Snapshot: Six Favorite Moments from the 2023 Annual Leaders Conference

4 min readDec 11, 2023
Our 2024 Political Outlook panel, moderated by MSNBC’s Symone Sanders Townsend, kicks off the conference

In mid-November, NewDEAL welcomed nearly 80 state and local leaders to Washington, D.C., for our 13th Annual Leaders Conference. The conference brought together elected officials, industry leaders, and Biden Administration officials to discuss the biggest policy and political challenges facing policymakers across the nation, including affordable housing, education, climate change, artificial intelligence, and the state of democracy, among many others.

We cannot possibly capture everything that happened, but here are some of our favorite moments from the event:

Freedom Agenda Lays Out 2024 Priorities
NewDEAL and the Congressional New Democrats Coalition unveiled their joint 2024 American Freedom Agenda, outlining how Democrats from city councils to state legislators to Congress are fighting to protect Americans’ fundamental freedoms and expand opportunities. The document lays a framework for Democrats to explain their top priorities in 2024, ranging from the freedom to breathe clean air to the freedom to have control over one’s own body.

Drawing a sharp contrast with how Republicans continue to sow chaos, extremism, and division at every level of government, the Freedom Agenda lays out core values shared by not only Democrats, but the broad majority of Americans across the country, consisting of three primary components: Freedom of Opportunity; Freedom in Communities; and Freedom through Democracy.

Celebrating Ideas Challenge Winners

Announced prior to the conference, the gathering was an opportunity to highlight the winners of the 2023 Ideas Challenge. This nationwide contest of innovative policy ideas garnered more than 80 entries from across the nation. Nationally-recognized policy experts served as judges for proposals that best improve Americans’ well-being and overall quality of life, and that make government work more effectively to meet communities’ needs.

The winners were:

  • Janelle Bynum, Oregon state Representative, for her proposal, Leveraging Federal CHIPS Funding & Creating a Diverse STEM Workforce in the Effective Use of Federal Funds category;
  • Levar Stoney, Mayor of Richmond, for his Richmond Pathways Program in the Creating Economic Opportunities and Lowering Costs for Families category;
  • Phil Olaleye, Georgia state Representative, for his Georgia Educational Opportunity Act in the Promoting Equity and Targeting Underserved Communities category; and
  • Maggie Toulouse Oliver, New Mexico Secretary of State, for her New Mexico Voting Rights Act and Election Infrastructure Bills in the category of Protecting Democracy.

Hear from the four winners in this video:

Democracy Itself On The Line in 2024 Election

New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a 2023 Ideas Challenge Winner, underscored the rampant proliferation of election disinformation in the wake of 2020 and its threat to our democracy. “It’s wonderful when people learn the mechanics of election administration,” Secretary Toulouse Oliver said. “Having more interest in the election process itself is wonderful, but so much of it is based on mis- and disinformation now.” Toulouse Oliver outlined specific steps to bolster election security and innovative ways to increase civic engagement across the country.

How to Create More Affordable Housing

Up For Growth’s David Williams moderated a discussion about affordable housing with NewDEALer and Nevada Treasurer Zach Conine and JBG SMITH’s Lily Goldstein. The panel discussed strategies for leaders to collaborate with private-sector partners to combat the housing crisis. “Access to affordable housing is a human right,” Treasurer Conine said. “And supply is the problem.”

In addition to constructing new units, the speakers urged leaders to develop innovative ways to restore and elevate existing housing structures. “We will always be falling behind if we do not include preservation in the mix,” Goldstein said.

Artificial Intelligence Offers Opportunities for State, Local Governments

Veteran television producer and founder of the Washington AI Network Tammy Haddad led a panel discussion on artificial intelligence and the opportunities and challenges posed by the ever-evolving technology. New York Assemblymember Alex Bores, an engineer with an extensive background in technology, provided a nuanced look at the AI landscape at the local policy level. “We’re having conversations about a lot of different things under the banner of AI,” he said, recognizing that the technology does not exist in a political vacuum. “It’s going to affect everything that we’re doing.”

The conversation continued later that morning during our breakout sessions as NewDEALear Oklahoma Representative Arturo Alonso-Sandoval, Connecticut Senator James Maroney, and the Wilson Center’s Kellee Wicker led a session for conference attendees. The session discussed both opportunities for governments to implement AI, as well as potential risks associated with the new technology.

Support from Vice President Kamala Harris

Vice President Kamala Harris provided a message of support for NewDEAL’s efforts, underscoring the importance of the work that NewDEAL Leaders are doing to move the country forward.

“Since its founding, the NewDEAL has empowered leaders with the networks, information, and opportunities necessary to support the communities they represent,” Harris wrote. “To the leaders gathered today, I am inspired by your dedication to service. Your work changes lives, and I appreciate your commitment to creating a future where the promise of liberty, justice, and equity is made real for all throughout our Nation.”

Read the full letter here.

As a final note, NewDEAL would like to thank all the attendees, presenters, and sponsors for helping make this event possible. You can find full recordings of each plenary session and discussion about the event on the NewDEAL website.

And see coverage of the event in The Well News.




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