HARLINGEN, TX — Federal officials in Washington, D.C., recently announced the selection of the City of Harlingen government as one of about 50 communities to participate in the initial phase of the National Resource Network’s “311 for Cities” service.
The National Resource Network is a first-of-its kind pilot project that offers comprehensive expert information and consultation to city governments, Mark A. Linton, executive director of the White House Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities, said in a press release Thursday. The NRN is a $10 million program from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that collaborates with the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Initiative launched by President Barack Obama.
Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell said the 311 program allows city officials to access the NRN website (www.nationalresourcenetwork.org ) for an online account that enables fast, direct contact with private and public sector leaders. He noted that Harlingen is among four cities in Texas selected to join consortium.
“It’s an honor to be recognized as one of the top cities nationwide chosen for this initiative,” Boswell said. “The National Resource Network is a versatile tool for our planning processes. This technological link holds the potential to aid the implementation of many projects already moving forward.”
Harlingen City Manager Carlos Yerena said that capitalizing on NRN opportunities will leverage existing federal investments and assist with consideration of evolving priorities. He said that communities in the consortium are optimistic about identifying new solutions to their challenges by tapping ideas that have proven successful elsewhere.
The NRN assists mayors and local governments address topics such as workforce development, infrastructure, housing, neighborhoods, transportation, and budget decisions.
Cities in the NRN will be able to submit questions asking for the best available resources to address their needs, such as strategies to improve bond ratings, keep pace with public safety standards, strengthen fiscal and operational plans, and reform zoning codes, the HUD reported in a press release. “A live member of the Network group will receive questions, and within three business days will send an initial response including an online package of annotated resources, referrals, and tools,” the press release indicated.
Teams of experts from the NRN provide on-the-ground support in Miami, Kansas City, Kan., and Fall River, Mass., to work side-by-side with city officials. At least seven more cities will receive expert teams for up to 12 months to assist with needs analysis and NRN implementation, according to HUD, and more cities will benefit from the expert teams. Some of the team members represent entities such as Enterprise Community Partners, Public Financial Management, HR&A Advisors, New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and the International City/County Management Association.
HUD also announced that the NRN consortium plans to raise an additional $10 million within three years to match the federal investment. The Annenberg Foundation, Ford Foundation and Surdna Foundation are partners with and support the network.