Why Infrastructure Matters

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Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner explains why she places a high importance on sharing innovative solutions to the infrastructure challenges facing our cities and states.

(Getty Images)
As the author notes, it takes the coordination of hundreds of city employees to accomplish infrastructure projects such as the installation or repair of public water mains. (Getty Images)

This is a guest post by Mayor Stephanie Miner. The post was originally published here.

As a mayor, people feel comfortable approaching me anytime, anywhere to tell me what they think about the job I’m doing, what they feel the city is doing well, and, inevitably, what they think we could be doing better. I enjoy these conversations because I like engaging with my constituents no matter the place — the grocery store, restaurants, the gym and, most memorably, a ladies room.

Each time my constituents reach out, they tell me about what they see: potholes, water main breaks, litter, vacant housing, and other concerns that form the litany of issues local governments must address. But what I think about is what goes unseen: infrastructure working at its best. Hundreds of city employees toil quietly to make sure coffee pots can be filled, showers run uninterrupted and the roads are smooth. Infrastructure isn’t sexy, but when something goes wrong everyone sees it. This is why infrastructure matters: quality, reliable, affordable infrastructure is critical to the social and economic well-being of our community.

This week, the city of Syracuse will be joining partners from across the nation in observing Infrastructure Week. This effort brings together leaders from business, organized labor, government, and academia to raise awareness of the importance of infrastructure issues in our communities. These are the policymakers and leaders who are working on infrastructure issues every day, serving the ultimate stakeholders: the people of our cities.

On Monday, I will be in Washington, D.C. speaking on a panel discussion at the National Infrastructure Week kickoff. I will be joined by other mayors, governors, transportation commissioners, and industry executives to share our experiences with innovative solutions to the infrastructure challenges facing our cities and states.

Throughout the rest of the week, I will be showcasing the work the City of Syracuse Public Works, Water, and Engineering departments are doing to keep our systems working. Additionally, we will set our sights forward and showcase the work our Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Innovation Team has done in support of these departments, including new methods of construction notification, sensors that allow us to respond to water main breaks before they become catastrophic, and improved coordination using a “dig once” philosophy, so when we dig up a street, we do all the utility work needed underground before sealing the road again.

The theme of this week is simple: Infrastructure Matters. That has been my message since taking office in 2010. We rely on our infrastructure to be the cornerstone of a successful city. Quality roads, water mains, and sewers are the backbone of our community. We also must turn an eye towards the infrastructure of the twenty first century: affordable, reliable, high-speed internet access for everyone — a goal the city continues to study. When we have the best foundation in place, we will see our economy grow and society prosper.

This week, as you safely and smoothly commute to work or turn on your faucet and water comes out, remember the work of countless men and women who made that possible. These quiet actions are proof that infrastructure matters.

About the Author: Stephanie A. Miner is the 53rd Mayor of the City of Syracuse and the first woman to lead one of New York’s “Big 5” Cities.