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The City Café

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ULCT’s Cameron Diehl and Nick Jarvis spent last week in Washington, D.C., meeting with staff members from Utah’s congressional delegation, the International City Management Association, Facebook, and the National League of Cities.  The League’s Roger Tew, who was coincidentally on vacation with his family in D.C. at the time, also joined them for some meetings.  He did not, however, have to share the red-eye flight to Baltimore with our other staff members—apparently Cameron and Nick are either more adventurous or less insightful in their youth!

Cameron and Nick discussed the League’s federal outreach with staff from each member of Utah’s congressional delegation and explained the objective of the monthly federal question on the website and urged the delegation to use ULCT as a resource in communicating with Utah cities.  They encouraged the staff members to notify the League of how their offices are interacting with cities so that we can promote those efforts and they all expressed interest in participating in upcoming ULCT events such as Local Officials Day and the 2012 conferences.  Likewise, they discussed transportation funding, the progress and consequences of the “super-committee,” and the future of the federal budget.

For example, Senator Hatch’s office offered the expertise of the Senator’s staff on the Senate Finance Committee and briefed ULCT on the status of transportation and other federal funding before the committee.  Senator Lee’s office arranged a meeting with Facebook’s governmental relations staff (discussed in more detail below) and outlined the Senator’s upcoming “Virtual Mike” plan to broadcast Senator Lee from DC to city council meetings and other events.  Congressman Bishop’s office suggested how to coordinate outreach and alerted ULCT of potential bills of interest currently in Congress.  Congressman Matheson’s office gave examples of the Congressman’s activity with Utah cities.  Congressman Chaffetz’s office explained his emphasis on the need for a federal nexus connecting federal funds to local projects.  Senator Lee and Congressman Matheson provided Cameron and Nick with a behind-the-scenes look at the Senate and a capitol tour—Nick’s first time ever in the U.S. Capitol!

Cameron and Nick met with Katie Harbath of Facebook to discuss the use of social media by government and some of the recent changes the social networking site has made to allow entities like the League and its members to more easily target their desired audience.  Ms. Harbath expressed a willingness to work with Utah’s cities and towns on developing their social media skills—from how to set up and use a Facebook account to utilizing the site’s Ad, List, and Insight features to make the social media experience more fruitful for local governments.  We look forward to working with Katie and her counterpart at Twitter, Adam Sharpe, in the future as the League plunges into the 21st Century towards eventual domination of the Internet!

ULCT staff was also able to meet with four different representatives from the National League of Cities to discuss their upcoming Congress of Cities in Phoenix, AZ.  The event will take place November 9-12, 2011 and will consist of a series of four concurrent conferences, each with their own important theme for municipal governments: Economic Development, Green Cities, Infrastructure, and Your City’s Families.  NLC was impressed with Utah’s achievements in each of those areas, in particularly by the League’s unique interaction with youth during our annual Local Officials Day.  ULCT staff also discussed international outreach, potential conference speakers/presenters, and the successes and failures of various conference formats.

ULCT also met with NLC staff and the International City Management Association to discuss ULCT’s blossoming relationship with Mayor Yeah Samake of Ouelessebougou, Mali and seek recommendations for fostering a partnership with the Mali League of Cities.  We will continue to develop our relationship with NLC in order to continue to improve conferences every year, and to share with other state leagues our successes and new ideas regarding such events.

As such, the DC trip was productive and introduced Nick to the nation’s capital for the first time.   ULCT anticipates a rigorous discussion with the delegation about how the federal government’s action (or inaction) impacts Utah cities and appreciates their universal willingness to talk with us.  We all agreed that they and Utah’s municipal officials “all represent the same constituents” and we look forward to working together.  Keep an eye on the League’s website for upcoming questions and answers on the What’s D.C. Thinkin’? link and check ULCT’s Facebook page for pictures of the trip.

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