Mayor John DeStefano Jr. is scheduled to open a National League of Cities conference in Washington today, kicking off a five-day event that will focus on presenting urban leaders’ concerns to the federal government.

DeStefano, who was elected president of the NLC last December, met with Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle on Wednesday to discuss his agenda. While NLC director of communications Michael Reinemer said his appearance was not yet definite, President George W. Bush may address the conference on Monday.

Before he left for Washington, DeStefano said the NLC’s most pressing issues include homeland security and an economic stimulus package.

“We’ll be meeting with congressional leadership,” DeStefano said. “We’ll be talking about issues that are important to us.”

The conference, which is expected to draw about 3,000 municipal leaders from across the country, will meet until next Tuesday. On Monday, Secretary of Education Rod Paige and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman will speak to the delegates.

In recent weeks, the NLC has lobbied for additional funds for “first responders” — primarily police officers and firefighters — who play a key role in defending against possible terrorist attacks. Last month, the group published the results of a survey reporting that one in four cities nationwide have or are expecting to cut their police forces.

Reinemer said the federal government has not yet provided the necessary aid for cities and towns to respond to homeland security concerns.

“The net is only about one billion in new funds, which is absolutely dwarfed by what the president will probably ask for to go into Iraq,” Reinemer said.

–Jacob Leibenluft