Mayors’ “to-do list” for the Obama Administration

MSNBC surveyed 1,000 mayors by e-mail from around the U.S. on “their top two suggestions for the president-elect’s “to do” list.”  205 responded from every U.S. state but Delaware and New Hampshire, and including Puerto Rico.  What’s interesting for urbanist junkies like me is the majority of replies come from smaller cities not normally front and center in discussions on cities.  There’s no input from New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or even Boston, but instead requests from Binghamton (NY), Manhattan Beach (CA), Evansville (IL), and Cambridge (MA).

MSNBC created this cool interactive map of responses, the majority of which come from cities east of the Mississippi.  It should come as no surprise then, that the economy and aging infrastructure dominated the Mayoral agenda.  Other priorities include immigration reform, healthcare reform, transit development, and economic development.

Check it out.  After the jump I highlight Mayoral priorities from cities I know whether through proximity, residency, work or travel.

Louisville, KY
Pop. 694,000
Jerry Abramson, mayor
We need Washington to step up and help America’s metro areas create jobs and economic growth by passing an immediate Main Street Stimulus, not a bailout but an investment.
Bridge and road improvements: We have nearly $4 million in needed repairs to small bridges on our two-lane roads. Transit: Increased demand for transit is outstripping our ability to provide it. Washington could invest money to put 10 hybrid buses and 20 more vanpooling vans on the roads of Louisville. Drinking water: We have miles and miles of lead pipes that provide drinking water to our homes that need to be replaced. Floods: Need millions of dollars to upgrade our floodwalls and flood protection infrastructure, such as the Western Pumping Station along Southwestern Parkway that was put in service when Harry Truman was president. Housing: We need to invest $25 to $30 million more to modernize public housing projects like Avenue Plaza and Bishop’s Lane.

Cambridge, MA
Pop. 101,355
E. Denise Simmons, mayor
1. President Obama must focus on policies that assist small business owners, and that help resolve the housing crisis. In Cambridge, store fronts that once housed small businesses are remaining vacant for longer periods than they used to. People are having trouble obtaining starter loans or investments, affording rent and other overhead costs, and getting the kind of help that can be crucial at the start of a business. We need national economic policies that will stabilize the banking situation, which will ultimately make the climate more hospitable to small business owners.
2. The housing crisis has deeply worsened in recent years. Thousands of people perennially apply to the Cambridge Housing Authority for safe, clean, affordable housing, yet the waiting lists can be unbearably long. Our housing authorities are in need of additional federal funding.

Milton, MA
Pop. 26,062
Kathryn Fagan, chair, selectmen
1. Our small town was faced with a difficult situation last year when a young firefighter suffered catastrophic injuries on duty. As sufficient medical insurance wasn’t available for purchase for public safety employees, the town was faced with paying enormous medical bills and an early retirement pension out of our limited operating funds. Through efforts of our legislators, we were able to get some special legislation passed to allow us to borrow the funds over a long term, but will still have to use operating funds to pay the costs of borrowing.
2. Unfunded education mandates are crippling our town’s budget each year. Our teachers struggle to provide excellent education to all children no matter their needs, but federal and state regulations, without the funds to support these mandates, are causing dramatic cuts in services each year and pitting school and public safety needs against each other for increasingly limited funds.

Madison, NJ
Pop. 16,530
Mary-Anna Holden, mayor
1. Reauthorization of the Transportation Enhancements (TEA-21). Transportation enhancement grants provide needed capital to protect and enhance communities’ quality of life and streetscapes, provide for safety and education, and environmental mitigation, as they relate to highway, pedestrian, bike and rail. It also funds to encourage creation of jobs through a youth conservation corps.
2. Re-establishing the federal historic homeowners rehabilitation tax credit and removal of the “condo” provision that prohibits developers from using the federal commercial version of the credit when adaptively reusing historic buildings for housing. (After all, historic preservation is also the original “green” building, capturing an existing building’s embodied energy rather than sending it to a landfill.)

Englewood, NJ
Pop. 30,000
Michael Wildes, mayor
Comprehensive Immigration Reform: While most mayors throughout our nation are concerned about national security, the law has always placed immigration enforcement in the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government. At first blush, the ability of police to enforce immigration law seems a viable solution to our nation’s challenge of illegal immigration. Actually, local enforcement will discourage and even prevent undocumented immigrants from accessing police services and deprive police of the benefit of immigrants’ cooperation in fighting and investigating crime. Such alienation will only reverse years of police efforts to gain the trust of immigrant community, and strain the resources of local police. Our new President and Congress must enact comprehensive immigration reform that incorporates an earned legalization, appropriate legal channels for hiring low-skilled workers, and increased employer enforcement and sanctions.

Lafayette, LA
Pop. 215,000
Lester J. “Joey” Durel, Jr., mayor, parish president
1. Finish Interstate 49 from I-10 all the way to New Orleans. Currently I-49 ends at I-10 in Lafayette and turns into U.S. Hwy 90. This is a dangerous road with heavy traffic because of its proximity to New Orleans and the oil and gas industry in Southeast Louisiana. It is an important energy corridor and serves as the main hurricane evacuation route for much of that part of the state. This is also good for much of mid America for getting farm products and other goods to the Port of Orleans.
2. The city of Lafayette is installing fiber optics to every home and business in the city that wants it. We will give our citizens, peer to peer connectivity of 100mbs — for free! This is being done through our city-owned utility and we will have something 80 to 90% of America won’t have 20 years from now. The federal government needs to do all it can to encourage municipalities to do what we are doing.

Tampa, FL
Pop. 303,447
Pam Iorio, mayor
1. We need to invest in America’s infrastructure. Tampa is the country’s 55th largest city and it has enormous needs for modern water and wastewater pipes as well as new drainage systems. If the $150 billion stimulus package passed last year had gone to cities to improve their infrastructure we would have meaningful job creation and productivity throughout our nation.
2. Mass transit. Tampa is planning an extensive light-rail system and we hope to go to referendum in 2010. We will need federal support to build the system. There is not enough money in the federal budget to support new efforts and help cities that have aging systems. Our nation should have the most modern transit systems in the world. This is an investment that will pay economic and environmental dividends for decades to come.

Tulsa, OK
Pop. 384,000
Kathy Taylor, mayor
1. Transit funding. As gas prices remain high and the environmental issues continue, a significant investment in transit infrastructure is vital. President-elect Obama should make it a priority to provide cities funding to improve accessibility and reliability of transit (bus and rail).
2. Public Safety. With today’s national economic issues, cities will see pressure on their budgets. There is a link between current economic conditions and increasing crime rates. President-elect Obama should provide funding of the COPS program, which would allow over 16,000 additional police officers on the streets. 42% of the cities are seeing increased crime as a result of the current economy. Tulsa’s current staffing study would require $7-million to implement, and we are totally reliant on sales tax funding. Without federal help other city services will have to be cut to reach this goal.

Manhattan Beach, CA
Pop. 33,852
Richard P. Montgomery, mayor
I had the good fortune to meet and speak with (for all of 30 seconds) then-Senator Obama at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Miami three months ago. I asked him then what I will tell you now. My hope is that the next president will pay the state of California back the costs we have incurred due to illegal immigration. The costs paid by the state of California were for law enforcement, jail, hospital and schools. All of these “free” services were provided to illegal immigrants because of a failed federal immigration policy. Obama’s answer to me (which was also heard by the mayor of Redondo Beach, Mike Gin) was, “you are absolutely right, the next president will have to address that problem”.
2. Encourage cities to install solar panels on the roofs of public buildings and or install solar-powered streetlights. Then provide rebate money for their purchase and installation.


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