Just two weeks ago, I had the honor of representing the City of Emeryville at the U.S. Conference of Mayors (UCSM) Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C. The group is the official non-partisan organization of larger cities, creating a forum in which mayors can share ideas and information. USCM also promotes the development of effective national policy, strengthens federal-city relationships, and strives to ensure that federal policy meets urban needs.
I attended a meeting of the Environment Standing Committee, where Gina McCarthy, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, gave an overview of the Clean Power Plan – our nation’s first-ever set of national standards that address carbon pollution from power plants. While appreciating that we are moving away from carbon-intensive energy production here in the U.S., I pressed McCarthy to address the transit of coal by rail that is destined for other countries. She confirmed that there are many conversations at the federal level concerning the safety of hazardous materials by rail. There are many proposed projects that may be exporting coal from the Western seaboard, and McCarthy pointed out that the EPA’s role is to make sure there is a complete disclosure in terms of environmental impact. She remarked, “We’ll certainly be at the table to make sure that environmental impacts are considered and well analyzed.” The tragedy over drinking water in Flint, Michigan was at the top of everyone’s minds, and McCarthy did not shy away from this topic. “Our first priority has to be and is to make sure that the water in Flint is safe,” she said. Later that same day, it was publicized that McCarthy accepted the resignation of the EPA regional administrator in charge of Flint.
|Emeryville Mayor Dianne Martinez|
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti
The mayors in attendance were also witness to a speech by First Lady Michelle Obama, who talked about the successes and continued efforts to end veteran homelessness in American cities. And finally, we mayors had an audience with the man himself, President Barack Obama. In the East Room of the White House, the President discussed the role of mayors in American government. “Mayors can’t wait for congress. Mayors can’t get stuck in partisan gridlock. We’ve got Republican mayors here and Democratic mayors, but frankly if you’re a mayor, nobody cares what your party is. They care what you’re getting done.” The President remarked on the 40 cities and counties that have taken action on the minimum wage and on paid family leave. Among other topics, he also touched on the water crisis in Flint, criminal justice reform, the scourge of opioids and heroin, building new housing in our growing cities, and making it easier for people to vote.
While it was definitely a perk to be in the company of the President and the First Lady, the lasting benefit of the U.S. Mayor’s Conference is the opportunity to connect with mayors whose cities are exploring new ways to combat the major problems of our time. For instance, after accepting the First Lady’s Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, Salt Lake City, Phoenix and New Orleans have effectively done so. I’d like to learn from the leadership in these communities and apply the lessons learned from taking on these huge challenges.
In addition to networking with officials from other cities, I was able to connect with members of the Small Business Administration – notably, it’s administrator, Maria Contreras-Sweet. I hope that this connection proves to be fruitful in leveraging federal resources for our small businesses right here in Emeryville.
I look forward to representing our fair city as your mayor for the remainder of this year, and I hope you’ll share your thoughts and concerns with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
President Obama’s remarks to the U.S. Conference of Mayors - http://www.c-span.org/video/?403576-1/president-obama-remarks-us-conference-mayors
Environment Standing Committee - http://www.c-span.org/video/?403512-1/us-conference-mayors-discussion-carbon-emissions