United States Conference of Mayors Update

Scott Smith
USCM President and City of Mesa Mayor

The US Conference of Mayors leadership meeting was held in Arizona last week, where more than forty mayors, who hold leadership roles in the organization, met to determine the policy direction for the winter term.

Over two days, we engaged in action-oriented strategy sessions on a range of federal issues including, transportation, municipal bonds, the Marketplace Fairness Act, EPA water mandates, energy efficiency, trade and exports and immigration.

As mayors, the greatest discussion we've had over the last two years is a congress that couldn't make decisions. The good thing that happened while we talked about government inaction is that there was a focus on cities and mayors who were still getting the job done. People have discovered how mayors on both sides of the aisle can get together and get things done despite the deepest financial crisis in decades. The question for mayors is, "what do we do now?"

Mayors have set the stage and the standard. Our challenge now is how to continue to be recognized as the innovators. When mayors are powerful, cities have a place at the table. Two issues that impact Arizona the most are immigration and trade. If we can unite on these two issues and bring a strong bipartisan message to Congress, we can have an impact on what happens in Washington.

Senator John McCain joined us to talk about the likelihood of an immigration bill passing Congress this year. He said that he believes we have a broad base of support for the legislation but it seems to be stalled. He said, "If there is any group that people rely on and respect, it is our nation's mayors. You are in a unique position to help move this legislation forward. Mayors are respected and influential, and bring an incredible amount of focus and energy to this policy discussion."

Our experience tells us that the economic gains our cities and country will reap from fixing our immigration system will make the effort well worth it. The social, political and financial costs of not securing our borders and fixing the system will be staggering. These are costs that our cities, and we as a nation, cannot afford to bear.

Pushing Washington to fix a broken system is just one focus of the US Conference of Mayors; another is preventing systems from breaking. Our trade and export system needs a major boost. From improvements to seaports, airports, bridges and other infrastructure to developing export strategies that create jobs and help local businesses, the status quo is allowing one of our greatest economic opportunities literally to crumble.

Over the past five or so years, US exports have increased by more than 50 percent; 300,000 American companies now export and 1.3 million jobs have been created. If we take full advantage of America's capability to grow our economy through North American trade, we can easily reemerge as an economic leader.

Our message is simple. Our nation's future economic prosperity depends directly on the productivity and growth of our cities and their metro areas. And the innovations that drive this country begin with cities and their mayors. In order for our nation to reach its full potential, it is clear that mayors must be deeply involved in conversations on federal policy.

League of Arizona Cities and Towns
1820 W. Washington St.
Phoenix, AZ  85007
Phone: 602-258-5786
Fax: 602-253-3874

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