The Rising Role of Local Governments in 2018January 25, 2018
The end of a calendar year often causes us to reflect on the year’s challenges and successes. Such reflection allows us to approach the new year with (hopefully) a bit more wisdom, lessons learned, and renewed conviction to achieve our goals. This reflection and eye to the future seems particularly important for local governments right now, as they continue to be tasked with responding to the actions (and inaction) of the federal government.
If you work in, or have worked in, local government, you know that local governments are always working to respond to the needs of their constituents. But 2017 seems to have reinvigorated this role in new and demanding ways. Because of the direct impact of federal action and inaction on local communities, many local governments have stepped up to tackle new challenges and existing challenges in new ways:
- In early 2017, San Francisco, Santa Clara County, and other local jurisdictions filed a federal lawsuit over the President’s executive order to strip federal funding from “sanctuary jurisdictions.”
- Local governments throughout Texas, Louisiana, Florida, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and California were forced to prepare for and respond to natural disasters of historical proportions, in many notable cases, with limited federal assistance.
- Following the Sutherland Springs, Texas church shooting, San Francisco, New York, and Philadelphia filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Defense for failing to fully comply with its legal reporting obligations for gun sales.
- Dozens of local governments nationwide, including New Orleans, have removed confederate statues in their communities in response to white supremacist uprisings.
- Cities like Birmingham, AL and Williamson, WV filed lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies and opioid manufacturers for expenses caused by the rapidly growing opioid epidemic.
- Because of the recently passed federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, state and local governments have been forced to consider how to mitigate the law’s effects on their tax base and financial resources.
Throughout all of this, and often because of these federal actions, young people are increasingly running for local elected office.
This past year was just the beginning of a slate of new responsibilities and demands that will continue to face local governments nationwide. Debates surrounding disaster relief funding, healthcare, infrastructure, immigration, affordable housing, and entitlement programs like Medicare– and the role of the federal government therein– are sure to continue. Federal action or inaction on these and other issues will require local governments to fill in the gaps to respond to the needs and demands of local constituents.
Because of the nature of these challenging and technically complex topics, there will be few very clear answers. But that is precisely what makes this work so important; the future of our generation and future generations depends on it.
Jessie is a proud CHF ’12 alumna and Vice President of the CHF Board of Directors. She is currently a Staff Attorney with the National Housing Law Project in Washington, D.C. The views expressed in this post are her own.