Local governments do a lot for their citizens so the National League of Cities (NLC) is creating a new way for governments to get the word out on successful projects.

In December 2005, the NLC announced the National City Network (NCN) at its Congress of Cities in Charlotte, N.C.

Anthony Williams, mayor of Washington, D.C., and immediate past president of the NLC, set the wheels in motion to create the NCN, which is designed to be a gateway for cities and towns countrywide to learn about city issues and share information.

The NLC's goal is to use the NCN to deliver city-related news content and other articles via a Web portal -- content that includes policy analysis from respected think tanks, upcoming events and topical news stories from sources across the country.

Let's Get It Started

The NLC started a "Pilot Cities Program" in late January in which it enlisted nine cities to participate and provide initial content, said Dan Goodman, director of the NCN.

"There are a few other cities that have expressed interest, but we're asking for quite a commitment on their part," Goodman said. "They have to clear it with all the different folks -- especially in the bigger cities -- that would be involved." Despite the commitment required, the number of participants had grown to 11 at press time. The NLC is not only asking cities to test and evaluate the components of the NCN site, he explained, but also to contribute to its content.

"A major focus of 2006 is going to be the development of video programming, which we'll distribute both on government access cable channels and also make available via Web streaming," Goodman said. "We want cities that can both commit to contributing some programming of their own that we can piece together, and also commit to redistributing the video programming content on their own local government access channels."

NCN TV, the multimedia and Internet TV component of the NCN, will handle the video component.

The NCN and NCN TV are meant to complement existing government access cable TV channels, not replace them, he said, explaining that though these channels fill a definite role of informing local residents of what's occurring at city hall, many smaller cities and towns need more programming content.

As an example, Goodman said, smaller cities and towns often use their government access channels to display static bulletin boards to disseminate information. It's not that the NCN is going to offer a revolutionary new mechanism to add content, he said, but it can help smaller cities take advantage of the Internet -- especially given several years of ongoing discussion about converging the Internet and TV, and the delays in making it a reality.

"I think we're really starting to see the enablement of that," he said. "If we can take some of these programs that could be of national interest and not only distribute them on the cable access channels but also make them available in a searchable format on a Web site, then we think we're really furthering the mission of the NCN -- which is to promote communication about good government between and among America's cities."

Ending Information Overload

In an age of perhaps too many means of communication, it's fair to argue that the NCN could become just another medium that gives people more information than they can keep up with.

Raleigh, N.C., is one of the nine cities that participated in the NCN's Pilot Cities Program. To city officials, the NCN is by no means information overload.

"The concept excites us because so many cities across the country have certain things in common, and we can benefit from each other,

Shane Peterson  |  Associate Editor