3,000 City Leaders, National League of Cities Storm Seattle

I am in Seattle this week attending the National League of Cities (NLC) annual conference. There are a number of very interesting topics on the agenda. I will be adding to this blog throughout the week with the latest updates and information.  Please check this site throughout. Thanks.


  • Most of the programming starts tomorrow so today was a day for exploring neighborhoods. Lots of good, some not so good. One thing, however, continues to stand out for me when I visit and work in different cities- the scale and design of the streets themselves may be the most critical predictor of why some neighborhoods work and others do not. If the street is too wide or isn’t properly scaled to the surrounding area then there is little hope for creating energy and momentum in the spaces and buildings that front it. Plain and simple.


  • I sense a tinge of optimism among local officials that I have not seen in a few years. With the U.S. economy showing new life things at City Hall appear to be on the upswing, too. This report from NLC documents the current mood and the feeling among delegates seems to confirm it.
  • PhotoGrid_1384450896832Here is an interesting cross between a food truck, a pop-up reatiler and a bricks and mortar restaurant located adjacent to the Seattle Center. Great for pedestrians in high foot traffic areas. There are others, too. the tenants are a mixture of national chains and local companies. There isn’t much room for food preparation and storage so the offerings are mostly limited to coffee, bakeries and sandwiches.
  • Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I am very proud to share today’s news that 8 Michigan communities have been chosen to receive special assistance from the League and its partners for their dynamic placemaking projects. I can’t say how proud I am of the dedicated team at the League that makes all of this all happen. Our crew is actively working to reinvent Michigan from the ground up and it is a pleasure to be along for the ride.
  • Carol Coletta, VP of the Knight Foundation in Miami, was a highlight at the opening session. Carol implored those in the audience to add “talent attraction and retention” to their economic development strategies. Without a strategy for talent, she argues, cities have no plan. I agree!
  • Carol believes that creative placemaking activities, like the ones outlined in the link above, are at the heart of making communities competitive for mobile talent.
  • U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, himself a former mayor, thoughtfully delivered a speech to the local officials in attendance. Secretary Foxx called for increased emphasis on transportation funding as a means to promoting economic activity, especially in the metropolitan areas of our nation. Too often we see large scale funding decisions made wholly on a political basis without respect for long term economic needs.


  • With respect to federal legislation that impacts cities it is pretty much budget, budget, budget. Until Congress finishes with its latest ideological food fight for the year there is little chance for any important legislation to pass.
  • ‘Rustbelt Redux’- Cleveland Style.  Check out 600 new jobs, $3 million in new tax revenue, lots of great cultural enterprises.