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Executive Director's Column

Washington, DC
October 10, 2012


On the eve of the Denver Presidential Debate, the city of Denver and the United States Conference of Mayors sponsored a bi-partisan Mayors Forum, “Building A Better America: American Cities Economic Engines of the U.S.” at the Denver Art Museum.

In Denver, the political interest was high as President Obama and Governor Romney faced each other for the first time in round one of the 2012 campaign.

Denver Mayor Hancock and I discussed the idea of our forum when we were together in Charlotte at the Democratic Convention. Republican Mayors Scott Smith, Vice President of the Conference of Mayors, and Mayor Mick Cornett endorsed our recommendation and we were off and running. Joining the forum were two Democratic Mayors, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake of Baltimore and Kevin Johnson of Sacramento.

Arianna Huffington and I had talked about an event around the time before the Denver debate and she recommended as moderator, Howard Fineman, Editorial Director of the Huffington Post. Howard accepted our invitation to moderate and we were so pleased to have him since he is a great writer, respected TV journalist and understands mayors and cities.

Denver Mayor Hancock and his team worked hard on this event to get the word out with invitations and we were pleased to have so many “metro mayors” from the Denver metro area as well as civic and business leaders from Denver.

Mr. Fineman opened asking each mayor what he or she would ask the candidates to do.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she would ask them what they are going to do about the frozen political situation in Washington between the White House and Congress.

Mayor Johnson echoed her concern, saying that you have to meet and have dialogue with people you don’t like and with people who don’t like you.

True to his form and passion, Mayor Johnson also said he would engage the candidates about quality education in our local schools.

Mayor Cornett responded by saying that he would ask the candidates about what they will do to make us energy independent, stressing that we need a workable energy plan for America.

Mayor Scott Smith stressed the need for both candidates to be “aspirational” when it comes to investments that America cannot afford not to invest in if we are going to build a better America. Mayor Smith emphasized the need for the candidates to be more visionary. He cited times in our past when our leaders took us to new heights. President Eisenhower established the National Interstate Highway System and he did this because both he and Congress were aspirational. They took the American people to new heights. Mayor Smith asks that both candidates be more aspirational and support long-term infrastructure investments.

Denver Mayor Hancock did not have a direct question for the candidates. Instead, he would ask the candidates to get inside the mind of a person who wanted to work, and wanted to have the opportunity to succeed.

All mayors reiterated the need for Congress and The White House to work together to produce a budget. Mayor Rawlings-Blake emphasized that Baltimore citizens would never accept the fact that she did not work with her council to produce a balanced budget.

The reception we received from the Denver community, the mayors of the region and the media was well worth our producing our forum. We are most appreciative to Howard Fineman for the great job he did for us. And to Mayor Hancock and his team for their contributions, we are most grateful. It was a winner!

Also, congratulations to Denver Mayor Hancock and the entire city and community of Denver for providing a splendid venue for this historical event, the first debate, round one, of the 2012 Presidential Campaign.

You can view our Denver Forum at usmayors.org.

Take a look.