NLC Wrap Up: The Power of Leadership in Good Governance

Written by: Rachel Rasmussen

Last week a few members of the UL team stowed their umbrellas and flew to sunny California for the much-anticipated National League of Cities (NLC) City Summit, hosted this year in Los Angeles. The leadership-in-government advocacy group curates the City Summit annually as an opportunity for corporate leaders across all 50 U.S states to exchange best practices on policy development and community planning, connect with private and public sector vendors providing services to government, and network with other advocates for proactive leadership at the federal, state, and local level. This year’s conference featured a number of notable speakers, including Tesla CEO Elon Musk, L.A Mayor Eric Garcetti, CNN Political Analyst Ron Brownstein, and NLC President Mayor Mark Stodola, among others.

Over the course of the 4 days, by way of educational workshops, panel discussions, seminars, speeches, and even tours around Los Angeles, the conference tackled a politically diverse range of topics. From approaches to racial equity, the opioid crisis, integration of new technologies in government, to the Boring Company’s proposed tunnel system beneath the traffic-filled streets of LA, there was undoubtedly an inspired energy amongst attendees to solve the real issues affecting the health of US cities. As one of these attendees, the conference elicited reflection on not only what qualities a strong leader must possess, but the importance of connecting and collaborating with leaders intent on supporting innovation and change.

Elon Musk and Eric Garcetti Fireside Chat | Photo by Jason Dixson Photography

It became evident that those exhibiting their services shared the sentiment. With an audience of city staff and forward thinkers receptive to innovation in planning, policy and technology, the number of organizations looking to connect with city staff was as comparatively diverse as the issues covered. Our UrbanLogiq booth shared the Expo Hall with academic institutions, mobile networks, social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook, GIS and software providers, and other leaders of industry like Wells Fargo and Tesla. While inspiring to watch the advocacy efforts of the mayors and city councillors in attendance, it was equally motivating to see the number of companies actively owning their corporate social responsibility and working to develop products to aid governments in strengthening the social, economic, and academic success of their respective communities.

UrbanLogiq Booth | Photo by Rachel Rasmussen

“We’re looking to do revolutionary implementations of advanced tunnelling and I think we can really transform the network of America – but key to doing that is the support of cities” responded Boring Company founder Elon Musk, when asked by Mayor Garcetti what recommendation he would offer to the roughly 3,800 leaders in the room. “The support of cities is critical to making this work.” While the response was in the context of the Boring Company’s tunnelling efforts, the urging of cities to adopt innovation is more relevant and important than ever before, with the rise of the Smart City landscape, and the slow but steady integration of digital infrastructure in government. And in response, private sector companies must build effective partnerships with cities, remaining focused on playing a service-oriented role in the larger toolkit of government process. Of the conversation, LA City Councillor Joe Buscaino affirmed, “I see this conversation…between these two men, as a symbol of a strong connection for the developing between innovation and government, to develop a more sustainable and rewarding and opportunity-filled life for all of humanity.”

Crucial to keeping up with an advancingly digital environment and allocating planning resources accordingly is proactivity by governments to prepare for coming changes. To prepare for evolutions in transportation or economic development, it’s important that corporate leaders continue to rethink urban governance and in doing so evaluate what matters to citizens, optimize available data, work with reliable partners, and ultimately approach planning from an informed place – and this is what we witnessed city staff intent on doing at the City Summit. For the NLC internally, a major outcome of the conference is an updated version of the National Municipal Policy (NMP), which lays out the organization’s advocacy efforts for the coming year, and after attending the conference, it’s evident the document will be thorough, proficient and proactive. We believe government is ultimately a force for good, and NLC was a reaffirming illustration of excellence in leadership. Cities progress when governments do, and we’re excited to work with them.