CityVision Virtual Conference a Success, Goes in Depth on Timely Issues

Ben Brown, NCLM Communications & Multimedia Strategist

Hundreds of municipal officials across North Carolina gathered in virtual fashion in late April for one of the state’s most engaging community-focused conferences in memory.

Hundreds of municipal officials across North Carolina gathered in virtual fashion in late April for one of the state’s most engaging community-focused conferences in memory. The 2021 CityVision Virtual Conference was a three-day, fully interactive, online event—the pandemic-driven alternative to our traditional in-person conference—focused on municipal growth, leadership, and networking, with timely issues in full focus and fleshed out for earnest conversation.

Crisis communications, use of federal COVID-19 relief funds, mass protests, and the healing power of inclusive public spaces received the spotlight before a full day dedicated to powerful and often difficult discussions of racism, its enduring trauma, and what it means to achieve racial equity in our communities.

“I did not anticipate this seminar bringing tears to my eyes,” one attendee commented to Mitchell Silver, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner, who presented on how parks and public spaces aren’t just traditional staples; they’re infrastructure for shared community sensibilities and public health. “You are doing such wonderful and important work with ‘just parks.’”

“This is by far one of the most informative presentations I’ve seen on such an impactful topic,” another municipal official said of City of Raleigh Assistant Communications Director Kiara Jones’ session on crisis communications and the vitality of planning for measured responses to varying scenarios, with the era’s varied mass demonstrations one of many backdrops.

East Carolina University professors Dennis Barber and Michael Harris discussed how entrepreneurs can bring about transformative community optimism. NCLM experts gave guidelines on municipal finance (with remarks from State Auditor Beth Wood) and the American Rescue Plan funds that the federal government allocated to communities. Among other engaging sessions, N.C. Department of Information Technology Director of Broadband Infrastructure Jeff Sural and N.C. State Office of Outreach and Engagement Innovative Engagement Program Manager Samantha Green gave overviews on digital equity and inclusion.

The conference as always also included business meetings of affiliated or associated groups such as N.C. Black Elected Municipal Officials, Women in Municipal Government, Military Host Cities Coalition, Municipal Clerks Association, Mayors Association, Resort Towns, and Convention Cities. A full meeting of the League Board of Directors saw the elections of new board officers, including a new president, Salisbury Mayor Karen Alexander.

It was the final day of the conference that went so in-depth on arguably the foremost conversation in the United States and beyond today: racism, a priority discussion for the League per the formation of its Task Force on the Impact of City Leaders on Racial Equity. (See separate article on page 11 on the release of the task force’s report and recommendations on racial equity.)

National League of Cities Race, Equity and Leadership Director Leon Andrews gave an overture at the start of Thursday’s daylong agenda on the topic, looking at the mechanics of racial bias and systemic racism and how their effects have endured.

League Senior Assistant General Counsel Tom Carruthers provided a historical overview of race-based laws and policies from the Jim Crow era in North Carolina and their present-day context.

The purpose of these and other sessions on the topic of race were to ensure an understanding of the moving parts that are overlooked or not given focus in quick sound-bite TV segments, and how to continue these discussions at the community level.

NCLM recognizes that perhaps its greatest attribute is its diversity, as we see its value across North Carolina every day.

We thank our member cities and towns for their continued interest in the League’s programming, CityVision foremost, for prepared leadership and great outcomes for our communities.

And we’ll keep you posted on CityVision 2022—Wilmington.