July | August 2017

Build Partnerships and Don’t Forget Your Roots

Clarence Anthony, executive director of the National League of Cities, said many issues affecting states also affect cities. That’s why it’s important for state governments to have a good relationship with cities and counties to tackle stubborn issues such as poverty. Anthony offers this advice to state leaders on how to work with cities to help improve the lives of those in poverty.


The issues related to poverty are on the streets and neighborhoods in cities. “If we are really going to deal with the issue of poverty, it has to be that partnership and conversation between the state leaders and the city and county leaders,” said Anthony. He said state leaders should try to build partnerships with municipal leaders. “If we don’t address this issue as a team and work with the state and cities, local governments, I’ll tell you that we will leave a whole generation of families behind, and in our states and in our cities we cannot afford to do that,” he said.


States and local governments, Anthony said, must recognize “there continues to be a growing gap between the haves and have-nots in America.” Many initiatives all levels of government have tried have not worked. Leaders must recognize that, he said. “If we try to do the same thing that we’ve done before, we won’t close that gap we have in America between those that live in poverty to those living the American dream,” he said.


Because not everything has worked in the past, Anthony said states and local leaders should jointly look at the successes and failures in the past. The National League of Cities convenes bimonthly calls of a peer-to-peer network on poverty in which city leaders discuss how they are approaching various issues. He thinks that could work on a state level. “The most important thing is that we try to get this information out so we can attack this issue,” he said.


Anthony said all levels of government should consider the impact of their policies on things like poverty. “We need to measure the impact,” he said. “I do think there should be a strategic, targeted question that’s posed when we are passing legislation on the state, local and national level.” When legislation is adopted, he said, government should be able to set a measurable goal, such as lowering the poverty rate in children, for instance, by 10 percent.


Anthony said many state leaders served at the city or county level before being elected to the legislature or executive branch. Many times, he said, city leaders think about city issues; county leaders think about county issues; and state leaders think about state issues. “I would first advise state leaders to don’t forget that they, too, grew up in neighborhoods and cities and to try to develop policy that is implementable around poverty for cities,” Anthony said.