Tom Butt
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  US Conference of Mayors in Reno June 2-6
June 13, 2022

Figure 1 - 90th Annual Meeting, US Conference of Mayors and Climate Mayors

Figure 2 - The Peppermill in Reno

Last week, I attended my last annual summer meeting of the US Conference of Mayors in Reno June 2-6. This was following a two-year hiatus due to COVID, the last prior meeting being Honolulu in the summer of 2019. I also came down with COVID in Reno. After feeling crummy, I took a COVID test with a negative result, but after I returned home on June 6, I tested positive, and I still am, although I feel fine.

I will really miss the US Conference of Mayors annual meetings. They are a great opportunity to learn, to network and to meet top people in every field. And the parties are the best!

Before the US Conference of Mayors officially started on June 3, I participated in the Climate Mayors Leadership Forum, with opening remarks by Sylvester Turner, Mayor of Houston, Chair of Climate Mayors, a welcome by Reno mayor Hillary Schieve and by new Climate Mayors Executive Director, Kate Wright, formerly ED of the Local Government Commission/CivicWell.

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Figure 3 - Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner

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Figure 4 - Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve

Figure 5 - Gallego, Bush, Wishnia, Guzman and Cesar

Figure 6 - Mayors at Climate Mayors Leadership Forum

At the Climate Mayors Leadership Forum, we heard from several federal officials with federal energy and sustainability updates, including Andrew Wishnia, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Climate Policy, US DOT, Martha Guzman, EPA Region 9 Administrator, Kevin Bush, HUD Deputy Assistant Secretary and Richard Cesar, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at US DOL. There was a discussion on Green Jobs (still leading the way) and Climate Case Study presentations from half a dozen mayors.

On June 3, the morning plenary session was opened by President of the US Conference of Mayors and Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez. As an architect, I had never heard of the WELL Building Standard, but it may be the next big thing.

Figure 7 - Mayor Francis X Suarez of Miami

Figure 8 - I ran into a former Richmond police officer, Amy Bublak, who is now mayor of Turlock!

One of the more interesting discussions was “The New Crypto Economy and Government,” with a panel consisting of Mayor Suarez, Mayor Schieve, Keli Callahan of Algorand and Saif Ishoof of Lab22c. This was pretty far out stuff more most of us, but both Mayor Suarez and Mayor Schieve claim their cities are all in with blockchain and crypto. “You may not understand the technologies, but there are a lot of people who do,” said Schieve. Most mayors left shaking their heads.

I picked up and read a fascinating book they were giving away, “Bitcoin Billionaires,” by Ben Mezrich, about the genesis of bitcoin, based around the Winklevoss twins, who fought Mark Zuckerberg in court over a claim he stole their idea. They were all Harvard classmates and eventually settle out of court for hundreds of millions of dollars. The Winklevoss twins helped launch cryptocurrency into the mainstream. On June 8, I saw a column from Paul Krugman in the New York Times bashing crypto, something has been doing for years. Interestingly, there were two quotes from Krugman in the book, one , “…by 2005 or so, it will become clear that the Internet’s impact on the economy has been no greater that the fax machine.”

Figure 9 - Keli Callaghan, head of marketing for Algorrad

Figure 10 - Bitcoin Billionaires

There were two surprise speakers at the Friday Plenary Luncheon, Vice-president Kamala Harris, who appeared in person, and Ukraine President Zelenskyy, who appeared via satellite feed.

Figure 11 - Vice-president Kamala Harris

Figure 12 - Volodymyr Zelensky

Next was a session, “Ensuring Underserved Urban Residents are connected to Affordable Broadband,” led by Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego. There are some real opportunities here for Richmond with some $80 billion in federal funding available, plus ARPA, and as I recall, there is still $1 million in ECIA. It is targeted to underserved communities like Richmond.

The last session of the afternoon as a mayors-only session, “The threat of disinformation and Effective Communication Strategies,” I expected a lot of secret advice, but it was a disappointment.

A favorite evening event is always the Latino Leaders Network Tribute to Mayors, this year honoring Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller. When I told Mayor Keller I was born in Albuquerque 78 years ago, he took off his lapel pin and gave it to me.

Figure 13 - Latino Leaders Network Chairman Mickey Ibarra, Mayor Tim Keller and Antonio Villaraigosa, 41st mayor of Los Angeles

Figure 14 - Mayor Tim Keller gits me his Albuquerque lapel pin.

Figure 15 - Albuquerque lapel pin.

Figure 16 - Mayors at Latino Leaders Netwirk 36th Tribute to Mayors

On Saturday, the Environment Committee, on which I serve, met to consider policy resolutions. I sponsored two, both of which were adopted. The first was, “Resolution to Support Greenhouse Gas Emission Performance Measures for Transportation, and the second was, “Preserving Cities’ Access to the Courts to Protect Taxpayers from Climate-Related Adaptation Costs.” See “US Mayors Affirm Support for Cities’ Right to Sue Fossil Fuel Corporations for Climate Damages”).

Figure 17 - Environment Committee chaired by Mayor Dan Gelber of Miami Beach

Figure 18 - Environment Committee

Sunday morning’s plenary featured HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge, who focused on affordable housing.
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The noon plenary featured Vice Admiral Vivek H. Murthy, US Surgeon General who talked mainly about the mental health crisis.

Figure 19 - Vice Admiral Vivek H. Murthy, US Surgeon General

On Monday, June 6, we heard from Robert Santos, Director of the U.S. Census Bureau, talking about the quality of the 2020 census data.