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A century ago, just 14 percent of Americans lived in cities. Today, 80 percent do. Cities are the engine of our nation’s economic and cultural might. They are home to businesses of all sizes, from mom-and-pop shops and restaurants to the nation’s largest and most revered employers. Our cities boast many of the finest universities, museums and parks in the world. They are where America comes together to work and do business, to play, and to celebrate both our diversity and our common values and beliefs.
City governments play a vital role in ensuring that cities can continue to power the nation’s progress:
- They manage the physical and civic infrastructure America depends on. Cities own and operate 78 percent of the nation’s road miles, 43 percent of the nation’s federal-aid highway miles and 50 percent of the nation’s bridge inventory. Local governments construct, operate, and maintain the vast amount — 95 to 98 percent — of the country’s water infrastructure systems.
- They are vital local employers. Local governments in the United States employ over 10 million people. Across the nation, this workforce contributes to the safety and well-being of our communities.
- They deliver critical services to residents. Every day, residents put their trust in local government to deliver important services, from public safety and housing, and streets to emergency services. It is because of this direct connection to the American people that opinion polls consistently show that local government is the most trusted level of government.
But our cities face challenges. Areas of wealth and security stand just blocks away from neighborhoods entrenched in hardship and intergenerational poverty. Crumbling and inadequate infrastructure holds back our local, regional and national economies. Rising service costs, pension and healthcare obligations, along with decreased levels of state and federal aid, continue to constrain city fiscal conditions.
Washington has an essential role to play — in cooperation with local leaders — to help address the social, economic and fiscal challenges weighing on the nation’s cities. Today, the United States is preparing to elect a new President who will be tasked with governing an increasingly urban country and managing an economy that is overwhelmingly driven by what happens in cities. Working with Congress, the next President has an opportunity to partner with local officials to turn things around for our cities and the nation, and to ensure that cities can continue leading the country to a brighter, more successful future for all Americans.
The nation’s local leaders stand ready to support the next President in this work. We call on the next Administration to address three interrelated priorities for our cities and our nation. They are: the economy, infrastructure and public safety. It is a platform that stands firmly on the following core principles:
- Intergovernmental Partnership. We believe a well-functioning partnership among all levels of government is critical to address our nation’s challenges. America’s city leaders are especially eager to strengthen their relationship with the federal government. Working together, we can address the major challenges facing cities and the nation.
- Leadership that Listens. Federal policies are stronger and more successful to the extent that they reflect the needs and interests of America’s communities. City leaders have a deep knowledge of local conditions, as well as the challenges and opportunities facing cities. We stand ready to lend our knowledge and expertise to the next Administration as it makes decisions about the issues affecting cities and their residents.
Local leaders are tackling the tough issues our cities face every day. Our mission is to get things done without bickering about ideology or getting bogged down by politics. By presenting this platform, we are pledging to partner with the next President in the same spirit of cooperation and commitment to results. Working together, we can strengthen our cities and our nation.
Learn more about the issues that make up our platform:
Cities are where America comes together to live and work, and to lead and succeed. The future of our economy and our nation depends on the actions we take today to support our cities.
On behalf of the 19,000 cities, towns and villages represented by the National League of Cities (NLC), we encourage the candidates of both parties to discuss the urgent issues affecting our communities and their residents — with a focus on the economy, infrastructure and public safety.
Over the course of the election cycle, we intend to serve as a resource for those vying to be the next leader of our nation. Working with cities, the next President has an unprecedented opportunity to put cities at the center of America’s economic and cultural progress. That means investing in a 21st century infrastructure system, forging local economies that support innovation, new business and a skilled workforce, and ensuring that our neighborhoods are safe for everyone.