Hot topics for U.S. mayors: Climate change and income inequality

This information provided by Smart Cities Council Compassionate Cities.

Mayors agreed to step up their climate protection efforts even more than they have already during the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) gathering in Dallas this week.

"While Washington is talking about cutting carbon to protect our planet, mayors and their constituents are taking action across the board with millions of Americans actually doing something about it," said the organization's Executive Director and CEO Tom Cochran. "Our USCM Climate Center is leading the way and mayors across the globe are not waiting for their national governments. Others talk about the future; mayors are walking toward our future. They are making a difference." 

Going forward at the local level, some of the actions the mayors agreed to include:

  • Developing an energy plan that addresses and includes water, wastewater and stormwater runoff, heat island effects, preservation of open space and an inventory of emissions from fossil fuels for city operations and for the community using established metrics, set reduction targets and adopt elements that address how to harden and adapt city systems and infrastructures to climatic events
  • Adopting and enforcing land-use policies that reduce sprawl, preserve open space and create compact, walkable urban communities
  • Promoting transportation options such as bicycle trails, commute trip reduction programs, incentives for car pooling and public transit
  • Increasing the use of clean, alternative energy by supporting the development of renewable energy resources, building the renewable energy technology manufacturing capacity of cities, recovering landfill methane for energy production and supporting the use of waste to energy technology

You can read more about what the mayors committed to here.

Income inequality in the spotlight

Another high-profile topic addressed at the mayors' meeting was income inequality. With Seattle's recent council vote to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour -- the highest minimum wage in the country – other cities are weighing options.

“This year, the idea that cities have an important role to play in raising the minimum wage has gone mainstream,” said Paul K. Sonn, the general counsel of the National Employment Law Project in a New York Times article. “More leaders than ever are looking to fight poverty locally with higher city wages.”

Again, as the NYT article points out, federal inaction to boost the minimum wage has cities stepping in.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio noted that cities are more and more the nation's economic engines and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said income inequality "is costing us millions and millions and millions of dollars.”

Mayor de Blasio will head a new task force of mayors that will address income inequality and develop an “urban agenda” to present to Congress. Not limited to wage inequality, the group will also take up other issues such as paying for pre-K education, according to the NYT report.

Some mayors suggested they can't get support for raising the minimum wage citywide, but are taking steps nonetheless. One example: requiring city vendors and contractors to pay a living wage.

Mayors tap "most livable" cities

Mayor LandrieuNew Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu's effort to decrease his city's murder rate triggered New Orleans being named one of the two "most livable" cities as voted by former mayors from some 200 applicants.

According to the Times-Picayune, Landrieu's NOLA for Life program is making a difference. Last year, there were 155 murders in New Orleans, a 20% decline from 193 murders in 2012, according to the report. And the numbers of murder were down nearly 30% in the first three months of this year.

NOLA for Life is a wide-ranging effort to curb murder rates, including aggressive prosecution of gang- and drug-related violence and improving relations between residents and police, among others.

West Sacramento, California was the other "most livable" honoree, cited for its efforts to expand preschool education.

Mayor CabaldonMayor Christopher Cabaldon noted that West Sacramento has rapidly transformed from a neglected industrial town to a thriving, livable city, and Universal Preschool for West Sacramento (UP4WS) gives its youngest residents and their parents an opportunity to create a future full of educational success and economic prosperity.

"I’m honored," Cabaldon added, "to accept this award on behalf of UP4WS and all of our partners who put kids first and turf aside to achieve the impossible."

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This article is from the Council's Compassionate Cities initiative which highlights how city leaders and other stakeholders can leverage smart technologies to end suffering in their communities and give all citizens a route out of poverty. Click the Compassionate Cities box on our registration page to receive our weekly newsletter.

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