Mayors from across the country called on Congress on Thursday to prioritize serving local communities over party politics at Hill’s “The Future of Cities: A Forum of Mayors.”
Four mayors representing large and small cities spoke with The Hill Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack about the issues their communities face as they emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and seek to address challenges such as infrastructure, climate change and affordable housing.
“Mayors have to get the job done,” said Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens (D). “People see us every day. They don’t care if you’re a Democrat or a Republican when they’re talking about potholes or making sure your trash is picked up in time.”
Dickens said there is a partisan “political lens” in Washington, D.C., but the local community won’t set foot in the field until election season. He said he has his own party preferences, but most mayors talk about issues like infrastructure, public safety, crime and housing stability and affordability.
Jim Ross, the mayor of Arlington, Texas, who is running for the office as a nonpartisan candidate, echoed Dickens, saying that members of Congress should follow the mayor’s lead and take action to solve the problems facing their communities, rather than just a call to action their political party.
Ross repeated a statement by Thomas Cochran, executive director and CEO of the American Conference of Mayors, telling Congress to “act like a mayor.”
The Hill incident comes as mayors from across the country are meeting in Washington, D.C., for the conference’s annual winter session to discuss common issues facing their communities.
Ross said Cochran’s announcement meant lawmakers should speak in a nonpartisan manner and avoid actions that would only anger their party base.
“Do what’s important to your community. Make a difference in your community,” he said. “That’s what I love about this meeting. That’s what I love about the mayors in this country.
“Because I don’t care if you’re a Democrat, an independent or a Republican,” he said. “We all have the same desire, which is to benefit our community.”
Mayors are the only group of politicians not concerned with party politics, Ross said. He said he, like most of the American people, was “tired” of party politics.
He said the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed with support from both parties and signed into law in 2021, is “critical” to “laying the groundwork” for community development.
Edina, Minnesota Mayor James Hovland (D) said the “silver lining” of the COVID-19 pandemic is a bipartisan commitment to restore and advance transportation infrastructure and broadband capacity at the national level.
He said the country “has a lot of work to do” on parts of its infrastructure such as ports, roads and bridges.
Hovland said President Biden’s call for nationwide broadband access in the U.S. arose from a concept discussed at a meeting of U.S. mayors.
He also emphasized that the government can still make a difference during a divided government, noting that divided government is typical in Minnesota.
“You can find common ground, as President Biden has done with Congress, some of these things that he wants bipartisan support and can achieve, and I think we can continue to find some common ground on some of these issues,” Hough Lan said.
Some of those issues include technology, diversity and housing affordability, he said. Local officials are “calling on” states and the federal government to take steps to make housing more affordable, but not much has been done at the federal level, he said.