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City Fiscal Conditions 2016

October 13, 2016

In the wake of a slow recovery, the fiscal condition of U.S. cities is strengthening. The nation's city finance officers widely report improved fiscal health, driven by better-than-anticipated General Fund revenue growth and solid performance of ending balances.Each year, the National League of Cities surveys city finance officers about actual and budgeted revenues and expenditures as well as policy actions and priorities. Taken together, their responses provide a snapshot of the "average city" within the municipal sector.

Cities and Drones: What Cities Need to Know about Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)

August 5, 2016

NLC's municipal guide, Cities and Drones, is designed to serve as a primer on drones for local officials, providing insight into the recently released federal rules relating to drone operation, as well as offering suggestions for how local governments can craft their own drone ordinances to encourage innovation while also protecting their cities.Drones have the potential to revolutionize many industries and city services, particularly as their technology advances. There are many applications for drones within the public sector at the local and state level. Drones can be used for law enforcement and firefighting, as rural ambulances, and for inspections, environmental monitoring, and disaster management. Any commercial arena that involves outdoor photography or visual inspection will likely be experimenting with drones in the near future, as will retailers who want to speed up package delivery.However, drones also present challenges. There are some safety issues, for instance, when operators fly their drones over people or near planes. City residents often have privacy concerns when any small device hovering nearby could potentially be taking photos or video. The FAA's final rule on drones left some opportunity for city governments to legislate on this issue. Rather than ban them outright, city officials should consider how this new technology might serve residents or enhance city services.

Paying for Local Infrastructure in a New Era of Federalism: A State-By-State Analysis

May 16, 2016

Despite the fact that infrastructure is a critical part of daily life for all Americans, the infrastructure deficit in the United States grows with each passing day. The National League of Cities (NLC) today released a new report on the ability of cities to address the nation's growing infrastructure challenges. The costs of building, operating and maintaining road, transit and water/wastewater systems are falling increasingly to local governments with the decline of state and federal funding, an increase in mandates and a misalignment of priorities. In this era of "new federalism," local governments have assumed a greater responsibility to meet their infrastructure needs, but much of this devolution of responsibility has come without authority to raise funds locally."Paying for Local Infrastructure in a New Era of Federalism" shows that cities need a more deliberate approach that recognizes the central role of infrastructure in the success of our nation's economic engines. To achieve this, cities need strategic and predictable investment from federal and state governments; better communication between cities and states on funding priorities; and greater local authority to raise revenue and implement creative solutions with multi-sector partners."A new federalism - where cities are leading in addressing the nation's most critical challenges - is emerging," said Clarence E. Anthony, National League of Cities (NLC) CEO and executive director. "Despite the fact that cities have increased responsibility for our nation's infrastructure, most states limit the ability of localities to raise revenues to meet their communities' needs. It's critical that local governments have the funding and decision-making authority they need to bring our infrastructure into the 21st century, and enable American cities to be competitive on the global stage." The report presents a state-by-state analysis and comparison of local tools to fund infrastructure, including local taxes and fees and emerging mechanisms such as state infrastructure banks and public-private partnerships. It is the second annual collaborative project with the state municipal leagues, and is based on federal, state and local government data as well as a survey and interviews with state municipal leagues. 

How Cities Can Grow: The Maker Movement

February 24, 2016

This report explores the emergence of the maker movement within a selection of major U.S. cities. The maker movement has developed in a variety of different environments, including makerspaces, hackerspaces, tech workshops and fabrication laboratories. Data and information fueling this project were derived from interviews with influential points of contact in major cities where the movement is growing. Survey questions focused on four primary sections presented in this report: (1) characteristics, (2) growth, (3) government policies and (4) challenges. Our analysis provides insights into common trends and notable differences examined within the four categories listed above. The characteristics section focuses on the driving forces behind the movement, the people involved in the movement and the definition of the movement. The section on commercialization aims to establish the scale of involvement in order to determine whether the movement had the potential to increase local U.S. manufacturing. The policy section details the involvement of local governments in implementing program policies that help grow or inhibit the movement. In particular, it was important to determine the policies that were most beneficial to those involved in the movement. Ultimately the goal was to determine how other local governments could implement policies with a proven record of success in their respective cities. City narratives are also provided as individual case studies on the maker movement.

City Fiscal Conditions 2015: 30th Anniversary

September 23, 2015

This year marks the 30th edition of the City Fiscal Conditions survey of city finance officers. Based on the rich historical data accumulated over three business cycles, this year's report provides an important retrospective and comparative analysis of fiscal impacts resulting from the 1990, 2001 and 2007 recessions, in addition to our annual analysis of current fiscal conditions. In 2015, the fiscal condition of U.S. cities continues to show modest improvement. City finance officers are more optimistic than ever, driven largely by an expansion of General Fund revenues. These recent gains, however, have not been substantial enough to restore the revenue declines of the six years prior. When compared to the 1990 and 2001 recessions, it is clear that the fiscal impacts of the 2007 recession are much more substantial, both in terms of depth and duration.

2015 State of the Cities

July 9, 2015

In the aftermath of the tension and unrest seen in cities such as Ferguson and New York last year, cities have been the focus of societal issues surrounding race, equity and opportunity. The National League of Cities (NLC) released the "2015 State of the Cities" report, which found that economic development was the most-covered topic in mayoral "state of the city" speeches given in the first quarter of 2015. In talking about economic development issues, mayors often spoke of equity and workforce development, and highlighted ways that local governments are providing the leadership needed to create more inclusive, equitable communities.

City Open Data Policies

November 12, 2014

The capture and analysis of data is transforming the 21st Century. As society becomes more data driven, data has the ability to drive the bottom line for private companies and help the public sector to define where and how services can best be delivered. In City Open Data Policies: Learning by Doing, the National League of Cities identifies how cities can take advantage of the opportunities presented by open data initiatives.SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONSLeadership: Political support stands out as one of the key requirements to implementing a successful open data project.Appropriate Legislation: Enacting legislation or formal policies is a crucial step toward ensuring the growth and sustainability of open data portals. Funding: Open data initiatives do not require high levels of funding. It is, however, important that the programs have their own budget line items where resources are specifically allocated. Technical Approach: Leading U.S. cities rely on commercial platforms that facilitate the implementation of open data initiatives, provide technical expertise, and ensure 24/7 customer support, often at a lower cost than providing these services in-house. Stakeholder Involvement: Open data is a two-way process. It is, therefore, essential to encourage participation and engagement among multiple stakeholders including: community members; non-profits; universities; the press; businesses; city departments; and other levels of government. Many cities adopt a flexible, and usually informal, approach to interact with the stakeholders. Measuring Success: Developing evaluation tools should be an integral part of any future open data policies.

Big Ideas for Small Business Report

May 19, 2014

Big Ideas for Small Business is a national peer network led by the National League of Cities (NLC) that aims to accelerate efforts by local governments to support small businesses and encourage entrepreneurship.  This direct peer-to-peer engagement expands the capacity of city staff to explore common challenges, share proven strategies, and collaborate on new approaches for creating a more business-friendly city.  The Big Ideas for Small Business toolkit discusses important strategies for how local leaders can be better advocates for small businesses. Our report provides guidance on creating ecosystems that support small business growth; reorganizing city resources to better meet the needs of small businesses; and providing business owners with access to new sources of capital. Specific strategies highlighted in this report explain how to:Connect Small Businesses to Information and ResourcesEstablish a Small Business Resource Center Advocate for Small Businesses via Community-Led Councils or CommitteesProactively Engage the Local Business CommunityProvide Platforms for NetworkingCreate Incubator SpacesCelebrate Successful BusinessesDevelop One-Stop-Shops and Express Lanes at City Hall Streamline City Regulations and the Inspection ProcessHelp Small Businesses Build a Web PresenceSupport Microlending and CrowdfundingEncourage Local Small Businesses to Bid for City Contracts