Dec 11, 2019

The issues that mayors want 2020 Democrats to target

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Infrastructure, housing and climate change are among the top issues mayors want Democratic 2020 presidential candidates to address if elected.

Why it matters: City leaders aren't satisfied with the 2020 field's attention to concerns that are worsening inequality and undermining the safety and financial security of millions who live in cities.

  • "We need help from Washington, but many times when we knock on the door, no one answers," said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in a forum in Iowa last week where mayors asked five Democratic candidates about their plans.

Driving the news: The U.S. Conference of Mayors and National League of Cities have both released 2020 agendas to call on the candidates to focus on cities' most pressing problems. The lists are long, but a few themes are clear priorities.

1. Infrastructure: Mayors are calling for at least $1 trillion in sustainable infrastructure spending to fix drinking and wastewater treatment plants, bridges and roads, and broadband.

  • Maintaining aging systems accounts for 60% of national infrastructure spending, per Brookings, while total spending on infrastructure has declined.
  • It will take approximately $4 trillion to repair the current state of infrastructure by 2025, per the American Society of Civil Engineers.

2. Housing: Housing costs have outpaced wages in cities across the country, making rent increasingly unaffordable in many of the biggest job centers and leading to a rise in homelessness.

  • The U.S. Conference of Mayors called for increased investments in the Community Development Block Grant and HOME programs, in part to improve housing options and expand rental assistance.
  • Sen. Cory Booker (former Newark, New Jersey, mayor) and Julián Castro (former San Antonio, Texas, mayor) have both proposed refundable tax credits for renters. Tom Steyer proposed more than doubling government spending on homelessness.

3. Climate change: Cities have been leaders in commitments to reduce emissions and promote renewable energy. Local officials want federal resources to help accelerate those efforts and to establish policies and incentives for new and existing buildings to be carbon neutral.

  • "It's not just a coastal issue, it's not just about rising sea levels," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar at last week's mayors' forum in Waterloo, Iowa. "Home insurance has doubled across this country. That's an economic argument that hits people in a different way."

4. Gun control: Both organizations back universal background checks for gun sales and transfers.

5. Workforce development: Both the League of Cities and Conference of Mayors emphasized the importance of skills training and apprenticeships to help prepare workers for jobs of the future as AI and automation become more pervasive.

  • Expanding Pell Grant eligibility and other grants for upskilling and reskilling are also on the wish list.

Go deeper: Why 2020 has become the mayors' race

Go deeper

HUD: Homelessness rises in U.S., driven by California housing crisis

Tents for the homeless line a sidewalk in Los Angeles on Tuesday. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Homelessness in the U.S. has risen for a third consecutive year, driven by a spike in California, the Department of Housing and Urban Development said in a new report.

Homelessness increased in California by 21,306 people, or 16.4 percent, accounting for more than the entire national increase."
— HUD statement
Go deeperArrowDec 22, 2019

Julián Castro on the issues, in under 500 words

Julián Castro. Photo: Edward A. Ornelas/Getty Images.

Editor's Note: Castro dropped out of contention for the Democratic presidential nomination on Jan. 2, 2020. Below is our original article on his candidacy.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Jan 2, 2020

The Smart American city

Congressional Smart Cities Caucus co-chairs Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) and Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN) in coversation with Axios' Kim Hart. Photo: Jeff Snyder for Axios

On Tuesday evening, Axios Cities Correspondent Kim Hart hosted a series of one-on-one conversations to discuss the future of smart cities, highlighting technology like AI and IoT.

Jeff Marootian, Director, District Department of Transportation

Director of the District Department of Transportation, Jeff Marootian, discussed how transit in Washington, D.C. has changed in the past ten years, and how the advent of ride-sharing apps has put pressure on the curbside.

  • How cities are fundamentally reimagining how the curbside works: "[D.C.] recently finished a pilot program with a curbside reservation system which allows for commercial delivery drivers to reserve curbside access so they don't have to circle around a block in order to find a place to pull over, to make a delivery or to do a food pickup.
  • On looking for creative solutions at the DDOT: "We have a great opportunity to reimagine our infrastructure. We know that the technology alone isn't going to get us there and the infrastructure alone isn't gonna get us there. It's really the marriage of those two things."
Hicham Abdessamad, Chief Executive, Global Social Innovation Business, Hitachi, Ltd. and Chairman of the Board, Hitachi America, Ltd.

In our View From the Top segment, Hicham Abdessamad sat down with Axios Executive Vice President Evan Ryan to discuss leveraging available data in cities to solve big problems around congestion. He highlighted the success of a recent initiative in Tequila, Mexico, which tracked the flow of people in and around the city center.

  • On looking at the big picture: "It's not really about smart cities. It's about solving big problems."
  • On utilizing available data to create smart cities: "We don't have the luxury to build cities from scratch all day. Countries around the world do that. So how do you retrofit or how do you leverage what's already out there to basically look at the problem and solve it in a different way?"
Kim Nelson, Executive Director, State and Local Government Solutions, Microsoft

Executive Director of State and Local Government Solutions at Microsoft, Kim Nelson, discussed the challenges for cities of all sizes to figure out what their top priorities are for leveraging technology, both in the short and long term.

  • On what catalyzes change: "Sometimes it's just an event that actually grabs a city, a leader or a mayor, and says it's time for us to do something about it...Houston is a great example. In the aftermath of [Hurricane Harvey], the mayor soon realized into his term that city wasn't nearly as resilient as it needed to be. And that started the conversation. "
  • On what it means to be a smart city: "Smart isn't simply about the technology. It's not about just the infrastructure, the sensors or the hardware. Being smart is about having the information."
Rep. Yvette Clarke and Rep. Susan Brooks, Congressional Caucus on Smart Cities Co-chairs

Congressional Caucus on Smart Cities Co-chairs Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) and Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN) took the stage together to discuss constituents' priorities around access, cybersecurity, and privacy as cities continue to get smarter.

Rep. Yvette Clarke

  • On converting phone booths into wi-fi kiosks: "It's nowhere near what it needs to be in terms of being ubiquitous throughout the city of New York. But we know that the infrastructure and the commitment is there. And that commitment and investment has yielded dividends already."

Rep. Susan Brooks

  • On preparing the workforce of the future, particularly around cybersecurity: "We have to invest in those strategies at all levels of education, whether it's the teams in schools, whether it's coding camps, whether it's certification programs. We've got to think very differently about higher education and about how we are ensuring that everybody is ready for what is coming."

Thank you Hitachi for sponsoring this event.

Keep ReadingArrowDec 12, 2019