National League of Cities – Highlights from the 2015 Congress of Cities in Nashville, Tenn., Nov. 4-7, 2015
National League of Cities – Highlights from the 2015 Congress of Cities in Nashville, Tenn., Nov. 4-7, 2015
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - National League of Cities – Highlights from the 2015 Congress of Cities in Nashville, Tenn., Nov. 4-7, 2015
The National League of Cities held its 2015 Congress of Cities and Exposition in Nashville, Tenn. The largest gathering of
local elected officials in the country, the Congress of Cities was held at Nashville’s new Music City Center. Pictured above is
one of the many talented local musicians who entertained guests throughout the week on a stage sponsored by the City of
Opened to the public in May 2013, Music City Center provided an unmatchable location for NLC to hold its annual national
conference. The Congress of Cities gave city leaders the opportunity build technical and leadership skills through
educational seminars, attend mobile workshops around Nashville, and participate in workshop sessions spanning the
topics most relevant to their communities.
Music City Center also provided an elegant and inspiring environment for city leaders to meet and build relationships with
other local leaders. Seen here is a four-story mobile sculpture, titled Euphony, by artists Benjamin Ball and Gaston Nogues.
Depending on the viewer's vantage point, the 1,141 multi-colored stainless steel chains blur to a vapor-like visual
composition or appear as a hard-edged geometric form.
The Congress of Cities featured an Exposition Hall where more than 275 vendors were on hand to introduce city leaders to
new products, services, and programs that could benefit their communities. The Exposition Hall also featured an NLC
Pavilion showcasing our sponsors and corporate partners as well as an “Innovation Central” area where startups could
share innovative ideas.
Our business partners also had the opportunity to host “Solution Sessions” at the conference. These sessions presented a
unique education and marketing opportunity for organizations to demonstrate thought leadership and provide industry
analysis important to city officials, deliver case studies and best practices, or create dialogue and the exchange of ideas on
a topic important to elected officials.
For many delegates, the Congress of Cities began on Wednesday, Nov. 4 with a number of mobile workshops. The City of
Nashville offered off-site workshops to showcase collaborative solutions to issues facing local government. Seen above,
conference delegates explore the newly rebuilt Nashville riverfront, which features miles of off-street multi-use greenway
trails, an amphitheater, a dog park, playgrounds, and stations for the city’s bikeshare system that include innovative bicycle
repair stations for public use.
A conference delegate poses for a photo taken by NLC Senior Associate for Federal Advocacy Angelina Panettieri in front
of the Cities Lead 2016 booth. NLC recently launched the Cities Lead 2016 campaign to make city issues a focus in the 2016
presidential election. NLC has asked presidential candidates to focus on the three issues highlighted as most important to
city leaders in this year's State of the Cities study: the economy, investment in infrastructure, and public safety.
Emma Lieberth, NLC Program Manager for Strategic Partnerships (pictured front row, 5th from right) pauses for a photo
with State League executive directors during a luncheon on Thursday, November 5. State municipal leagues occupy a
special position within the National League of Cities. They were the founding members of NLC and they continue to play
an important role at NLC, guiding the organization's priorities and serving as an important link to cities in their state.
NLC University Director Richard Henry (left) pauses for a photo with Mayor David Baker of Kenmore, Wa., NLCU Principal
Associate Laura Lanford (second from right) and NLCU Outreach & Public Policy Coordinator Lynn Cherry. Mayor Baker
earned his Diamond Summa Cum Laude certification, which is the highest level of recognition any member can attain
through NLCU. NLC University offered a number of educational training seminars for city leaders throughout the
NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families celebrated its 15th anniversary at the conference. Leadership of NLC's YEF
Council pose for a photo after the council's meeting in Nashville. From left, Vice-Chair Ken Shetter, mayor, Burleson, Texas;
Co-chair Kristin Szakos, city councilor, Charlottesville, Va.; Clifford Johnson, executive director, NLC's Institute for Youth,
Education, and Families; Co-chair Bill Peduto, mayor, Pittsburgh, Pa.; and Vice Chair Joyce Sutton Cameron, mayor,
Local elected officials are being called on, in ways we have not seen until recently, to show leadership on issues of race and
equity. In this photo, Leon T. Andrews, Jr. (center) moderates a workshop discussion on racial equity as a best practice
model for American cities. He is joined by Cleveland, Ohio, Councilmember Phyllis Cleveland; Julie Nelson, Director,
Government Alliance on Race and Equity; Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges; and Milwaukee, Wis., Alderman Ashanti
The 2016 Rose Fellows, which include the mayors from four cities – Birmingham, Ala.; Denver; Long Beach, Calif.; and
Rochester, N.Y. – pose with key members of their staff for a group photo during a retreat.
NLC CEO Clarence Anthony gives a State of the Organization address at the Annual Business Meeting.
Outgoing NLC President and Salt Lake City, Utah, Mayor Ralph Becker presides over the NLC Board of Directors Meeting.
Youth delegates and young elected officials gathered at the conference to talk about the next generation of leadership.
This year’s youth delegation enjoyed a number of exciting events, including a mock Iowa presidential caucus, a social
media-based scavenger hunt around Nashville, and an opening session keynoted by Chess for Humanity founder Akshay
Youth delegates participate in the mock Iowa presidential caucus. As delegate Melanie Navin noted on our Facebook page,
“[The 2015 Congress of Cities] was absolutely amazing. I appreciate this event so much and highly recommend it to other
Youth Councils, because you WILL learn, you WILL get ideas, and you WILL want to make a change in your community.”
The National League of Cities was honored to have Vice President Joe Biden deliver the keynote address to city leaders
during the 2015 Congress of Cities. “I have never been more optimistic about the possibilities for this nation than I am
today,” stated Vice President Biden. Addressing city leaders, he said, “There is so much we can do – but we need you.”
During his speech, the vice president looked back on his time as a county council member in Delaware and thanked the
local officials present for helping to make the Obama administration's economic recovery initiatives successful in pulling
the nation out of a recession. Biden also said a big need facing the nation as it continues to make economic recovery is "a
resurgence" in education. He called for free community college, which he said could be funded by cutting tax deductions.
The vice president drew laughs when he stated that “Local government is too damn hard, and the people know where you
live,” adding that, "If I never go to another zoning hearing, I will die a happy man.” Displaying his trademark affability and
warmth, the vice president made time to work the rope line following his speech. Here, he pauses for a photo with New
Bedford City Councilor Steven Martins.
Musician Darius Rucker of the band Hootie & the Blowfish and Nashville Mayor Megan Barry joined the CMA Foundation
to announce a gift of $1 million to the Nashville Public Education Foundation for music education. Addressing the crowd,
Mayor Barry noted, “Music makes engaged students, who make engaged citizens.”
Representatives from the City of Philadelphia stand with Deb Socia, Executive Director, Next Century Cities. The city of
Philadelphia, winner of the category “Leader in Digital Inclusion Best Practices,” was one of six cities receiving the first-ever
Digital Inclusion Leadership Awards during the Center Stage Session on Friday, Nov. 6.
(Pictured from left to right) Aimee Rawlins, Startup & Innovation Editor at CNNMoney; Stonly Baptiste, Principal and Co-
Founder, urban.us; Maury Blackman, CEO, Accela Software; and Peter Pirnejad, Director of Development Services, City of
Palo Alto, California, discuss the use of data and technology to improve city services during the Center Stage Session.
(Pictured from left to right) TechCrunch Journalist Kim-Mai Cutler; Emily Castor, Director of Transportation Policy, Lyft; and
Gabe Klein, author and entrepreneur, Fontinalis Partners, discuss current and future trends in mobility and transit in cities
during the Center Stage Session.
Benjamin Barber, author of "If Mayors Ruled the World,” argues during the Closing General Session that local leaders
should play a more prominent role on the global stage.
Pittsburgh Mayor and NLC board member Bill Peduto invites delegates to Pittsburgh next year for NLC’s newly named City
Grand Theft Audio, a student band from W.O. Smith Nashville Community Music School, gave an amazing performance to
round out our Center Stage Session.
On Saturday, Nov. 7, Joplin, Mo., Councilmember and former Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean was elected President of the
National League of Cities. Councilmember Colbert-Kean was elected by the membership to lead the organization for a
one-year term and will play a key role in shaping NLC's priorities and directing the organization's advocacy, education,
research and membership activities.
Outgoing NLC President Ralph Becker is joined by Nashville Mayor Megan Barry at a breakfast reception in honor of his
year as leader of the National League of Cities. Mayor Becker’s exemplary service was instrumental in allowing the National
League of Cities to serve as a resource to and an advocate for the more than 19,000 cities, villages and towns it represents.
NLC CEO Clarence Anthony pauses to congratulate NLC’s newly elected leaders following the Annual Business Meeting:
Cleveland, Ohio, Councilmember Matt Zone , elected to serve as NLC’s first vice president; Joplin, Mo., Councilmember and
former Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean, elected to serve as NLC's president; and Little Rock, Ark., Mayor Mark Stodola,
elected to serve as NLC’s second vice president.
NLC CEO Clarence Anthony joined others in honoring incoming NLC President and Joplin, Mo., Councilmember Melodee
Colbert-Kean at the Missouri Municipal League’s "Show Me Missouri" reception.
Incoming NLC President and Joplin, Mo., Councilmember Melodee Colbert-Kean joins guests to dance in a conga line at
the Missouri Municipal League’s "Show Me Missouri" reception.
(Clockwise from top) NLC Past President Chris Coleman, First Vice President Matt Zone, CEO Clarence Anthony, Immediate
Past President Ralph Becker, and President Melodee Colbert-Kean take a moment to have some fun following the Annual
NLC leaders weren’t the only conference attendees who found a moment to kick back and have a good time during the
Congress of Cities. We’re not sure where these delegates found their feather boas, but we’re strongly considering adding
them to the registrants’ gift packages next year.
NLC staff worked hard for months to make the 2015 Congress of Cities happen. Our goal was to deliver an exciting,
engaging and memorable conference for the city leaders and local elected officials who made the trip to Nashville this
year. We hope you’ll let us know how we did, and we look forward to serving you again next year.
Next year, the Congress of Cities will become the City Summit. If you haven’t been to Pittsburgh in a while, get ready to be
amazed when you arrive in a lush and lively city with top-notch museums and universities, miles of riverfront trails, and
more than 90 bustling neighborhoods. How did the city of Pittsburgh transform itself? Come to City Summit 2016 to find
out! We look forward to seeing you next year.