In September, six German local government professionals representing different cities participated in the launch of the ACG’s McCloy Leadership Mission on Urban Affairs.
Building on a long history of conducting study tours and engaging in programs designed to give participants a chance to exchange best practices, the ACG restructured and redesigned its McCloy Fellowship in Urban Affairs to have a greater impact. The goal of the leadership mission is to give participants access to their professional counterparts on the other side of the Atlantic and to engage in dialogue on the varied challenges facing cities today. From immigration and integration to race relations and education, to sustainability and smart cities, the group learned how three U.S. communities are planning for the future – Alexandria and Arlington, Virginia; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Pittsburgh.
The German cohort consisted of: Christian Campe, Head of the Law Department and Head of the Culture Division for the City of Hameln; Tobias David, Personal Consultant/Assistant to the Lord Mayor of Leipzig; Esther Keller, Deputy Head of the Division for International Relations at the Mayor’s Office in Berlin; Silvia Kistner, Official in Land Use Management for the City of Karlsruhe; Matthias Krebs, Manager of Strategic City Development in the City of Mannheim; and Nadja Taube, Energy Manager at the Department of Facility Management for the City of Düsseldorf.
Drawing on the strong network of Warburg Chapters and ACG alumni in each city, the group had the opportunity to meet with individuals who understand the importance of exchanging best practices. These contacts made it possible to put together a very strong two-week program of meetings, discussions, and site visits.
The group arrived in Charlotte just days before a police shooting and subsequent protest and rioting. This led to some changes in their scheduled meetings but also provided them with some unexpected insights into race relations in America. Their host was Scott Denham (1995 ACG Young Leader), Charles A. Dana Professor of German at Davidson College, who arranged meetings with a range of interlocutors in Charlotte. Their visit focused on how major cities are dealing with demographic issues. The participants said that the highlight of their visit was the time they spent at a soup kitchen to learn how nongovernmental organizations help fill the gaps governments cannot reach.
The cohort continued on to Pittsburgh, a city they referred to as “a city of transformation.” Here, the meetings and site visits focused on sustainability and rebuilding for the future. They had the opportunity to meet with officials from the Green Building Alliance, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, Sustainable Pittsburgh, and the Allegheny Conference Community Development, among others. Carving out some time from his day, the Mayor of Pittsburgh, Bill Peduto, met with the group.
Their journey ended in the Washington, DC, area with meetings in Arlington, Alexandria, and Washington itself. Dale Medearis, (1995 McCloy Fellow), Greater Washington Warburg Chapter Director, and Senior Environmental Planner at the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, arranged for the cohort to meet with city planners in Arlington and Alexandria. The two cities are now both faced with how to make their cities more sustainable, but also how to attract younger generations. In Washington, they met with staff from City Hall who manage communication and community engagement. Much of the discussion within Washington focused on trust building between low-income communities and government officials through unique outreach programs.
During a debriefing with ACG President Dr. Steven E. Sokol and Francis Kelly (1996 Young Leader), ACG Board member, and Head of Government Affairs for Deutsche Bank, the group discussed the changing political landscape of America, the importance of the German-American relationship both now and in the future, and the U.S. presidential election.
Though only a snapshot of the country, through the visits to three very different urban areas, the group was able to receive a deeper more nuanced look into American society and the challenges cities are addressing. The participants said they will return home with new ideas about how to tackle some of the same challenges and that they hope to continue and strengthen the dialogue with the people they met along the way.
This Leadership Mission was conducted in cooperation with the Deutscher Städtetag and the National League of Cities.