Despite federal uncertainty, mayors were clear: Their job is to keep building better cities.
While Washington, D.C. prepared for the inauguration of Donald Trump, more than 300 mayors gathered blocks from the White House for the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
They chatted, they swapped cards, they exchanged insight on engaging seniors, dealing with hunger, and and how to pay for infrastructure.
While Pennsylvania mayors said they’re largely hopeful that the new administration will work with cities, they’re not holding their collective breath.
“Local government is where the rubber hits the road,” said Sal Panto, Jr., the mayor of Easton, Pennsylvania, explaining that things have to get done at the local level; people expect to have their garbage picked up, and potholes fixed.
Communities are beginning to focus on what they can do by themselves, since so many unanswered questions persist at the federal level, said Mayor Bill Peduto of Pittsburgh.
“Who are our partners that we can find within our own communities? And how can we put together agendas on a city and regional basis? And maybe be able to move away from the idea that everything requires federal assistance.”
Philadelphia is a sanctuary city, which Trump has repeatedly said he would defund. Mayor Jim Kenney said the city celebrates its diversity and its immigrants, and will continue to do so while Congress sensibly addresses immigration.
And when it comes to the threat of losing federal funding, Kenney said, “Don’t get all full of yourself about the amount of money that the federal government gives us, it’s been dwindling for decades now.”
Easton Mayor Panto said programs such as community development block grants and tax-exempt municipal bonds make a big difference. But he said cities will have to give the administration a chance, and then fight the policies they don’t agree with.
“I’ll support President Trump and Vice President Pence even though I’m a Democrat, because once you’re elected, the real purpose for being in elected office is governance.”
When Vice President Mike Pence addressed the conference, he said the Trump administration would be a friend to cities. He added, “no politics, just results.”