Speaking Out: Reframing Our Issues, Refocusing Our Opportunities

William Harris, NCLM President

At our recent wonderful annual conference CityVision 2023 held in Concord, I began my term as president of this organization with a pledge to use my tenure to try to make a difference.

Specifically, I spoke of the unique opportunity that the North Carolina League of Municipalities has to address emerging trends, and do so in a way that avoids political polarization that we have seen paralyze other levels of government.

It is interesting that I had considered these remarks even before all who attended our conference enjoyed a terrific keynote address from Matt Lehrman on emphasizing common values as a way to promote civility public conversations and interactions.

As I thought about these issues, I considered it this way: reframe our picture.

Reframing means redirecting people’s attention away from positions and toward the task of identifying common interests, inventing creative options, and discussing fair standards for making decisions.

Just as you might put a new frame around an old picture, you put a problem-solving frame around the someone’s staked out position. Instead of rejecting hardline positions, you treat them as an informative contribution to the discussion.

In what ways does this have to do with the League?

It’s the League’s focus to address training needs, to educate local elected leaders, and track legislation that impacts what we do at the local municipal level. The League informs us and helps arm us with the information to make those connections in common values.

As President of the League for the upcoming year, I’m encouraged to reframe our conversation and create opportunities to build stronger partnerships by promoting linkage among the League affiliates at the local level and creating even stronger connections to state and federal government.

As our communities deal with demographic and population changes, it is crucial that we continue to find ways to meet their needs. We must do so regardless of political affiliation or what might be happening in Raleigh or Washington.

These changes require that we, as local elected leaders, broaden the conversations regarding racial equity, diversity, and inclusion. They require that we focus on cooperation. And we must maintain the trust that our residents place in us.

That being the case, there are great opportunities for local government to form partnerships with surrounding municipalities, whether to address deteriorating infrastructure, emergency services, or planning needs.

There are changing demands for a qualified and trained workforce. Today, skill development is fundamental to meeting the needs of employers. Technology has created new job opportunities while at the same time causing a gap in the number of qualified workers.

Workforce housing and employment needs demand the attention of local elected officials. We need modern technology, including broadband, that work hand-in-hand in meeting these other needs.

To meet all of these connected needs requires that local leaders lead the way.

We can do so by reframing our own approaches to be civil, responsible and dependable, and by focusing on our common values as Americans and as members of our individual communities.

I look forward over the next year to working with all of you to make a great organization even better as we strive to meet the challenges and greet the opportunities in this changing time.