Local Leaders gather in Washington for first-ever national Policy Forum

Local leaders gathered to connect and share innovations at the 2014 Local Leaders Policy Forum. See more photos from the event on Flickr.

Leaders from 60 cities and counties in 28 states attended the Local Leaders Council’s inaugural Policy Forum in Washington, DC. Over two dozen leaders and industry experts made presentations about cultivating local small businesses, fighting displacement of lower-income residents, creating more housing downtown, reinvigorating main streets and corridors, and many more topics.

The event kicked off on June 15th with a welcome reception where leaders, Smart Growth America staff, and project partners mingled and got to know one another better. The co-chairs of the Local Leaders Council Advisory Board, Mayor Mick Cornett (Oklahoma City, OK) and former Mayor Mark Mallory (Cincinnati, OH) welcomed the leaders and highlighted the positive energy and passion for community building that was present in the room. They emphasized the importance of building on shared goals and learning from each other’s experiences—a core principle of the Local Leaders Council.

The following day, June 16th, the daylong Policy Forum began with a plenary discussion about triple bottom line revitalization, which measures success in economic, social equity, and environmental terms. Mayor Cornett was joined by PNC Bank’s Senior Vice President for Community Development Banking Peg Meortl, CEO Don Edwards of Justice and Sustainability Associates and LOCUS President Chris Leinberger. The session iterated the value of leveraging revitalization efforts to accomplish multiple goals and how that strategy delivers more lasting outcomes. It set the framework for the ensuing discussions of the day.


Leaders collaborated and were able to candidly discuss challenges and successes on a diverse set of issues. Mayor Stodola (Little Rock, AR) talked about the Creative Corridor initiative. Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia (St. Louis, MO) shared strategies and outcomes from her Ward’s participatory budgeting project. Mayor Rick Danner (Greer, SC) described the goals, execution and results of the downtown revitalization efforts. Vice-Mayor Jacque Robinson (Pasadena, CA) spoke about anti-displacement strategies.


The day was concluded with a keynote address by Mayor Mark Mallory. Mayor Mallory talked about the challenges inherent in making change and shared stories of setbacks and subsequent triumphs during his tenure as Mayor of Cincinnati. He underlined the need for perseverance and an openness and willingness to work with those who may not quite be there already in terms of the revitalization vision. The Mayor encouraged everyone in the room to take advantage of the Local Leaders Council, stating, “If I had access to these resources and this kind of network when I first started as mayor, we would be even further along in Cincinnati…We should continue to share lessons and help each other succeed in building great communities.”

Many leaders stayed an extra day to participate in the LOCUS Leadership Summit on June 17th, a mini-conference of smart growth real estate developers and investors specializing in infill, transit-oriented, and mixed-use projects. Attendees learned about innovations in public-private partnerships and innovating financing, and affordable housing and gentrification were among the big topics discussed. Several Local Leaders made presentations about what their communities are doing to attract private sector partners to reinvigorate their downtowns and neighborhoods.

Check this blog for future posts about sessions from the Policy Forum.

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