Office of Intergovernmental Affairs Blog

  • Global Trade Grows Main Street

    Cross-posted from the USTR blog

    Mayors have the best seat in the house when it comes to understanding how trade propels American communities and business. Whether you’re on Main Street in Portland or Peachtree Street in Atlanta; a family farm in South Dakota or a factory floor in South Carolina, trade touches your community in a positive way.

    Earlier this week, I met with mayors from across the country who convened in the District of Columbia for their annual U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting. Among the organization’s many objectives is to promote effective economic policies in urban and suburban areas. Mayors are looking for opportunities to grow their local economies as many are still recovering from the worst recession since the great depression. The proven ability of trade to support jobs in American communities has the potential to help us succeed.

    More and more these days, Americans overwhelmingly recognize that potential for themselves.

  • Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience Hosts Inaugural Meeting

    Roundtable discussion with members of the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience

    Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs David Agnew, Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley, Secretary Shaun Donovan, and FEMA Associate Administrator David Miller participate in roundtable discussion with members of the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. (White House IGA/CEQ)

    Last week, members of the State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience participated in their inaugural meeting at the White House. President Obama created this Task Force in his Climate Action Plan to advise the Administration on how the Federal government can support communities across the country that are dealing with the impacts of climate change. In 2012 alone, the costs of weather disasters exceeded $110 billion in the United States – including the terrible destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy. Climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of these kinds of events – as well as the costs and public health impacts associated with them.

    From Alabama to Guam, from Los Angeles to Philadelphia, state, local, and tribal leaders are on the front lines of dealing with extreme weather, sea level rise, and other impacts of climate change. This diverse group of elected officials brought their expertise and experience in building community resilience to our first meeting. Task Force members discussed ways to improve coordination to protect critical infrastructure, public resources, and emphasize pre-disaster preparedness. They also shared ideas about the types of information and tools that would be most useful in confronting the impacts of climate change.

  • Mayors to Highlight Impact of National Service

    Last month in Seattle, I had the opportunity to join St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, President of the National League of Cities, and Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, to announce the second annual Mayors Day of Recognition for National Service, which will be on April 1, 2014.

    Mayor Coleman and CNCS

    St. Paul, MN Mayor and National League of Cities President Chris Coleman, joined AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members in sorting food at the Pike Place Market Food Bank during the NLC's Annual Congress of Cities and Exposition in Seattle, Wash. (Photo Courtesy CNCS)

    On that date, mayors across the country will participate in a national day of recognition to highlight the impact of national service in their cities and thank individuals who serve.

    In 2013, 832 mayors representing nearly 100 million citizens participated in the inaugural effort, and we  hope for an even bigger turnout this year with the help of partners including Cities of Service, the National League of Cities, and others.

    At the event in Seattle, the mayors shared how service helps their community.

    CNCS Announcement with Mayors

    On hand to announce the 2014 Mayors Day of Recognition for National Service were NLC President and St. Paul, MN Mayor Chris Coleman, Corporation for National and Community Service CEO Wendy Spencer, and President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and Mesa, AZ Mayor Scott Smith. (Photo courtesy of CNCS)

    “Every day, in cities across the country, AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members are making a powerful difference through national service. These dedicated citizens are tackling tough challenges facing our communities – helping kids graduate, fighting poverty, making neighborhoods safer, and much more,” said Mayor Coleman. “I believe in the power of national service and encourage mayors and city officials across the country to join in recognizing the positive impact of AmeriCorps and Senior Corps in our cities.”

    “The beauty of service is that those who serve don’t do it for the headlines or the recognition. They do it because they care, they want to make a difference.” said Mayor Smith. “Mayors Day of Recognition is a way to show our gratitude to AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members for making our communities better places to live.”

    As the federal agency for service and volunteering, CNCS annually engages more than five million citizens in service at more than 70,000 sites in 8,500 cities across the country through AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and other programs. The agency uses federal and private resources to support nonprofit groups, and a significant portion of this investment is focused on cities.   At the direction of President Obama in the recent Presidential Memorandum on Expanding National Service, we will be doing more in the coming year to use AmeriCorps and Senior Corps as a strategy to tackle some of our toughest challenges.

    Mayors can participate in the April 1 recognition effort by visiting for more information.

    Wendy Spencer is CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

  • Time for Commonsense Immigration Reform

    I grew up in public housing, the son of immigrant parents, and I know the important role that immigrants play in the American economy. I saw it with my own eyes.
    So when the national debate turns to immigration reform, I am personally motivated to advocate for commonsense reforms to bring our immigration system into the 21st Century.
    Today, President Obama came to San Francisco to discuss the importance of passing comprehensive immigration reform this year. He couldn’t have picked a better City to make this case – we’ve always been a place that welcomes entrepreneurs and innovators, from the United States and abroad. Chinese call San Francisco “gum san” or Gold Mountain, a City of hope and dreams to manifest your own destiny.  It’s true – our City has always welcomed all comers, and we’re stronger for it.
    From the lessons I learned in my childhood to the stories I hear every day as Mayor of San Francisco, I believe deeply that America should welcome immigrants into the unique fabric that defines and differentiates our nation. San Francisco might be Gold Mountain, but it’s time America starts once again living up to its promise as a beacon of freedom and democracy.  

  • White House Welcomes New American Leaders

    Earlier this month, the White House hosted an impressive group of state and local elected officials affiliated with the New American Leaders Project (NALP), a nonpartisan organization focused on preparing first and second-generation Americans for leadership positions.  The guest list included State Senators, Mayors, County Supervisors, School Board Members, Councilmembers, and Sheriffs, each representing a unique constituency and culture.  During the event, we thanked each official for their service and provided briefings on a variety of policy areas, including immigration, education and healthcare: 

    • Felicia Escobar, Senior Policy Director for Immigration, explained the economic benefits of an earned path to citizenship and the President’s push for commonsense immigration reform
    • Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President for Education, outlined the President’s education priorities, including his goal to lead the world with the highest proportion of college graduates in 2020. 
    • The Offices of Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement discussed the President’s continuing efforts to implement the Affordable Care Act

  • Our Nation’s Elected Official Veterans

    This Veterans’ Day, I want to join the President in saying “Thank You” to the brave men and women from across the country who have answered the call to serve their country. I also want to thank those veterans who have returned home and have chosen to continue serving. From City Halls to Indian Country to State Capitols throughout this country, some of America’s veterans are continuing their public service as elected officials.

    There are far too many to mention them all, but here are just a few examples:

    • A Vietnam Era veteran, Governor Terry Branstad of Iowa, joined the Army after graduating from college. Sergeant Branstad was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for his service and then returned to Iowa where his life in public service would continue.
    • Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe served in the U.S. Army Reserve, before beginning his career as a lawyer and longtime state legislator and state Attorney General.
    • Mayor Setti Warren of Newton, MA enlisted in the US Naval Reserve in 2003. He went on to serve as an intelligence officer in Iraq and is now the Mayor of the city in which he was raised. 
    • Mayor Sly James of Kansas City, MO served in the Armed Forces before returning home and becoming Mayor of the town he grew up in.  His service began in 1971 when he joined the Marines.