Executive Director's Column
January 27, 2012
Over the past few months, we have watched the GOP Presidential Debates waiting for a national conversation about the real issues facing America.
While we were waiting to hear the candidates, the nation's mayors came to DC for our 80th Winter Meeting and gave us the national conversation about what is really happening in America in 2012. They challenged Washington, the national candidates, and the media to focus on the main street issues mayors face with the American people each day.
Conference President Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa continues to reach out and bring to us outstanding active thought leaders to our meetings. Tom Friedman, author and thought leader, was well received by our mayors. His issues are our issues — on climate issues and now his latest book challenging America to face the "above average" world of global competition today.
Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-Chief of Huffington Post Media Group, sounded very much like a mayor herself as she challenged our mayors to help support her "good news" section of the Huffington Post. She agrees that Washington is asleep, says it is time in America for us to spotlight what mayors are doing across the nation.
Mayors assembled were most pleased to hear New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg give us his vision on education reform. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson continues to lead the discussion and learning sessions on education reform. He is one of the best moderators in the business and his panel of mayors — Indianapolis Mayor Gregory Ballard, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock — brought us up to date on what mayors are doing to cope with reforming many challenged public schools in our cities throughout the nation.
Ports and Exports Task Force Chair Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown and others brought the export issues front and center before our organization. This initial discussion will continue as mayors gather in Jacksonville, February 23–25, for a national meeting on Ports and Exports. Mayor Brown leads the discussion on Ports and his Vice-Chair, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, leads the discussion on metro exports. The exports issue involves sea to ocean port cities, river port cities, land ports and airport cities. The business of USA exports will continue to grow as the Internet and today's electronic communications continues to shrink the globe and makes it easier for local businesses to find trading partners abroad. Bruce Katz of Brookings continues to assist mayors and the Conference with the metro-exports issue. We appreciate and look forward to a continued partnership with Bruce and Brookings as we go forward.
No doubt about it, this 80th Winter Meeting was the most substantive ever held. And as Washington is gridlocked, we go forward with new issues that are affecting our mayors and their citizens. Boston Mayor Tom Menino leads our new Food Policy Task Force. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee leads a new Task Force on Technology and Innovation, bringing his experiences and best practices from his partnering with the Silicon Valley businesses, which have brought successful public-private initiatives to his city of San Francisco.
Prior to the convening of our Winter Meeting, our Workforce Development Council sponsored a dynamic meeting on work force issues. The work force issue will be a priority issue as we go forward challenging unacceptable local unemployment. This issue also was highlighted by the new mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, when he addressed the Mayors Business Council Winter Breakfast. Mayor Emanuel addressed the mayors with zeal and determination focused on bringing the Chicago Community Colleges to the same standard of established four-year, well-known colleges. He is determined to bring the economic power of a Harold Washington and Malcolm X College diploma, which will cause the Human Resource Departments in Chicago to hire the graduates of Community Colleges throughout Chicago. He challenged all mayors to go home and continue their work with their community colleges and business community to provide the work force skills that is so needed today. Mayor Emanuel says he is tired of the business community telling him they have job openings but no one is trained to do the job. He is determined to change that situation and believe me — he will. We want to hear and learn more of Mayor Emanuel's actions and progress. Our Workforce Council and mayors will continue to bring this issue forward. No jobs bill is coming from Washington. It is up to mayors like Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and our business community working with community colleges to produce jobs and skilled workers. Together these three entities, mayors and city government, community colleges and our business community will continue to provide jobs. These efforts have already shown some progress in reducing the unacceptable unemployment rates in cities across the nation but we have a long way to go.
We thank Conference President Mayor Villaraigosa for his leadership and devoted attention to help us produce this 80th Winter Meeting. His energy and willingness to call mayors and speakers have made a difference. We also thank our two Vice Presidents, Mayor Nutter of Philadelphia and Mayor Smith of Mesa. Our press teams did a fantastic job of pushing these dynamic officers forward as we blanketed the networks and social media.
We also thank all mayors for their continued membership and participation. Your participation is needed now, more than ever. We are already planning the 80th Annual Meeting in Orlando, June 13–16. It's an election year. We expect President Obama to be with us in Orlando and we will have the Republican candidate or the top candidates there also.
Meantime, there are two other meetings we encourage you to attend. These are "first-ever" meetings of the Conference of Mayors. The Ports/Exports Meeting in Jacksonville, February 23–25 (see notice I sent to you January 26). Also, New Orleans will be the site of our first-ever World Cultural Economic Forum, May 2–4. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu is brilliant as he brings focus of helping mayors strengthen the cultural economy of their cities. Registration information is being forwarded to you for both the Jacksonville and New Orleans meetings.
Again, thanks for making our 80th a whopping success. We continue to get positive responses from so many mayors. Let us continue to work together as we move forward to make our cities stronger and better places for our people to live, work and play. If I can be of any service to any of you, please let me know.