Tom Butt
  E-Mail Forum – 2021  
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  Virtual US Conference of Mayors
January 24, 2021

I just finished attending the first virtual US Conference of Mayors (USCM) winter meeting. Traditionally, these are always held in Washington, DC. Last year this time, we were actually in Washington DC for the winter meting and got to attend the first Trump impeachment hearings courtesy of Senator Feinstein.

Figure 1 - USCM 2020 meeting was an opportunity to watch the (first) Trump impeachment from the Senate Gallery

This year’s meeting had the same star-studded events of past meetings, but I missed the networking, the Washington DC venue and the opportunity to meet face to face with high ranking HUD officials work on Richmond Housing Authority issues.

Under the leadership Conference of Mayors President Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, a majority of the discussions were be built around The Mayors’ 2020 Vision: An American Breakthrough, which was developed over a year of detailed work by hundreds of mayors to serve as a policy guide for the Administration and 117th Congress. And, the issues of racial and social justice were priorities that will serve as an overlay for the entire meeting.

Figure 2 - Mayor Greg Fischer

On Day 1, Thursday, the USCM shared thoughts on emergency fiscal assistance with National Economic Council Director Brian Deese and White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Julie Chavez Rodriguez, on housing with HUD Secretary-designate Marcia Fudge and the latest cybersecurity threats with CISA Acting Director Brandon Wales.

On Day 2, Friday, we heard from two of America’s top medical experts – Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Vivek Murthy – who shared how mayors and the federal government can work together to combat COVID-19. We heard from business and philanthropic leaders. We heard from Boston Mayor and Labor Secretary-designate Marty Walsh. We had terrific sessions on reducing gun violence, our partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies on vaccinations, and how we can help our cities' amenities survive the pandemic. Finally, we heard from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who continues to push for direct emergency fiscal assistance to all cities.

Figure 3 - Transportation Secretary-designate Pete Buttigieg

On Day 3, Saturday, Transportation Secretary-designate Pete Buttigieg discussed that as a former mayor, he is committed to working with cities and mayors across the country on transportation issues, including infrastructure.

Buttigieg is an advocate of active transportation and complete streets.

A broad infrastructure package, anchored by a multi-year renewal of the “FAST Act” transportation law, will be a top priority before the new Congress. Conference leaders are urging more “localized” funding, as local leaders adjust to altered transportation networks, services, and travel patterns, workplace changes, and continuing public health and economic impacts. Secretary-designate Buttigieg will guide the Administration’s FAST Act renewal efforts, where mayors are urging that more federal highway dollars be allocated directly to MPOs/other local areas so local leaders have more say over how available resources are invested.

Figure 4 - Pete Buttigieg and a panel of mayors discuss transportation opportunities

Later, we heard from New York times columnist and author Thomas Friedman put today’s political changes in perspective and look at what the future offers.

Figure 5 - Conference of Mayors President Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and columnist Thomas Friedman

We also heard the new Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, and in one of his first addresses after having been sworn in as the 46th President of the United States, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr .

Figure 6 - Incoming Senate majority Leader Chuck Schumer

Figure 7 - President Biden addresses the USCM

President Biden has made climate change one of the top priorities for his Administration. In addition to reentering the Paris Climate Accord within his first 100 days, President Biden has committed to pushing forward an extensive climate agenda on both the international and domestic front and has selected two top envoys, Secretary John Kerry and Administrator Gina McCarthy, to lead his charge.

Figure 8 - Special Presidential Envoy on Climate, John Kerry

Figure 9 – John Kerry engaging mayors on climate change issues

Figure 10 - National Climate Advisor for the White House, Gina McCarthy.

Hopefully, next year COVID-19 will be history, and we will be back in Washington DC.