Mayors Convene on Key Issues
February 04, 2021 by
The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) is the official non-partisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. In January 2021, USCM hosted its 89th Winter Meeting, convening hundreds of mayors to virtually discuss key issues impacting local governments still grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic while strategizing for recovery.
Following are some key takeaways from the meeting, including what mayors can do now to weather current challenges and protect their communities in the future.
Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Community change is often driven by a mayor’s vision and effective articulation of a plan for success. Mayors from Bridgeport, Connecticut; Houston, Texas; Tacoma, Washington; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; discussed essential priorities for leaders combatting systemic equity gaps exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Implementing workforce development, local business, and prison reentry programs demonstrate a government’s investment in equitable practices and services; mayors can ensure that budgets align.
Mayor Victoria Woodards of Tacoma noted the pandemic has presented the public sector with an opportunity greater than that of the civil rights movement of the 1960’s to focus on equity as part of rebuilding local economies. Closing the equity and access gap is within reach of local governments, particularly ones that employ cloud-based solutions that support enhanced service delivery and increased community connections.
Cyberthreats and associated consequences are top of mind for mayors across the country. With the onset of COVID-19, jurisdictions shifted to remote operations and virtual services, requiring appropriate controls and security measures to maintain secure connections that enabled government work.
“The security of our nation begins at the local level,” stated acting director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). It is imperative local governments stay vigilant and proactive in the current threat landscape. Developing a strong partnership with local CISA field agents can help in accessing the latest training and resources.
Mayors can drive a robust, effective cybersecurity culture by attending to all people, processes, and technology throughout their organizations.
Local economy drivers such as tourist attractions, restaurants, arts and cultural institutions, and sports arenas have experienced tremendous turmoil throughout the pandemic. In Burnsville, Minnesota, Mayor Elizabeth Kautz partnered with local businesses to reimburse liquor licensing fees during times of closure to decrease unnecessary business expenditures. In Westland, Michigan, Mayor William Wild created a clearing house for all local businesses, helping communicate service availability following zoning regulation changes for curbside pickup.
Mayors can support their economies by thinking creatively: hiring local artists for city projects, for example, or employing restaurants to provide food services for underserved populations. Leveraging civic engagement solutions can also strengthen community connections and improve local business support.
Federal, Local Partnerships
A recurring theme of the meeting centered around the opportunity for new and improved federal and local partnerships. With the new administration, key federal stakeholders remain committed to ensuring the voices of local governments are heard and included in major initiatives. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge all shared how local partnerships are a pillar of their agency frameworks.
As new federal aid becomes available and CARES Act spending deadlines are extended, local leaders can drive investment in technology that continues to facilitate remote operations and enhances government efficiency and responsiveness.
Local-level solutions impact and improve our entire country from the ground up. From small, incremental process changes to enterprise-wide cloud migrations, local governments are moving visions into reality, strengthening public trust, and improving performance. The year 2021 still presents many unknowns and challenges, but the hope, collaboration, and focus on recovery seen at USCM serve to inspire us all on the road ahead.