12th January 2016 Tom Teodorczuk

The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) has reinforced its call for US Presidential candidates and Congress to focus more attention on fixing America’s cities.

At a press conference at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, on 11 January, prior to the Brown & Black Presidential Forum, the oldest US minority Presidential Forum, outgoing Mayor of Baltimore and USCM President, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, pleaded with the government to partner more with urban areas to revitalise American cities.

She urged federal government to heed the message of the USCM’s 2016 Compact for a Better America: A Call to Action, a 16-point plan highlighting the financial and social reform necessary for the significant reform of US cities to occur.

Rawlings-Blake said: “The federal government must invest in our D-plus rated infrastructure. The simple fact is that cities have growing needs and those needs have to be addressed.

“We need the President to be our partner and work in concert with us so that we can pave our streets, build more affordable housing, reform our police departments and create good-paying jobs so that the people we serve can support themselves and their families.”

Rawlings-Blake was joined at the event by a bipartisan group of US mayors including Steve Benjamin, Mayor of Columbia, South Carolina; Javier Gonzales, Mayor of Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Frank Cownie, Mayor of Des Moines, Iowa, as well as USCM CEO and Executive Director Tom Cochran.

The mayors subsequently attended the Brown & Black Presidential Forum at which Democratic Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley discussed what they would do if elected to the Oval Office.

Cownie called for a higher standard of debate on key issues during the Presidential election campaign. “We represent all people and we want to hear real reasons for real problems and we want to hear candidates address things that really are meaningful to all the people in this country,” he said.

Benjamin said: “The significant majority of Americans live in cities and metropolitan economies as well as the fact that the vast majority of our gross domestic product comes from those cities.”

Gonzales urged US cities to focus on creating conditions for a better life for minority communities. “It’s about making sure every individual that lives in our communities have access to the American dream,” he said. “For too long we’ve seen too many people who have been part of a widening gap when it comes to income inequality, who have seen, especially in minority communities, that there have been these pathways into the juvenile justice system instead of into good positive careers.”

He added: “We hear constantly this need to address a broken immigration system, but no one had really come forward with a plan to do it. Immigrants, both whether they’re documented or undocumented, are part of the social fabric of our cities.”

Tom Cochran, USCM CEO & Executive Director, said: “The issues of Des Moines and of cities around Iowa are the same issues that face mayors around the country each and every day. We support The Brown & Black Forum in its mission to present to the next President of the United States the challenges and opportunities before us and we believe it is critical that mayors participate.”



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