2021 11th Annual Leaders Conference

State and local policymakers remain on the frontlines of addressing the biggest challenges facing our country, from budgeting the American Recovery Plan Act funding to reopening up the economy while investing in a more equitable society and urgently combatting immediate and long-term consequences of climate change. The 11th Annual NewDEAL Leaders Conference offered innovative solutions for progress on these issues and more, showcasing the results-driven approach NewDEALers have adopted across the nation and how state and local governments are working in partnership with the Biden Administration.

We also highlighted the policy work of our sister organization, the NewDEAL Forum, including recommendations addressing broadband expansion, college and career pathways, and climate change. Check out the Forum’s work on restructuring college and career pathways, tailoring ARP spending to educational needs, and recovering stronger from the pandemic. Stay tuned to the Forum’s work in 2022 for recommendations on broadband policy, and more.

Thank you to the NewDEAL Leaders, as well as our public and private sector partners, who participated in last week’s conference, and a special thank you to Senator Chris Coons, Congresswomen Suzan DelBene and Marilyn Strickland, and Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes for opening up the conference at our Wednesday evening reception. Below are some highlights of our conference discussions.

Thursday plenary sessions

Building Back Better: Child Care

NewDEAL Leader Vermont Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray, Zero to Three’s Amanda Szekely, and Sam Abbott from the Washington Center for Equitable Growth discussed child care, with Abbott emphasizing, “If we want an equitable recovery for the total economy where everybody can share in broad base and sustainable growth you need an equitable recovery of the child care market. That’s where the careful distribution of ARP dollars become so key.”

Building Back Better: Broadband

In conversation with Education SuperHighway’s Donna Rattley Washington and fellow NewDEALer Florida Senator Loranne Ausley, NewDEAL Leader Colorado Senator Kerry Donovan emphasized the incredible opportunity for policymakers to expand broadband access, shared lessons from her state’s progress, and noted that “in Colorado, we are [now] at about 93% coverage and to close that final gap, the [emphasis] on equity” is really crucial.

Building Back Better: Economic Recovery & Entrepreneurship

Appearing with Scott Shewcraft from the Economic Innovation Group and fellow NewDEALer Scranton, PA Mayor Paige Cognetti, NewDEAL Leader & Honorary Co-Chair Columbia, SC Mayor Steve Benjamin highlighted the unique moment leaders find themselves in: “We have rescue plan funding, we have this infrastructure funding, and now we have some real challenges to get those dollars to work in the ways that will bring our communities together.”

Building Effective College & Career Pathways

On a panel with Oakland Director of Education David Silver and NewDEAL Alum Christopher Cabaldon, former mayor of West Sacramento, CA, Cheryl De Vonish, CEO of Norwalk Community College, talked about the need to bring business into the conversation about education to ensure students were prepared for the workforce: “An incentive to get business and industry to the table was allowing them to have input in terms of what the curriculum is.”

Interactive Climate Workshop

Led by Dr. John Sterman of MIT’s Sloan School of Management, attendees explored the effect — and sometimes the unintended consequences — of climate policy on outcomes from emissions to energy demand to sea level rise. “Hope is not the belief that everything is going to be okay,” said Dr. Sterman. “What hope means for me is, it’s not too late and what we do still matters, individually and collectively.”

Friday Plenary Sessions

Reimagining Public Safety

Marcus Ellis from Washington DC’s Safer Stronger Community Partnership, and a member of the Cities United Advisory Board, presented the city’s take on tackling the problem of violence and noted the urgent need to act: “There has been an epidemic long before the pandemic of losing young black men and boys of color and we are committed to being a part of the change.”

A panel of NewDEAL Leaders, including St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, Montgomery County, MD Councilmember Will Jawando, and Columbus, OH City Attorney Zach Klein, discussed the policy details of how they’re already improving public safety through reforms. City Attorney Klein stressed the importance of getting at the roots of crime and violence: “If you are going to tackle recidivism, you have to step back and treat those underlying reasons why that person is committing a crime.”

The State of Our Democracy

We wrapped with keynotes from Diane Hessan, author of Our Common Ground, and Ryan Enos, Harvard professor and author of The Space Between Us. Diane delivered a message of hope drawn from years of conversations with a politically diverse pool of 500 voters, while Ryan shared insights from his research showing that voters from different parties tend to be isolated from one another, but also leaving room for optimism: “We see evidence that people do hear from the other party and it actually changes the way they think about politics.”

Opening Plenaries – Thursday, November 18, 2021

Closing Plenaries – Friday, November 19, 2021