Republican Presidential Debate: Takeaways for Cities

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 This post was written by Zach George.

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(Jason Dixson)

Last night’s GOP debate marked the beginning of a long but important process to elect the 45th president of the United States. Six months out from the Iowa caucus, the presidential campaign season is quickly ramping up with all 22 candidates (for now) making their pitch to be their party’s nominee.

Over the course of the election process, the National League of Cities (NLC) expects the candidates to discuss the top issues that are at the forefront of concern to cities: the economy, infrastructure and public safety.

“A meaningful presidential debate should include a discussion of the issues that cities face and how each candidate plans to address them,” said National League of Cities CEO Clarence E. Anthony. “We look forward to being a resource to all of the candidates throughout their campaigns.”

As expected, the economy was a major theme during the GOP debate. But moving forward, we hope to hear more substantive ideas and solutions to grow the economy and create jobs for the millions of Americans that call a city or town their home. What we didn’t hear was a substantive discussion of our other two priorities: the nation’s crumbling infrastructure and public safety. It’s critical that the candidates understand the gravity of these issues in cities and the price we’ll pay as a nation if not addressed.

Municipal governments are responsible for the development and maintenance of most of the nation’s infrastructure, owning and operating 78 percent of the nation’s roads, 43 percent of the nation’s federal-aid highway miles and 50 percent of the nation’s bridge inventory. Over two hundred million trips are taken daily across deficient bridges, threatening the safety of our residents and the movement of goods throughout the country. Cities are calling for federal leadership to renew and restore our once renowned infrastructure system.

Lastly, cities are looking for a serious national conversation about public safety. Stronger partnerships between local and federal government are badly needed. Recent incidents have demonstrated the need for an increased national focus on community policing to build trust between public safety officers and the communities they serve. Partnerships between cities and the federal government have proven to be effective to lower crime; however, more is needed to strengthen policing in cities. We ask the presidential candidates to discuss their plan to invest in community policing and make communities safer in future debates.

Although only 10 of the 22 presidential candidates debated last night, NLC calls on all the presidential candidates to address and prioritize the issues that affect the more than 250 million Americans that live in cities. NLC will keep reaching out to candidates to have a healthy and thorough discussion on these topics throughout campaign and up to November 7, 2016 on Election Day. It’s a long ways away, but this election is too important to sit on the sidelines.

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About the Author:
Zach George is a summer intern with the NLC Federal Advocacy team. Contact Zach at
George@nlc.org.