News from the Top

A Win-Win for Everyone Speaking on Behalf of Cities



Downtown leaders from across the United States traveled to the nation’s capital last week to remind Congress that prosperous city centers are a win-win for everyone. On a sunny early spring day, with Washington’s famous cherry blossoms starting to bloom, more than 30 IDA member executives met with their elected House and Senate members as part of the organization’s first-ever U.S. Hill Day.

They came to urge their representatives to support IDA’s federal policy agenda: enacting legislation to provide tax incentives for converting unused office space to residential and other uses, increasing funding for grants to states and localities to help the unhoused find shelter, and investing in public safety programs at the Department of Justice that build partnerships at the local level to reduce crime.

Just as important as conveying these legislative requests was the opportunity the fly-in afforded downtown leaders to forge collaborative relationships with their federal elected representatives, and to spread the message that we all succeed when downtowns prosper.

Through the course of a long day that featured more than 60 meetings with both Republican and Democratic offices, place management leaders found receptive audiences, fielded perceptive questions about how Washington can best support downtowns, and heard a genuine desire from policymakers to continue the dialogue.

Giving IDA members the means to advocate at the federal level in both the U.S. and Canada is a strategy IDA has embraced in recent years, as the multiple cascading crises of the pandemic, crime, homelessness and economic dislocation have shown that policymakers in both Washington, DC and Ottawa play a huge role in the well-being of downtowns and city centers.

Whether IDA’s advocacy on the issues it raised will bear fruit remains to be seen; federal policymaking is notoriously slow and tortuous. But there’s no doubt that policymakers’ perspectives on these challenges are enhanced by hearing directly from the people who know downtowns better than anyone. And, as many of the attendees found, walking the halls of Congress and meeting with legislators is truly empowering.

“This was my first time on the Hill and I didn’t really know what to expect but it’s been inspiring to walk the halls, to see our legislators and to make time to talk to them about the issues. Several of them were already aware of the bills, and it felt like I was being a part of the process.” —Erin Goodman, Executive Director, SODO BIA (Seattle, WA) [Watch more member videos from #IDAHillDay]

That’s why IDA will soon be launching its Advocacy Network in the U.S., to help its members stay connected to the policy debates that shape our streets and give them the tools to speak out on behalf of cities. The challenges and opportunities that downtowns and center cities continue to face demand we keep making our voices heard. While this year’s fly-in was IDA’s first, it certainly won’t be the last.