By Natalie Wise
The National League of Cities has released its List of Critical Imperatives facing our nation’s cities in 2014. The organization aims to educate and inform governments, businesses and citizens so the nation’s cities can thrive.
The strength of the nation’s cities is of the utmost importance to the health of the country as a whole. Eighty percent of America’s population dwells in cities, and these cities produce 75 percent of the country’s economic output.
“When our cities are strong, our nation’s families prosper, our economy thrives, and our environment grows healthier,” said Chris Coleman, mayor of Minnesota’s state capital, St. Paul, and the NLC president.
What are the issues facing cities like Defiance these days? They are:
1.) Fragile Fiscal Health
2.) Deteriorating Transportation Infrastructure
3.) The Shrinking Middle Class
4.) Inadequate Access to Higher Education
5.) The Need for Affordable Housing
6.) A Less-Than-Welcoming Welcoming Return for Veterans
7.) Gang Violence
8.) A Broken Immigration System
9.) Climate Change and Extreme Weather
10.) Lack of Public Trust
While cities were on the mend in 2013, there are continuing restraints on fiscal health for 2014, so it remains a top concern. One potential solution is allowing collection of state and local taxes on online purchases.
Of course, the financial insecurity informs all of the other issues on the list. As the transportation infrastructures age in many cities, the health of citizens, the environment and the economy are in question. But paying for improvements remains difficult.
The recession eliminated many middle-class jobs, leaving families struggling and in poverty. Cities can help connect residents with assistance they may be eligible for, as well as offering assistance to hard-to-employ residents to get jobs.
The issues contribute to No. 10 on the list, the growing distrust of local government, but it is a crucial time for local leaders to reach out to citizens. Rehabilitating properties for resale or rental is one way cities can help citizens and address the issue of affordable housing.
“Cities are truly the heart of America — they are where citizens live, work and play. They are where government is closest to the people and where real change can happen,” said Melodee Colbert Kean, mayor of Joplin, Miss., and NLC’s second vice president.