The Conference heard from federal officials, philanthropic allies, and private sector partners in discussions about local challenges, Conference policy, and alarming state preemption trends
(Columbus, OH) – Today, the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) continued the 91st Annual Meeting, during which mayors discussed solutions to the pressing issues facing cities, including gun violence and the surging mental health crisis. Mayors also devoted much of the day to underscoring the danger from hostile state capitals increasingly undermining city efforts.
“So far this year, state legislators have introduced more than 650 bills that would usurp the local power and local authorities of American cities,” said Miami (FL) Mayor Francis Suarez, the Conference’s president. “These actions are neither conservative nor progressive, and they reduce or remove the ability of cities to keep…their residents protected.”
In the afternoon plenary session, mayors also discussed the punitive overreach by their state legislatures. Sharing examples were St. Louis (MO) Mayor Tishaura Jones, Jackson (MS) Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, Nashville (TN) Mayor Jim Cooper, and Arlington (TX) Mayor Jim Ross. Montgomery (AL) Mayor Steven Reed served as moderator.
USCM President Suarez also continued to elevate the challenge of mental health in American cities. It’s a brewing crisis, and it’s a priority issue for the Conference. He urged a greater focus on the issue. “We, mayors, hold the power to create a network of partnership that tackles the challenges of mental health and public wellness,” he said. “We can work – community by community – to address the challenges of mental health by advancing wellness through preventive care, physical fitness, and a culture of wellness.”
Mayors also welcomed high-ranking officials from the Biden Administration today.
“No one knows the ins and the outs of a community like a mayor,” said Secretary Marcia Fudge, head of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In her afternoon remarks to mayors, she discussed administration efforts on housing and homelessness. “For you, the stakes are high, and the impact is personal.”
“We are building again,” said White House Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu, the former mayor of New Orleans who is overseeing the implementation of the new Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. In his remarks during the plenary lunch, he described ongoing projects in all corners of the U.S. “When we invest in ourselves, we always win.”
To learn how to get those infrastructure funds, mayors met at a session of the Local Infrastructure Hub, where experts discussed the opportunities available through the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act. Those experts also spotlighted tools and tips for mayors and cities to navigate programs, find grants, submit applications, and secure funds.
Then, the Conference built its policy agenda for the upcoming year. Several more Standing Committees considered and advanced resolutions, which the whole Conference will vote on at the end of the Annual Meeting.
- At the Criminal and Social Justice Standing Committee meeting, led by Kansas City (MO) Mayor Quinton Lucas, mayors considered and passed resolutions addressing gun violence, immigration and the fentanyl crisis. Another resolution condemned the Missouri state legislature’s attempted takeover of the St. Louis police department. After the vote, mayors heard from Memphis (TN) Mayor Jim Strickland, who shared lessons learned from the city’s response to the death of Tyre Nichols. Mayors also heard from the Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships, on preventing terrorism and targeted violence.
- At the Environment Standing Committee, mayors advanced eight resolutions. Those touched on clean air, water, land, energy, as well as extreme weather and federal-local collaboration. Mayors discussed the dangers of PFAS forever chemicals and the appropriate regulatory response. Then, mayors heard from colleagues about local success stories on city-led climate action, Brownfield remediation, water renewal projects, fleet electrification and ballot measures.
- The International Affairs Standing Committee met, led by acting chair Oklahoma City (OK) Mayor David Holt. They considered and passed two resolutions. One reiterated USCM’s support for Ukraine. Then, mayors heard from their colleagues and then officials from the United Kingdom, Canada, the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition and the American Jewish Coalition.
- At the Jobs, Education, and Workforce Standing Committee, mayors approved seven resolutions. As chair, Phoenix (AZ) Mayor Kate Gallego presided. One resolution backed the Biden Administration’s plan for expanding childcare support. Two focused on immigration policy. After voting, the Committee welcomed Richard Cordray. He’s the U.S. Department of Education’s Chief Operating Officer of Federal Student Aid. Mayors also heard from the U.S. Commerce Department on the implementation of the CHIPS and Science Act. The law was a USCM priority.
- Harnessing innovation and ensuring equitable access to technology were priority issues for the Technology and Innovation Standing Committee. Mayors on the committee approved more than a dozen related resolutions, including one calling on Congress to renew a federal program that makes high-speed internet more affordable for low-income households. Another urged federal action to protect the mental health of children on social media. The committee also received a briefing from White House officials on the opportunities and challenges associated with recent innovations in artificial intelligence.
- At the Standing Committee on Tourism, Arts, Parks, Entertainment, and Sports, eight resolutions They called for more art programs at the Department of Veteran Affairs, more spending on city parks, and one recognized the 50th anniversary of the hip-hop music genre. Then, the committee heard from private sector partners.
- The Community Development and Housing Standing Committee focused its gathering on the housing crisis that is plaguing many cities today. The committee advanced eight related resolutions. Mayor Tim Keller spoke about Albuquerque’s (NM) proposed solutions to address the 30,000 housing unit deficit in the city. The committee also heard from Mike Signer, North America Policy Director at Airbnb; Marisa Waxman Director of State and Local Recovery Funds at the U.S. Department of Treasury; Alan B. William, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; and Elayne Weiss, Special Policy Advisor at the Federal Housing Administration.
The Annual Meeting will continue on Sunday and conclude on Monday.