Council Members Travel to Washington

For Immediate Release:
Contact:  Myron Lowery
April 2, 2009                                                                                                              

Council Members Travel to Washington to Share Memphis' Concerns with Top Decision Makers

Washington, DC – Just weeks after the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act became law, Memphis City Council Chairman Myron Lowery, Council Members Janice Fullilove and Barbara Swearengen Ware traveled to Washington, DC for the National League of Cities' (NLC) 2009 Congressional City Conference.  Thousands of local officials learned how to access the resources and funding made available to cities through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, including the resources needed to create jobs through federal investments in our cities' transportation, water and sewer, housing, energy, education and public safety infrastructure.

Conference participants heard from key officials, including US Attorney General Eric Holder, Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood,  Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), White House Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Liaison Valerie Jarrett, as well as Hardball host Chris Matthews.

Conference sessions and workshops focused on issues such as transportation financing, alternative energy and climate change, immigration reform, housing and neighborhood stabilization, telecommunications, education reform, public safety and federal funding for local activities.

"As local leaders, we recognize that now is the time to formulate a strong relationship with the federal government, and we must leverage these resources so our citizens can live in the best communities possible.  We've worked hard these last several months to get our voices heard in Washington, and now we must work even harder to put these resources to work at home.  The Congressional City Conference is the perfect place to meet with our counterparts at the federal level, as well as key administration officials, to communicate our most pressing hometown needs," said NLC President Kathleen M. Novak, Mayor, Northglenn, Colo.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced that $1 billion in Recovery Act funds are now available for Community Oriented Policing Program (COPS).  Local governments can begin applying for these funds immediately to get new police officers on the streets of cities and towns.

While at the conference, Chairman Lowery gathered information about a new prescription discount program.  This program offers savings on prescription drugs to citizens who are without health insurance, a traditional benefits plan, or have prescriptions that are not covered by insurance.  The prescription discount card would be made available to Memphis residents by the City of Memphis in collaboration with the National League of Cities and is made possible through Memphis's membership in NLC.  The card would be free to all Memphis residents, regardless of age, income or existing health insurance. By using this card residents could save an average of 20% off the regular retail price of prescription drugs at participating pharmacies.

Council Member Janice Fullilove said "NLC at D.C. was a complete positive experience.  I attended Public Sector Leadership workshops in which the theme was Stewards of the Common Good.  In these workshops, modern strategies and theories were introduced on effective leadership today.  As well, I learned how to measure the importance of constituent needs and requests as well as those of the whole community.  The workshops also encouraged establishing a value based leadership that encompasses ethics, compassionate decision making, wise strategies, and modern-day tactics to handle difficult people including colleagues, constituents and critics.  Speak So They Will Listen was another workshop that I attended that offered mannerisms and articulation tips on effective communications.

Being a former radio host, this workshop allowed me to polish my public speaking skills, share my expertise with others, and feel good about the personal engagement that took place in the workshop which deemed it a success for everyone involved.

Council Member Barbara Swearengen Ware said she was particularly impressed with the new White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, Cecilia Munoz, who was the speaker at the Celebrating Diversity Breakfast.  Ware said, "She told the participants that as municipal leaders we now not only have a place at the table, we can participate at the table and that the Obama Administration will be extremely sensitive to the concerns of municipalities which make up the foundation of the American economy."

Hearing Attorney General Eric Holder say, "I'm pledging here today that the Justice Department and this Administration will work with you. That's not just lip service. You have my personal commitment that, under my watch, the United States Department of Justice will work with you day in and day out to keep our cities safe," along with his announcement of the COPS Hiring Recovery Program was the most meaningful part of the conference for Lisa Geater.  "Since crime is a major concern for most Memphians, the availability of these additional funds to hire police officers is a great resource for the City of Memphis and could provide some fiscal relief to the City's budget."

The Congressional City Conference is the annual legislative meeting of the National League of Cities, designed to inform municipal leaders about federal policy issues while providing an opportunity for city leaders to bring local concerns to their federal elected officials in Washington, DC.

The National League of Cities is the nation's oldest and largest organization devoted to strengthening and promoting cities as centers of opportunity, leadership and governance. NLC is a resource and advocate for 19,000 cities, towns and villages, representing more than 218 million Americans.