Local Leaders convene to discuss supporting America’s cities and counties

Members of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council in Washington last week.

Elected officials representing diverse communities around the nation gathered in Washington, DC on October 8th for a briefing on the progress and future plans of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, a nationwide, nonpartisan network of local decision makers with a passion for building great towns, cities, and communities using smart growth strategies.

During the meeting the Council’s Advisory Board reviewed the first-year accomplishments of the program: Over 80 elected and high-level appointed local officials have formally joined the network in the past year, numerous events have been coordinated through the speaker’s bureau, and a new Maryland State Chapter is under development.

During discussions, many Board members made clear that the conversation in their communities has shifted from “Why smart growth?” to “What does smart growth mean for us?”

“Whether you call it economic development, smart planning or smart growth, the public understands that infrastructure and growth decisions must be made strategically, no matter the size of the community,” said Carlisle, IA, Mayor Ruth Randleman.

“In Houston, where we have no traditional zoning requirements, we are now adopting a Complete Streets policy to meet a new and growing market demand,” said Houston, TX, Councilmember and Mayor Pro Tem Ed Gonzalez. “More and more, people want choices and this is becoming all the more critical as cities endeavor to retain our aging population while attracting millenials who have the expectation of varied transportation options.”

As part of the briefing, Advisory Board members received a digital tour of new online resources that include specialized policy tools, video interviews with dozens of leaders and industry experts, an interactive membership directory, a database of funding sources for smart growth projects and opportunities to promote local development opportunities to a national audience of smart growth investors and developers.

“These resources are a great way to help local leaders and local communities seize on the benefits smart growth offers,” said Auburn, AL, County Councilmember Sheila Eckman. “By helping and learning from each other through the Local Leaders Council, we are further amplifying the local voice, which will also help us make better decisions at the regional, state and national levels.”

The Council Advisory Board discussed the future direction for policy resource development and strategies to further expand the network. After the meeting, Board members joined the Steering Committee of Smart Growth America’s LOCUS program – a group of real estate developers and investors with a proven track record in delivering walkable, mixed use, transit-oriented projects. At a joint reception and dinner, the public and private sector leaders discussed the challenges and opportunities in implementing smart growth including how different places often require creatively different approaches to achieve success.

Are you a local or regional official working to advance better development in your community? Learn about becoming a member of the Local Leaders Council.

Local Leaders Council