Washington, DC – Today the United States Conference of Mayors (UCSM) released its Mayors’ 2020 Vision: An American Breakthrough, a newly updated comprehensive plan to solve the country’s biggest challenges. This bipartisan agenda, which tackles 10 policy priorities, was released at a virtual event at the Democratic National Convention on Monday. The USCM has long participated in events at both the Democratic and Republican conventions, and The Mayors Vision for America released today will serve as the official policy of the USCM. Newly updated to address urgent issues like racial equality and the COVID-19 pandemic as well as economic recovery, it demonstrates how mayors are using bipartisan ideas to create a breakthrough for people in America’s cities. Below are the opening remarks of USCM President and Louisville (KY) Mayor Greg Fischer at today’s event, as prepared for delivery, and here is a link to the speech.
It’s an honor to join my fellow mayors – virtually – as America takes the next step in the process of democracy – nominating the two major-party candidates who will ask the American people for the honor of serving our country as president for the next four years.
I’m deeply proud to serve my hometown as mayor of Louisville, proud to serve as president of this great conference, and proud to serve with this group of mayors who are incredible leaders, patriots and friends.
For the last several weeks, even as they were working night and day to manage their cities’ responses to COVID-19, the economic downturn and renewed calls for racial justice, teams of Mayors have been gathering virtually to discuss America’s biggest challenges and how we can address them.
We’re releasing our plan – the Mayors’ Vision for America – today at the beginning of two weeks of national party conventions. These conventions are critical moments in our national conversation about who we are as a nation, and the values that should guide us in the months and years ahead.
Naturally, America’s mayors are an essential part of that conversation.
The men and women who crafted this plan represent 86 percent of the nation’s population. Our cities collectively account for 91 percent of America’s GDP. And according to poll after poll over many years, the American people place more trust and faith in their local government than in state or federal government.
Mayors and all local public servants – we’re everyone’s neighbor, and our neighbors count on us to produce tangible results.
And that’s true whether we’re talking about everything from trash pickup to libraries, parks, 911 service, police and fire departments, public health and much more.
Mayors have to get things done, no matter the challenge.
And right now, cities and towns across America are facing a combination of challenges unlike anything any of us has ever seen.
The worst pandemic in 100 years. An economy more fragile and uncertain than it’s been in 80 years. And long overdue calls for racial justice and equity that are more intense and widespread than we’ve seen in over 50 years.
And let’s be clear, while these crises affect all of us, they hit hardest in our communities of color. We’ve seen how social inequities have meant that:
Black and Brown Americans are more likely to get sick and die of COVID-19, lose their jobs or their businesses to the economic downturn or die at the hands of law enforcement.
None of these are acceptable in our great country. The very existence and persistence of these disparities is more than tragic; it must be a call to action.
That’s why America’s mayors decided to weigh in now – today – as part of the national conversation that begins today, first with the Democrats, then next week with the Republicans.
And that’s appropriate because this is a bipartisan plan. It was crafted by Democrats and Republicans from all parts of the country doing something all too rare in America these days – working together around a common vision and a common goal – an American Breakthrough.
The Mayors Vision for America outlines 10 priorities for us as a nation and steps we can take to achieve them. These goals are ambitious, and they are achievable:
- Foster Economic Recovery for a Stronger America
- Dismantle Systemic Racism and Advance Human and Civil Rights
- Achieve Public Safety and Justice for All
- Provide Equitable Quality Healthcare and Human Services
- Rewrite the Tax Code to Help Hardworking Taxpayers and Reduce Economic Inequality
- Make Housing More Affordable and Address Homelessness
- Build Modern, Resilient Infrastructure to Address Climate Change, Promote Environmental Justice, and Enhance Opportunity and Productivity
- Strengthen Education, Improve Career Pathways, and Develop the Workforce of the Future
- Fix Our Broken Immigration System, and
- Promote American Business, Goods, and Tourism to the Global Economy
I want to thank all the mayors who participated in the five working groups that produced these recommendations, including Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley and Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, who led our Police Reform and Racial Justice Working Group, whose recommendations we released last week.
While I would happily detail our plans to achieve the goals set out within each of these 10 priorities, let me focus on just three. The first is fostering an economic recovery that produces a stronger America, for ALL Americans.
COVID-19 has claimed about 170,000 American lives, devastated our economy and once again revealed society’s deep inequity.
We’ve seen how Americans who are also members of racial and ethnic minority groups are at increased risk, in part because they’re less likely to have health insurance and more likely to work in essential jobs that can’t be done from home.
The COVID-19 crisis has also exposed how infrastructure financing and the investment practices that govern our most basic services and networks – including transportation, water, and energy systems – too often impose additional burdens on underserved and underrepresented people and their families.
To create an economic recovery worthy of America, we have to rebuild an economy that works better than the one we lost in March. That means…
Supporting small businesses. Because small businesses across the country are facing enormous economic hardship and many have already been forced to close, killing jobs and hurting local communities.
Congress should provide new guidelines to spend the remaining $130 billion left in the Paycheck Protection Program and provide $120 billion to restaurants through the bipartisan Restaurant Act.
The federal government must also provide targeted assistance, such as direct compensation and debt forgiveness to Minority and Woman-Owned Businesses Enterprises, which are struggling to stay afloat in the pandemic, and to businesses in America’s farming and rural communities.
This conference represents America’s cities, but we recognize and respect the plight and the importance of the farmers and farming communities that put food on America’s tables. We are all in this together.
And that’s especially true now, because the question of how to put food on the table is getting harder to answer for millions of families that have experienced a loss of income due to COVID-19.
That’s why America’s mayors urge Congress to pass the Unemployment Insurance Extension to resume the $600 a week unemployment benefits boost until March 2021. Additionally, Congress should also pass the Monthly Economic Crisis Support Act to put money directly into the hands of those hardest hit by the pandemic.
And, as we’ve been saying for months now, cities of all sizes across the country are experiencing significant revenue shortfalls as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and are in dire need of immediate and near-term infusions of direct, flexible federal aid, distributed by formula to all municipalities – not just those with populations exceeding 500,000 people.
Mayors are calling for direct and significant federal aid to cities of at least $250 billion of fiscal assistance, over and above state aid, which must be provided immediately to get cities through budgeting for the next fiscal year (FY 2021) without being forced to cut essential services like frontline public health workers and police and firefighters.
The second priority I want to highlight is dismantling systemic racism and advancing human and civil rights.
To do that, we first have to understand and accept that ending racism in America is the responsibility of every American.
And to the benefit of every American, because ensuring that every American has a fair shot at the American Dream makes our entire country stronger and more prosperous.
To do that, we must acknowledge the history and legacy of racist policies and practices like redlining and urban renewal, polices that robbed Black Americans of the opportunity to build and pass on generational wealth.
America’s governments and institutions are complicit in establishing and perpetuating systems that have produced a host of cruel racial disparities, including the fact that the average white family in America has 10 times the wealth of the average Black family.
To address this disparity and to ensure that every American has the chance to realize their full human potential, we must take other steps that include…
- Consistently and unreservedly enforcing the federal Fair Housing Act, which helps local governments address discrimination and segregated housing patterns and take action to remedy past housing discrimination.
- Establishing a federal commission to study and propose reparations for African Americans.
- Supporting and working to achieve passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and the implementation of policies that ensure genuine economic equality for women.
- Supporting LGBTQ rights and working toward guaranteeing them in every city and in the Nation as a whole.
- And reviving civility and respect by listening respectfully to people who have different views, supporting efforts to work together across ideological and political lines, and working to rebuild civic trust through civil discourse – particularly during election seasons.
In fact, I hope everyone who reads our Mayors Vision for America understands that one goal, one priority that underlies all the others is that America’s mayors are eager to work with our fellow public servants in Washington.
And that’s the third priority I want to highlight – the urgent need to establish a stronger local/federal partnership, a partnership that is more effective, efficient and accountable to the American people.
Our country is facing too many challenges, too many threats for any one faction to defeat them alone. We must address these human challenges without partisanship!
As mayors, we see the human impact of the challenges our country is facing up close every day. And we see something else as well – the resilience and resourcefulness of the American people.
Because as formidable as our challenges may be, none of them are greater than the capacity of the American people to overcome them, if we work together.
If we decide it’s finally time to turn the page on partisanship, division and racism.
If we accept that we have to own our history – all of it, the proud moments and the painful, and make the choice to seize the opportunity of this challenging moment and transform our country.
That’s how we create an American Breakthrough.
The invitation from America’s mayors is this: Let’s learn from our past, live fully in the present, and create a future for America that offers equity, justice and opportunity for all.