Axios Cities – December 11, 2019 – 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 Juli├ín Castro (former San Antonio, Texas, mayor) have both proposed refundable tax credits for renters. Tom Steyer proposed more than doubling government spending on homelessness.
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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



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