions Committee, then present it for a vote to the delegates of all 50 states during the NLC’s Annual Business meeting last Saturday.
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All in all, the Human Development Committee helped pass 11 resolutions for inclusion in the National Municipal Policy:
- In support of action by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study and address violence in America
- In support of comprehensive immigration reform
- In support of efforts to prevent sexual harassment and assault
- In support of reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and increased investment in workforce development programs
- Addressing systemic racism as a public health crisis
- In support of the One Health Initiative
- In support of nutrition and food security programs
- In support of a national holiday commemorating the accomplishments and legacy of César Estrada Chávez and Dolores Huerta
- In support of the Equality Act
- In support of mothers in the workforce
- In support of equal pay for women
The resolutions in support of women’s issues were the most popular ones at our meetings and perhaps why I was voted the second vice-chair of Women in Municipal Government, a three-year commitment that concludes with presidency of the group in 2025. Having been a board member, I understand first-hand that our work will continue to be critical.
Perhaps the best part of all the additional advocacy work that I get to do by participating in the federal advocacy committees and constituency groups is that I get to learn from leaders from across the country, forming relationships with folks that will gladly pick up the phone and give me advice on any issues that they may have already overcome in their community. Our groups meet at least once a month, and it is critical for all of us to be well-prepared to give our input into these topics which are crucial to the well-being of our nation.
I am thankful for the hard work that the NLC and its member cities and active committees do on behalf of those who do not have a voice. In these days of increased distrust and political division, groups like the NLC exist to remind all of us that, although the work is never finished, together through diversity of thought and opinion, we can unite to find bipartisan solutions that really make a difference in the communities we serve.