More than 2,500 elected and appointed officials participated in the 80th National Association of Counties (NACo) Annual Conference, where attendees adopted positions on pressing federal policies affecting counties and worked with one another to identify innovative solutions to challenges facing American communities. The conference was held in Mecklenburg County (Charlotte), N.C. July 10–13.
“Counties work to strengthen infrastructure networks across the country, including roads, bridges, airports, broadband and other systems that keep our communities moving forward,” said Immediate Past Pres. Riki Hokama, whose presidency concluded with the conference.
Counties are responsible for building and maintaining 45 percent of the nation’s roads, 40 percent of bridges and a third of the nation’s transit systems and airports.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx urged conference participants to continue efforts on Capitol Hill to pass a multi-year surface transportation reauthorization.
“When we starve our counties of the resources they need to keep America’s infrastructure moving, it literally starves our country. And we shouldn’t do it,” Foxx said. “We need a long-term bill.”
Sec. Foxx helped NACo connect Hokama's presidential initiative on Transportation and Infrastructure with new NACo Pres. Sallie Clark's Safe and Secure Counties initiative. He presented them with a Dept. of Transportation resolution pledging to work with NACo to improve safety on county roads.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter discussed the role counties play in supporting the armed forces and their families and in building the “force of the future.” Counties and local communities “...are the source of the American military’s enduring strength, because you provide our men and women in uniform the preparation, the care and the purpose they need to defend our country,” he said.
“Our men and women don’t come from the Pentagon,” the defense secretary said. “They come from your communities. We recruit from your communities. Our service members and their families live in your communities while they’re serving, including our Guardsmen and reservists. And when they leave military service, they are, once again, in your communities.”
Educational Session Recordings
“NACo’s Annual Conference is the largest opportunity for counties to learn from one another, share best practices and set national policy priorities for the year ahead,” said Hokama.
There were more than three dozen educational workshops that explored topics including the pros and cons of body cameras in law enforcement, how automated vehicles and mobile technology affect transportation patterns, medical and recreational marijuana policy impacts on counties, legislative updates and new research findings for counties. Listen to the workshop recordings and watch the presentations:
In addition to the the educational workshops, NACo held two all day events focused on county information technology, the Chief Information Officer (CIO) Forum, and the Technology Innovation Summit. Both events were broadcasted live on NACo.org. Watch the recordings of the events:
On Sunday, July 12th, NACo held a three-hour “Stepping Up Summit to promote Stepping Up, a national initiative to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jails. More than 200 NACo members – county elected officials, judges, law enforcement and corrections representatives, behavioral health directors and providers, advocates and researchers – attended the Summit. Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia, Director of the Cook County, Ill. Department of Corrections and speaker at the Summit, sat down with County News to discuss her role and the special perspective afforded to her on issues of incarceration and mental health by her training as a psychologist.
American County Platform
Conference delegates discussed federal policy and legislation on a wide range of key topics like transportation and infrastructure; rural and urban development; energy, environment and land use; public safety; emergency preparedness and response; housing and community development; health and other topics. The resolutions adopted by conference delegates will serve as NACo’s official policy positions – the American County Platform – for the next 12 months.