Mayors Announce Metro Agenda in Chicago
By Ed Somers
August 30, 2004
Under the leadership of Conference President Akron Mayor Donald L. Plusquellic, the Conference of Mayors released its updated 4-point policy agenda for the 2004 election during a special leadership meeting in Chicago on August 11. Entitled Keeping America Strong: Mayors '04 Metro Agenda for America's Cities, the bi-partisan policy document focuses on:
1) Job creation and public-private partnerships;
2) Smart infrastructure investment;
3) Public safety and homeland security; and
4) Unfunded mandates.
The meeting was hosted by Past President Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, and had participation by over 25 mayors from the bi-partisan leadership of the Conference of Mayors.
As Plusquellic said in opening the meeting, the new policy document is a refinement of the policy paper released in January of 2004 by Immediate Past President James A. Garner of Hempstead. Plusquellic worked with the top officers and past presidents of the Conference to update the plan following the Annual Meeting in June, and then the document was sent to the entire leadership for comments and amendments. The document was discussed and amended in Chicago, and then unanimously adopted by the leadership and released during a press conference at the conclusion of the Chicago meeting.
Plusquellic stressed during the press conference that, "mayors know that the social and economic prosperity of the nation depends on continued willingness to support and strengthen metro economies." As Plusquellic said, U.S. metros generate 85 percent of the nation's economic output, labor income and jobs.
Daley added, "We do not need a federal government that delivers unfunded mandates. Instead we need true partnership and real results for the American people."
To help frame the discussion, Plusquellic invited several speakers to the meeting. The mayors heard from Casey Dinges and Brian Pallasch from the American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE) on the state of America's infrastructure. The most recent report card released by ASCE gave the nation's key infrastructure, which includes roads, bridges, water systems, airports, and schools, an overall grade of D-.
The mayors also heard from Denise Casalino who is Commissioner of Planning and Development for Chicago, on the importance of public-private partnerships in leveraging investment in key infrastructure projects that create jobs and improve cities.
In summing up the meeting, Advisory Board Chair Dearborn Mayor Michael A. Guido of Dearborn said, "mayors and cities provide the services people see, feel and touch every day... and we mayors feel strongly about this metro agenda." This message was echoed by Vice President Long Beach Mayor Beverly O'Neill who said, "we are together as mayors and hope the two candidates will adopt our four point agenda."
Plusquellic told the press that the Conference would be taking its agenda to the nation in a series of events designed to garner media attention. The first such event was a bus tour of Ohio on August 11-13 (click for story), with additional events to follow.
The bi-partisan plan has been sent to both President Bush and Senator Kerry for their comments, and both candidates have been invited to participate in the Conference's Fall Leadership Meeting in Akron on October 7-9 to discuss the agenda and shared priorities. Plusquellic expressed concern that neither campaign was focusing enough attention on key domestic issues, and said that he hopes both candidates will compete to come up with the best agenda that helps invest in cities and metro economies, and reflects the mayors' priorities.
A major focus of the questioning from the press was on the slow flow of homeland security funding to cities. Plusquellic used the opportunity to again urge Congressional action on the recommendations of the special Department of Homeland Security Task Force which he vice-chaired including exemption from reimbursement requirements, greater flexibility for overtime, and better tracking of the flow of funds.
While in Chicago, the mayors had the opportunity to tour the new Millennium Park in downtown a major public-private partnership. Daley spoke about the park during the recent Annual Meeting in Boston, and has said that it will be featured during the 73rd Annual Conference of Mayors in Chicago on June 10-14, 2005.