A Message from Conference President Long Beach Mayor Beverly O'Neill
I look forward to seeing my colleagues during the upcoming 74th Winter Meeting of The U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, DC.
It has been a tremendous honor for me to serve as President since last June, and I very much look forward to our work together heading toward our Annual Meeting in Las Vegas.
Cities for a Strong America
The theme I selected for my presidency is Cities for a Strong America. I truly believe that most of the creative, innovative and progressive ideas on key issues that impact our nation come from mayors, and the cities they lead. We must continue to highlight what we and our citizens are doing to address all major challenges, and build communities that are ready for the future and provide opportunity for all.
Within the theme, several key topics were selected for summit meetings over the course of the year. In 2005, Summits were held on Water Infrastructure in Albuquerque, Transportation in Denver, Public Schools in Long Beach, and Homeland Security in Washington, DC.
In 2006, we will hold a Gangs Summit in Los Angeles on March 31, and we will host an Energy Summit.
All of this is being done within the context of our Metro Economies reports, which show that without question, cities and metro areas continue to drive the national economy, and thus must be supported with investment that creates jobs, builds sound infrastructure, develops a world-class workforce and ensures safe communities.
That is why we must continue to build stronger partnerships with the private sector, states, and the federal government that support our innovations and allow us to leverage investment in our communities.
Committee/Task Force Work
While we focus on these major, long-term issues, I want you to know how much I appreciate all the work you do within our organization through our grass-roots lobbying campaigns, as well as the work of our standing committees and task forces. I am so proud of our organization's work on saving the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) last year. We are already working with our bi-partisan supporters in Congress to be ready if CDBG is again targeted for elimination. I am equally proud of our campaign on the reauthorization of the nation's surface transportation law which resulted in historic funding for public transportation and roads.
We are working on so many important issues that I hesitate to provide a list, but telecommunications, housing investment, brownfields, vacant and abandoned properties, global warming, homeland security, energy efficiency, crime/gun violence, hunger and homelessness, transportation, arts, workforce training, public health, improved public education and tax reform are just a few.
As almost every Past President of the Conference told me, the year will almost certainly be greatly impacted by unexpected event. In 2005, of course, it was the devastation caused by the hurricanes. I am so proud of how every mayor responded to help their colleagues and our fellow Americans in this time of crisis. And I am so pleased that our organization rose to the challenge through efforts to help raise money, coordinate assistance, adopt cities, provide detailed information on the federal response, offer technical assistance, and advocate on behalf of our impacted cities.
I have been to the Gulf Coast and seen the devastation first hand, and know how overwhelming the challenges seem. But at the same time, I have seen the commitment from those mayors and those citizens to rebuild stronger, more vibrant communities.
Sometimes, America has a way of moving on to new issues and new problems after a major event. But this organization will not relent. We are here to advocate for our fellow mayors and their cities so that their metro economies can once again contribute to our nation's economy. I believe that our national resolve to rebuild the Gulf Coast will have major implications for our national resolve to support investment in cities across the country.
Building International Bridges
And as our Metro Economies reports show, we must continue to think bigger than just our particular jurisdictions, and recognize that we are not really competing among ourselves, but with economic forces around the world.
We have much to learn from our international counterparts, and we have much to promote. That is why I am proud of our international activities over the past six months including our historic mission to China -- with an accord signed with the China Association of Mayors, and our participation in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony on the 60th Anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Your 74th Winter Meeting
Working with our Executive Director Tom Cochran and the Conference staff, we are building a powerful and informative Winter Meeting for you in Washington. In plenary sessions, committee and task force meetings, and special workshops we will feature mayors presenting best practices on topics such as green building design, transit- oriented development, fighting childhood obesity, gun violence, internet/technology access - and so much more. And as always, we have invited top policy makers to meet with us and discuss our major priorities.
I look forward to seeing all of you in Washington and welcoming many new mayors as we work together to build our membership. Thank you again for all that you do on behalf of your cities. We have much work ahead of us, but more importantly, we have so many opportunities to build a stronger America.