When I was officially elected President of the National League of Cities at City Summit in November, I spoke to you and my fellow local leaders about my presidential platform: Leading with Urgency. The foundation for my vision for cities, towns and villages this year was meant to drive our communities forward on key areas, including infrastructure, housing instability, and partnerships between levels of government.
And while this year couldn’t have been more unpredictable, the core tenants of Leading with Urgency remain as critical and relevant as ever.
Our nation continues to grapple with a dangerous and widespread virus that is devastating our communities and our local economies. Our federal leaders must act urgently and swiftly in providing direct aid to all of America’s cities, towns and villages to support essential workers and counteract strapped city budgets and lost local revenue. America’s economic recovery starts with immediate and appropriate federal support to help our communities through the coronavirus pandemic, and to prepare for years to come. Cities Are Essential, and we must lead with urgency to prove it.
And as devastating as this health crisis has been on our cities, towns and villages, it is but one critical issue we are facing right now as a nation. The national conversation around racial equity and police reform has begun, and it cannot stop. Local leaders were encouraged by early signs in Congress of meaningful legislation that would take steps to reform public safety and protect the health of all Americans – but sadly, as is the case in Washington, partisan gridlock seems to have slowed any potential bills in the House or Senate this summer.
This cannot be the end of our conversation around reform, equity and safety – Congress must take a page from the book of local elected officials across the country, and lead and legislate with urgency.
Finally, this week, the House passed the momentous Moving Forward Act. Through our Rebuild With Us campaign, NLC has long called for a comprehensive approach to investing in our nation’s physical infrastructure – roads, bridges, water and broadband – and ensuring that is coupled with a robust investment in our human capital infrastructure. Leading with Urgency is not just about raising the important issues, it is about getting them across the finish line.
New survey data from over 1,100 municipalities across the country show that 65% of cities are being forced to delay or completely cancel capital expenditures and infrastructure projects, which will stifle job growth, slow local economic activity and further imperil economic recovery efforts in communities across the nation. This is how important an infrastructure bill is to pass and sign into law right now – on the backdrop of the pandemic, cities need support, we must continue the charge on infrastructure in this country.
These issues may be daunting, but as local leaders, we must rise to the challenge, as we always have. We must keep Congress focused on the issues that matter most to communities. We must demand that they work with us to build sustainable infrastructure, promote public safety and racial equity, and directly fund the American economic recovery from COVID-19. Local leaders know the biggest challenges facing cities, towns and villages, and we are best setup to address them head on. We lead with urgency day in and day out.
Now more than ever, we, as local leaders, and as a nation, must lead with urgency.
About the Author:
Joe Buscaino, Los Angeles Council President Pro Tempore, currently serves as the president of the National League of Cities. Follow him on Twitter at @joebuscaino.