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Mayors forum - Cities on the front line: Urban approaches to national issues

September 12, 2022 1:00:13
Kaltura Video

The tumult of the first years of this decade has played out in our nation’s cities and thrust the challenges and opportunities for mayors and their leadership into the spotlight. September, 2022.



0:00:26.7 Jonathan Massey: Hello, everyone, and thank you for joining us. I'm Jonathan Massey, Dean of the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning here at the University of Michigan. And I'm delighted to welcome you to Taubman College's third annual event featuring US mayors, and to share with you that this year, we are partnering with the Big Ten collaboration, democracy in the 21st Century, in order to bring together mayors from cities across the states of the Big Ten Conference and academic alliance. At Taubman College as architects and urban planners, urban designers and urban technologists, we focus a lot on the role of municipal leaders in shaping the direction of our nation on issues like climate change, housing, social equity, racial justice. Leadership at the municipal level is also key in making forward motion on infrastructure, transportation, economic opportunity and so many other dimensions of our lives. So we have hosted events with mayors of cities both large and small, near and far. All of them though have been innovating and iterating on pressing issues that have local significance but also national and international ramifications. Today's civic leaders, the folks joining us today, are all advancing long-term and big-picture agendas while also responding tactically as mayors have to to emergent crises and very specifically local dynamics. Collaborations such as this take a lot of coordination and effort.

0:02:08.7 JM: And so a special thanks to colleagues at the following institutions who've worked with us and with today's mayors to make our event possible. I'd like to thank the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois, Chicago, the Paul H O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University, the School of Planning and Public affairs at the University of Iowa, the Ford... Gerald R Ford School of Public Policy here at University of Michigan, and finally... Oh, and also the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy at University of Michigan, and finally, the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at the Ohio State University. With me here today to open this conversation that explores the agency of mayors in matters of national significance is my own mayor, Ann Arbor's mayor, Christopher Taylor. We're joined, as you can see behind us, by members of the University of Michigan community, who are here at Taubman College with us. And I'd like to say hello also to those of you at similar watch parties at other Big Ten institutions. Christopher, Mayor Taylor, welcome.

0:03:20.6 Christopher Taylor: Thank you very much. Thank you for having me. And good afternoon. I am delighted to welcome all of you, those here in the room and those watching virtually to Ann Arbor and to the University of Michigan. As Mayor of Ann Arbor, I understand the crucial role that local municipalities play in addressing some of our nation's most important issues, climate, justice, housing, urban and social equity, all within the context of having the pleasure and duty of providing and improving basic services and enhancing quality of life for every member of the community every single day. As mayor of a university city, I deeply appreciate the role that universities play in this project, the development of leaders and data and solutions to mitigate the problems we face and cultivate the communities and opportunities that we devise. As a graduate of the University of Michigan, I'm particularly delighted to welcome Big Ten group here dedicated to the education and success of our future leaders.

0:04:17.8 CT: The breadth of my studies here at the University of Michigan, and I do have four degrees from the university, which either shows a love of learning or a distressing lack of strategic thinking, it has taught me the value of collaboration, shared experiences, sharing experiences about our success and our challenge. It allows us to work creatively toward solutions. We learn best when we work together, when we work with humility and open minds to understand the world, ourselves and each other, an inquiry that is at the heart of every true university. I am delighted to welcome fellow mayors and colleagues here to Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan and very much look forward to the discussion and learning from you all. Thanks.

0:05:03.9 JM: Thank you, Mayor Taylor. So joining our panel discussion today are four mayors. Mike Duggan, the Mayor of the City of Detroit, currently serving his third term, Lori Lightfoot, Mayor of Chicago and a University of Michigan alum with a degree in political science, Aftab Pureval, Mayor of Cincinnati, who attended the Ohio State University and the University of Cincinnati College of Law, and Bruce Teague, Mayor of Iowa City and a graduate of the University of Iowa. The conversation will be moderated by Paul Helmke, Professor of Practice at Indiana university's O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Paul is also a former three-term mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana and the founding director of the Civic Leaders Center, former president of the US Conference of Mayors and a perfect moderator for our conversation today by virtue of his expertise and experience. We'll start the discussion with Paul asking our panelists to address some of the biggest topics in our cities today, and then we will bring in the audience questions from across our Big Ten collaboration institutions.

0:06:20.9 Paul Helmke: Thank you, Jonathan and thank you, mayor, all the mayors that are here today, it's always great to be with mayors and have a discussion on the issues that are facing our communities. I always indicate, and as mayors know that they're on the front lines in dealing with the problems, others have the chance to pontificate, take votes, take positions and disclaim de-claim responsibility when things go wrong or when things go good, they take responsibility regardless of how they voted it seems. Mayors are there, mayors are the ones doing the real work, and it's always great to share some time with mayors. Let's get right to it. One of the first questions I wanted to address is crime. Crime always gets a lot of attention as a local issue, and people focus on it as a local issue, but it's really impacted by a number of factors that go beyond the control of a single city or a single mayor, Supreme Court decisions limit local options to restrict guns, neighboring states with weak gun laws impact other communities, interstate operations involved with gangs and drugs and all of these things make an effective local response even harder. I know back in the 90s, I worked with Mayor Daley of Chicago, Mayor Daley, the younger of Chicago, mayor Archer of Detroit back in the 90s, along with folks like Senator Joe Biden to try to deal with these issues.

0:07:44.9 PH: It's an issue that continues to confound and frustrate our cities, Mayor Lightfoot what sort of things can mayors or cities do to reduce gun violence and make our community safer? 

0:07:56.1 Lori Lightfoot: Well, let me begin by saying thank you for inviting me into, I think, this incredible conversation and happy always to participate in anything related to the University of Michigan and my fellow Big Ten school, so I have to say, Go Blue. But mayor Helmke, I think you, frankly, in framing the question, really exemplify the challenges that we face here in Chicago. We are... Our biggest challenge of public safety is gun violence, and we are just awash in illegal guns. As of today, our police department has taken over 9000 illegal guns off the street, we will probably break the record that we set last year, which is 12000 guns, which just for context is double New York and LA combined. It's not because we have a better strategy, although obviously, we work diligently on these issues, it's because guns are pouring over the border from Indiana, from Wisconsin and other states that definitely have a different sensibility and different laws regarding the sale of guns, straw purchasing and enforcement. So what can we do given these circumstances? 

0:09:11.5 LL: Well, I think you've gotta play both the short and a long game. The short term means you've got to hold violent, dangerous people accountable, you gotta look at and use your data to identify the places where you're seeing the significant challenges, you gotta make sure the entire public safety ecosystem, that means not just the police and law enforcement, but the prosecutors and the court, you have to be aligned in a set of vision about what the challenges are and how each of you are gonna step up and meet those challenges. Now, I will tell you, easier said than done. Chicago is not like New York City where we control the budget for the prosecutors, the courts, the jails, we... Each of these entities in Chicago and Cook County are run by independent organizations, so we've gotta use our power of persuasion to get alignment, sometimes we have it, sometimes we don't. What we really focus on, as I said, holding violent, dangerous people accountable, we wanna make sure that we provide our residents with transparency around what we're doing, why we're doing it, and how we're doing it, which is critically important, because as you also know, and certainly my fellow mayors I would imagine would agree that perception is just as important and palpable as a reality.

0:10:33.3 LL: If people don't fundamentally feel safe, then you're losing the battle, and it's difficult to do in the current media climate that we're in right now, where to borrow the old phrase, if it bleeds it leads with a 24-hour news cycle, and frankly, anybody who has a keyboard that thinks you're a journalists now, it's difficult, I think for mayors to get ahead of the curve. So making sure that we're telling our own story about what we're doing, why we're doing it and being very transparent about it. I think it's also critically important. And never forget, in all of this, that there are victims that are out there, there are witnesses and survivors that their stories have to be told, their lives and their experiences also have to be uplifted.

0:11:20.5 LL: On a longer term, and I think you've gotta do both and end you've gotta look at the root causes of the violence. And in a city like Chicago, I'm convinced that a big part of our challenges really revolves around poverty. We've seen too many neighborhoods where violence is a persistent daily problem for residents that have been dis-invested in for really a generation or longer. So making sure that we are investing and we're building relationships with the community that is of course deeply skeptical of our approach because they've heard it all before, they've seen it all before, but what they don't have is confidence that government is really going to be their a partner, and let me just give you a short example of what we've done.

0:12:09.6 LL: We borrowed pages from our COVID response and we set up something called the Community Safety Coordination Center, and simply put, we literally brought everybody in city government who touches any aspect of community safety physically into the same room, so we've got obviously our police department is there, but we also have public health, we have our department of family support services, we've got our infrastructure department, our libraries, our parks, our schools and everything in between, and we view the work that we do on a day-to-day basis through the lens of public safety, and then we invited our community partners in. We focused on 15 neighborhoods in our city that were driving over 50% of our violence. And as a consequence of this deep engagement, literally on a block-by-block basis, asking our residents, what do you need to be safe? We've seen remarkable progress.

0:13:08.9 LL: And again, I'm not... No one is doing a victory lap, but I will share that overall this year, after the historic highs in 2021, we are down 15% in homicides, almost 20% in shootings and in those 15 neighborhoods where we really focused on flooding the area with a whole of government approach and resources working in a collab with the community partners, we're seeing 20, 30 and 40% reductions in both homicides and shootings. So I think we're on to something here, but we've gotta keep focused on doing a long-term root cause analysis, but also making sure in the interim, we continue to do everything that we possibly can to make our residents feel safe because they are safe.

0:13:54.3 PH: Great answer. Any of the other mayors wanna chime in real quickly on crime or guns, anything different that you're doing or that you'd like to throw out there before we move on? 

0:14:05.6 Aftab Pureval: Paul, I'll just weigh in very quickly I wanted to really lift up what Mayor Lightfoot said about the causes of gun violence that we're seeing across the country. Here in Cincinnati we just had a mass shooting just two weeks ago, it was our fourth mass shooting of the year, and of course, what keeps me up at night is a lone gunman with an AR-15 walking into a public space and murdering countless folks in seconds, but what I'm equally concerned about is the casual gun violence that goes on on our streets. And this mass shooting in Cincinnati is emblematic of that, the two issues that we're focused on, that we're facing is number one, as the Mayor said, we are awash in guns, there are guns everywhere in our community. I just did a round table with some of our teenagers and they said they could make a one phone call in their phone and get a gun within an hour, that is happening all across the country, and the second is the inability to resolve differences peacefully.

0:15:05.1 AP: What used to end in a fist fight now ends in a gun fight, and this mass shooting in Cincinnati was a result of two groups of young people getting into an argument and then firing indiscriminately into a crowd with handguns. And what we've seen, unfortunately, at the local level, at least in Ohio, is instead of our state legislatures providing legislation to prevent that or to get to that, they have armed teachers in our schools, passed stand your ground, and now have gotten rid of licensing for concealed carry which is putting more guns on our streets. So unfortunately, there is a policy disagreement at the levels of government and mayors, as was said in the opening, we don't have the luxury of spinning and obfuscating, we are on the ground trying to deal with this, and oftentimes it feels like we've got two hands tied behind our back.

0:15:56.2 PH: Great, thank you. Unless the other mayors wanna jump in. Let's move to another question. We've got limited time. For much of our history, the Midwest has been the industrial heart, as well as the agricultural bread basket of the country. We're still dealing with the consequences of changes in the manufacturing sector, and we've got past environmental problems from our role as a manufacturing center, but now we've got issues with climate change that are opening up the possibility that our part of the country might have a rebirth as a climate refuge. We've got more access to fresh water, we've got more moderating temperatures perhaps, we've got some closer supply lines and states in the south and the southwest and the west. Do you think there's a way to take advantage of this to make the cities in the midwest more attractive to our young people. And happy to hear from any of you, but Mayor Duggan, Detroit, you're right next to Canada, you've got these challenges. Is there a way that we can market ourselves better and use climate as something in our favor? 

0:17:06.7 Mike Duggan: Yeah, I would never suggest that people in other parts of the country come here because of climate change, but I don't accept the notion of the Midwest is immune. Last year, we had 30,000 houses in the city, have their basements flooded, because we had something that was supposed to be a once in 500 year rainstorm, it's the second time it has happened in six years. We're spending a lot of time right now rebuilding our storm water system. We've got a neighborhood called Jefferson Chalmers in the east side of Detroit, that's actually below the water level on the Detroit River, and when the Great Lakes water, Great Lakes levels rise the entire neighbourhood would be under water were it not for a rose of sandbags. And of course, our ski resorts up north have had shortened, a shortened season, so we may not have some of the terrible wild fires or hurricanes other parts of America have experienced, but we are spending every bit as much time trying to make sure that our folks are safe long term from the effects of climate change.

0:18:22.2 PH: So what can we do to keep young people here, what do we sell for ourselves in the Midwest? 

0:18:31.4 MD: We're not having a lot of trouble getting young people to be here, there is more construction going on in Detroit than there's been in 50 years. So in our case, I think it's the mobility industry that's attracting them and of course, mayors of every major city can tell you the younger generation has moved into the cities and we're about to get a University of Michigan graduate school built in the city of Detroit that will focus on mobility, finance and entrepreneurs that Stephen Ross is leading, we're very excited about. So we're feeling pretty good about the young folks moving to the city.

0:19:07.8 PH: Okay, great. For the other mayors, how is climate affecting things in your cities? Is it just a negative, are there some positives there? Are there other things that we should be looking at when we talk about getting young people to stay in our cities and including of course our great universities in the Big Ten and elsewhere. Any thoughts? 

0:19:30.3 Bruce Teague: Yeah, there's a...

0:19:31.3 LL: Go ahead, mayor.

0:19:33.6 BT: This is Mayor Teague in Iowa City, and this is actually a great question when you're talking about climate change and how can we ensure that we have the infrastructure to entice people to come to our city and also remain. One of the things that I will say is that climate action is never complete, no matter what we do, it's an ongoing process. We have to be intentional with our... In how we focus and dedicate some time to really core services. And the biggest way that we can really impact climate change is ensuring that we educate and equip those that are residents in our community.

0:20:12.3 BT: And so I think that's gonna be very important when we're talking about houses and how we can better insulate and make sure that they are able to financially afford some climate action activities within the homes. The other thing is creating inviting, fun and exciting public spaces like parks and trails to make sure that people want to come to our city, and just making sure that we have long-term goals that really do entice people to come. And because the young people are thinking about this, most certainly. So making sure that there's bike trails and any other type of mobility that is easily accessible to people, and making sure that it's a part of the city planning efforts to make sure that we have these mobility, all of the mobility aspects in place.

0:21:08.5 LL: If I can, I'm gonna jump in on the point of the question regarding how to keep young people in your city. And just for context, in the city of Chicago, on a yearly basis, there are 200,000 undergrad and graduate students in our city across all of our different oncologist and universities. And historically, our city government has had little to no contact with these young people. So we started last year, really building that relationship, and the bottom line for us is making sure that young people, particularly those in the technology field, understand that they don't have to go to the coast to have a great fulfilling career. Putting our innovative businesses in our economy and strengths of it in front of them and reminding them that... And all of us are Midwestern mayors, that we are much more affordable than any place that you're ever gonna find on the coast.

0:22:10.4 LL: You can own a home, you can have a great fulfilling career, and you don't have to go to New York or California to be able to do that. I think there's a lot more that we have to do, and I will say also increasingly, the value statement is a big point, I think for young people and for employers. We stand through Justice For All, period full stop. And I believe that increasingly, that is gonna be a difference maker in how decisions are made by businesses, particularly with a young workforce about where they're gonna be on making specific investments, for example, we send a letter to high school seniors here in our city, and encouraging them when they think about the college choices to think about places that share their values. So we are really leaning into the values proposition, because we think that it is increasingly becoming a business statement and an advantage for a city like Chicago, particularly when we see the number of undergrads and graduate students that pass through our city on a yearly basis.

0:23:24.1 AP: Paul, if I could round out the horn here, 'cause this is... Look, climate change sustainability is critical in all of our communities. But in Cincinnati, it is the North Star for our economic development. I'm of the opinion that there will be an inward migration maybe in the next 50 or 100 years, but it's going to happen because of climate change and because of the rising cost of living on the coast. And that's not just rhetoric. When you look at the $100 billion investment that Intel just made just two hours north of Cincinnati, they chose that location because of number one, it's access to fresh water with both the Great Lakes to our North and the Ohio River to our South, and because of the climate resiliency of the middle of the country. Look, in order to catalyze on that, and in order, frankly, to take advantage of remote work... By that, I mean, if you can live and work anywhere, I want you to choose Cincinnati. We are on the national scale, incredibly affordable, we are dense, we're diverse, we lean into public transportation, we're very, very walkable. As Mayor Lightfoot said, we have all of the assets the larger cities do, you can achieve whatever you want at a fraction of the cost and on the cutting edge of sustainability, so if that's not a pitch for the Midwest, I don't know what is.

0:24:44.7 PH: Great job, great job, great job. Mayor Duggan's comments about the 500-year rain or flood, it reminded me of my... One year, I think I was running for re-election and we had a combined sewer overflow issue that flooded up, put sewage in a bunch of people's basements. And I said, this is 100-year or two, 500-year flood, it won't happen again, it happened the next weekend. And obviously re-election year, then the media is all interested, I go out, you go to these basements with smelly sewage in it and... But I got people, I decided most people don't see our sewers and they don't realize the problems with the infrastructure there. They see when the roads are deteriorating, the bridges, but they don't see the sewers, so I got the people behind, let's fix the sewers. And they actually said they would picket my house if I didn't push for a sewer rate hike big enough to get this fixed. And we're still working on it now, but anyways, this leads into my next question.

0:25:44.4 PH: And this is infrastructure. Our bridges, our roads, our sewers, our water supply systems, airports, other physical infrastructure in our older cities, our surrounding communities are aging, they are sometimes failing. But these are usually problems that also transcend many of the governmental boundary lines that we have to deal with. They go across state lines, across city lines, across county lines. How can we best address these infrastructure needs and the regional structural challenges that face our cities today? 

0:26:12.8 PH: And Mayor Pureval, you're right there with Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana all coming together. How do you deal with these issues? And any thoughts on how we can best deal with these going forward? 

0:26:23.4 AP: Paul, let me first say I did go to Ohio State. I'm not going to make any dumb jokes about Ohio State, Michigan. I am gonna say, though, Mayor Taylor, they must pay you a lot more than they pay the mayor of Cincinnati, 'cause you are either up to your eyeballs in debt with four degrees or you've hit the jackpot there. But anyway, that's absolutely right, Paul. These challenges that many of our cities face really transcends specific jurisdiction and isolated interests almost by definition. And you can look no further evidence of that than a very local project here in Cincinnati, and that is the Brent Spence Bridge, which in many ways has been a poster child for the importance of the federal infrastructure funding that we've seen.

0:27:08.2 AP: A failing bridge doesn't know where the city limits are, or for that matter, where the state limits are, and it doesn't know the political party or the party of its local elected officials. It's simply failing and residents on both sides of the river have felt the effects of closure, of congestion and a national negative impact, frankly, on supply chain issues due to this bridge acting as a bottleneck between two states, Ohio and Kentucky.

0:27:39.3 AP: And the intersection of two interstates, I75 and I71. And the reason we're on tracks to fix this is because the state governments of both Ohio and Kentucky, governed by two leaders of different political parties, and regional leaders impacted by the bridge, we all came together to get this done.

0:28:00.6 AP: I was there with governors Andy Beshear and Mike DeWine in May as they signed a joint application between the two states for $2 billion in federal infrastructure support. But when we're a city like ours, facing limited resources and a problem of this scale, that's really the only way we can get transformational projects off the ground.

0:28:23.1 AP: Because in order to get that federal funding, we have to be able to prove that we have the partnerships, the plan, and the local match funding to accomplish the project. And that's true for big projects like the Brent Spence Bridge, but it's also true for smaller projects like the Western Hills Viaduct.

0:28:39.8 AP: The west side of our city has historically been connected to downtown through one primary artery, and that is the viaduct, a nearly 100-year-old bridge that is structurally and functionally obsolete. It's literally raining concrete.

0:28:53.8 AP: Traffic has had to be reduced, maintenance has become increasingly expensive, and fixing it is critical for those residents who depend on the Viaduct to access the places where they work or where they live and play. So we were thrilled to just be approved just last week for a grant of $127 million in infrastructure dollars for that project. But securing that required us to come together with the county, and the city and county don't always get along, and demonstrate our ability to commit the necessary local match dollars.

0:29:29.5 AP: We came together to get a game changing transit levy passed in 2020, which provided a joint regional transit board, which we referred to as SORTA. And thanks to that effort and our partnerships, we were able to get over 150 million in local match dollars to pair with federal funding.

0:29:47.2 AP: In order to be as competitive as possible for this once in a generation amount of dollars, our strategy has been collaboration, not just at the city and the county, but also across state lines. And so far, it's been really successful.

0:30:01.8 PH: Great. I'm gonna brag a little bit about a former Indiana mayor. Pete Buttigieg is the secretary, cabinet secretary that's been dealing with the infrastructure issues, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and working with Moon or with Mitch Landrieu, former mayor of New Orleans too, on these infrastructure issues. So its mayors do know that these are direct issues. How about the rest of you? How are you dealing with infrastructure challenges, particularly the regional issues that go into this? 

0:30:30.7 MD: Well, we're very happy that the former Indiana resident Pete Buttigieg is one of the newest residents in the state of Michigan. And we have a really interesting situation a lot of cities face. But for a half a century, the heart of the Black community in the city of Detroit was Paradise Valley, Hastings Street. And in the 1950s, in a decision that without any doubt was driven by racial considerations, that entire district was wiped out and a freeway stretch called I375 was put in. The people, the thousands of people who were displaced in the late '50s, there was really no doubt led to the violence in 1967 and Detroit's still feeling the repercussions today. But I'm pretty confident with the help of the secretary of transportation and our Governor Gretchen Whitmer, we are going to do something to reknit this city.

0:31:30.7 MD: There was a huge ditch in the city of Detroit that divides it where I375 is. And we are really focused now on pulling that freeway out, raising it back up to a surface street, which will create a mile of high value development in the heart of downtown Detroit, to be one of the most attractive development strips anywhere in America. Any mayor would love to have that right through the heart of their downtown, and the governor and I are committed to make sure that the people who have a chance to invest and rebuild that, are done in a way that is reflective of those folks who were historically deprived of those economic opportunities. We are gonna rebuild Hastings Street in a way that's going to provide opportunity for those who have been excluded, and that kind of infrastructure project is really exciting. And I think we'll have some news on that very shortly.

0:32:32.9 PH: Sounds great, Mayor Lightfoot.

0:32:37.1 LL: I'm happy to jump in. I really think that Mayor Pureval really said exactly the right things. From the beginning of my administration, we have really focused on regionalism and particularly around infrastructure, transportation, water, which is a big issue for us in this region.

0:33:00.1 LL: You build those relationships when you don't need them, so that when you do need them, you can draw on them. We're facing this is an infrastructure issue, but we're facing challenges right now because a certain governor from Texas has decided to put migrants on buses and ship them to cities like Chicago, New York and Washington DC.

0:33:24.8 LL: I could say a whole lot about that, but I won't in this context. But we have to have regional partnership to be able to address these issues. Yes, we're in a very large city, but we've got challenges of our own with affordable housing shortages, making sure that our homeless population has housing, and then we have now, in the last two plus weeks, 400 new residents that are coming to Chicago that we hadn't anticipated and that have a whole plethora of needs.

0:33:56.6 LL: So making sure that we are working together as Chicago land and not just Chicago, is critically important. But I think to Mayor Duggan's point, you've got to face the challenges and long standing failures to address infrastructure needs.

0:34:16.6 LL: Crumbling bridges, crumbling roads. That is the most visible sign for our residents of whether or not the governance is function well or not. So before the federal infrastructure bill was a glimmer in President Biden's eye, we floated our own billion dollar bond to fund a multiyear capital plan, which in the city, we are always, obviously always doing infrastructure work, but it wasn't sustainable.

0:34:45.2 LL: And many of the projects, because of the lack of investment, are multiyear things that need to get done, whether it's replacing our water and sewer lines, whether it's tackling once and for all our challenges around lead service lines.

0:35:02.4 LL: We have more lead service lines in our residents than any other city in the country because lead service lines were mandatory up until 1986. So a lot of these long delayed infrastructure needs, we haven't sat back and waited.

0:35:18.2 LL: We have taken our own destiny in our own hands and are working on these issues again, hand in glove with the residents of our city, other stakeholders, and our regional partners as well.

0:35:29.7 PH: Great, let's move on to our next major question. And this will be for Mayor Teague, primarily for Mayor Teague to start with. Public hostility toward local and state governmental organizations, questions about the legitimacy of our elections, concerns and challenges with the rule of law, these all directly impact the functioning democracies in our communities today.

0:35:55.8 PH: The University of Michigan's Center for Local, State and Urban Policy, one of our sponsors, one of our hosts today just released findings from a survey of Michigan's local government leaders that found over half, 53% said their own government personnel had faced harassment or abuse from members of the public in the last few years. We've probably all seen the videos, read stories about residents being openly hostile out to our local officials at city council meetings, school board meetings, public health commission meetings, and so on.

0:36:26.5 PH: I'm curious, particularly with Iowa being in the front lines with our presidential caucuses, in the front lines sometimes with new ways of doing things. I'm wondering, Mayor Teague, is this a problem in your jurisdiction? Are you concerned about about this information, election deniers, threats to election workers and the like? And is there anything that can be done to help correct this situation across the country? Mayor Teague.

0:36:50.6 BT: Yes. Well, we've certainly seen a change in behaviors in recent years. For a long time, we saw some of this play out at a federal level. Then it trickled down to some of the state government, and now we're seeing it in city council as well as our county and school boards on a routine basis.

0:37:09.0 BT: Personal attacks, profane language, and harassing or threatening behaviors are becoming more common. I think we all witness the United States capital, what happened there. One of the biggest concerns that I do have is what will this mean for a future pool of elected officials. Many people that I talk to, they actually want no parts of an elected role because of what they've observed as a lack of civil discord and personal attacks that elected officials have faced. And so I do believe that we need to try to reverse this trend because we really do need people to raise their hand up and say, hey, I wanna be a part of speaking on behalf of constituents in this community and represent and we have a lot of great candidates that just won't raise their hand right now.

0:38:02.9 BT: And when we're talking about solutions, I think there are a few solutions, first, we have to ensure that elected officials model the behavior that we want people to see as we've seen onto... Again, so many levels of not proper modeling of how do you engage with elected officials saying what you want without actually just having these bad interactions where you're screaming and hollering and talking about the person, giving... Defining the individual.

0:38:37.0 BT: I am someone that really do believe that people should come and voice their concerns, they're passionate about some of these topics, you... They'll get emotional, they'll get angry, I think that is all appropriate, but when you start to really lash out and define people, I think that's where it's... A person needs to step back and just reconsider how can they get their message across. Government is always the strongest when it's closest to the people. Unfortunately, our lives are increasingly online anymore, which provides a different kind of distance at our local level. We were online for a long time during the thick of the pandemic, and now we're back in person, and I think many of the communities are now experienced in returning back in person to have their meetings. The other thing that I will say is that we have to recognize how people consume information. It's drastically changed in the last decade, we have to reshape how our communications is being shared, and we have to do something to ensure that it is timely, accurate and fact-based.

0:39:47.5 BT: We rely a lot on organizations in our community. And oftentimes organizations, they have their own, I would say interest that is happening within the city government. And I honestly just think that they have a great opportunity to impact those that have an issue to be brought forth before council, but I really do have to always encourage them to make sure that it is accurate and fact-based. Sometimes I have this flashy name that stir up people and get them to come to City Hall, and they don't have all the information. And so I always encourage people to make sure that they're doing a fact-based information to those that they're really representing when they are in the organization. Other than that, I know that across the nation, again, we're seeing just this civil discourse, and I really do believe that it is those personal relationships, taking time to talk to people and making sure that you hear them out as an elected official, but also making sure that the information that we're sharing is giving that a full scope so that people can have a greater understanding of the topic at hand.

0:41:11.3 PH: Great. And I know... I wanna make sure we have time for this student questions, but just other mayors, I think it's such an important issue, the future of democracy and the elections in our country, has this been an issue in your cities at all, or is this playing out more at a Statewide or national level? 

0:41:30.8 MD: Well, as far as... Personally, certainly, I've had no issues. I broke tradition, I drive myself as I have for the last nine years. I pump my own gas, I go to the grocery store by myself in Detroit, and certainly people wanna talk to me about the dead tree or the pot hole after they get their picture taken, but that's as bad as a harassment has gotten. But on the voting side, Detroit was at ground zero. Election Night in 2020, when Donald Trump sent people from outside the city down to the counting center. In 2016, Trump won Michigan by 10.000 votes. In 2020, he lost it by 150,000 votes. So President Biden did 160,000 votes better, 2,000 votes better out of Detroit, 158,000 votes better out of the surrounding suburbs. The gross points, the open counties where the suburban women shifted. But Donald Trump didn't stand up on election night and said, charge the clerk's offices and Gross Point where the votes are going against me.

0:42:39.0 MD: It was a very cynical attempt to stoke racial prejudice saying, you can't trust the vote count in Detroit. And we were very proud here after three independent audits and four lawsuits that the City of Detroit ballot counting was found to be very close to perfect, and thrown out. So I think there's a lot of pride here. But when you wanna talk State-wide, we have a Republican candidate for Attorney General who was the leader of the election deniers and a Republican candidate for Secretary of State who was basically the number two election denier, but I'm pretty confident the people of the State of Michigan will let them know in November what they think about the behavior of the election deniers.

[overlapping conversation]

0:43:26.3 LL: Well, I will say that I am very worried about the state of our democracy, and I frankly think the way winds of toxicity were blowing long before Donald Trump came down the escalator in 2015. But certainly, he's accelerated it. And there's a lot I think that all of us could say about this question, but I'll focus on two elements that I think are really and most propagating the toxicity that we're seeing in the dialogue of people who make money propagating lies and hate. It doesn't make any sense to me. I've been watching with great interest, the Sandy Hook parents who have taken the InfoWars guy to court. And this guy continues to make money, he gets up in court and says one thing, and then he goes on his show that evening and propagates more lies and he's got sponsors, he's got folks that are paying money to be a part of his whole operation, which is spreading lies and hate. So we've gotta go after the economic incentive for people to spread lies and hate that I think are disintegrating pillars of our democracy. The other piece of that, and it's really the, I think the other side of the same coin is the social media platforms.

0:44:47.4 LL: We've got to hold them accountable, there's got to be federal regulation. Not only do they know that hate and lies are being propagated on their platforms, also violence is being propagated on their platforms. The fact that we can at any given time, go on a social media platform and buy a bunch of illegal firearms, the fact that gang members are more openly talking on social media platform about the violence that they're planning against particular targeted individuals, and we hear, "Oh, well, free speech or algorithms," it is nonsense. So to me, there's a lot that needs to be done. We've gotta teach your kids about de-escalation, we gotta teach our kids that demonizing somebody who has a disagreement with you on a policy issue, we can't tolerate or stand that if we're gonna have a healthy democracy, but we've also gotta go after the people who are allowing this hate and lies to be spread like wildfire and it's the bloggers, it is the people on the podcast and absolutely the social media comments.

0:45:57.4 PH: Yeah. Well said. Let's... I wanted to make sure we have time for our student questions, and we've saved about 15 minutes here for that. We're gonna have to start out with a video question from our host at the University of Michigan. I think that should be coming up first. And we'll have lightning round responses, we'll just call on all the mayors to make a quick response to the questions that come from the students.

[video playback]

0:46:23.4 Danielle Wallack: My name is Danielle Wallack. I'm a third year dual Master of Public Policy and Master of Urban and Regional Planning student from the University of Michigan. This question is for all of you. Despite me being at an all-time high, federal funding to support affordable housing has significantly declined from what it used to be. Within the context of a particularly volatile national political climate, how have your cities changed or how are you changing your approach to funding and creating more affordable housing in your cities? Yes.

0:46:52.4 PH: Thank You, Danielle. Housing issues.

0:46:55.8 AP: I'll jump in very quickly. So we are taking a comprehensive approach to housing. We've put $57 million into our trust fund to provide gap financing to get more affordable units onto the market more quickly with a dedicated stream of revenue of $5 million every year. We've taken a... We've reviewed all of our tax abatements for real estate development deals to make sure that they are equitable. We'll be rolling out those conclusions later this year. And finally, probably most importantly and hardest of all, we're doing a fundamental review of our land use policy, specifically zoning. 70% of Cincinnati prohibits multi-family units. By design, our poverty is concentrated and our city is segregated, performing that and doing away with parking minimums and multi-family unit prohibitions will allow us to not just grow but also be more integrated and equitable. How was that for lightning? Was that good? 

0:47:50.7 PH: Real good. Other mayors? 

0:47:53.8 LL: I'll jump in. We announced last December a billion-dollar plan to build more affordable units. When I came into the office, we were about 120,000 affordable units down and we've been steadily chipping away at it. But what I'm most proud about, the billion-dollar investment, it's not just the size of it, which is obviously important, but for Chicago, probably still one of the most segregated cities in a country, we're gonna be building affordable units all over our city and not just in poor Black and Brown neighborhoods. So it's a big deal for us, a big step towards ending segregation once and for all in our city.

0:48:32.4 PH: Great.

0:48:34.0 MD: And as all the mayors know, relations between mayors and city councils can often be strained. The one area where the city council and I have worked together completely has been this, we've made a decision, you're going to get any help at all in building housing in this city, 20% of your units are gonna have to be set aside for affordable housing. We've done that the last eight years and we've just taken the position that every section of this city is gonna be available to people of all incomes, that's what we think a city is. We've preserved 10,000 units that had their federal tax credits expiring, we built another 2,000 in the last month through city council's support, moved another $200 million into it. And so far, we've avoided the kinds of experiences a lot of communities have had with 10 cities and the like. But it is a commitment that every part of this city is going to have affordable housing, and it's something... When you're unified, it's actually pretty easy to get the developers to go along with it.

0:49:40.4 PH: Mayor Teague? 

0:49:41.8 BT: Yeah. So in our city, our council is going through a strategic planning process right now. What we've done in the past is in our Riverfront Crossings area, we required all new projects to have 10% affordable housing in it. Now, one of the things about that is that they can do a fee in lieu of. And now that we're going through this new process where we're... I would agree zoning is a major part of it that we have to look at. We're looking at form-base codes throughout our community, and as we continue to do that, we'll ensure that we have some affordable housing, it is right now the number one thing that this council wants to do is affordable housing. And so as we go through our finalizations of our strategic planning process, I do anticipate that we're gonna certainly increase our partnerships with our affordable housing partners and with our community members here alike.

0:50:40.4 PH: Great. The next question is a written question that was submitted from a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago. And I think Mayor Lightfoot tied into some of this earlier answer, but I'd like all of you just for a quick response. Basically, how can mayors, elected officials and public servants alike create a criminal justice system that is equitable while public opinion is so negative? 

0:51:09.3 AP: I'll jump in, so that's a very big question and in a lightning round that's difficult. So I'll just double-click on one issue, and that is our justice system, at least in Ohio and in many local communities, is a black box. We don't understand, frankly, because we don't have the data, who is getting sentenced for what and why? And so one of the things that I've been really working on in my career, I was, first of all, the clerk of courts running the courthouse, and now as mayor, is partnering with our local judges, our prosecutor's office, and our law enforcement to have one data portal so that we can have a better sense from arrest all the way through appeals, what is actually going on in our justice system. So then we can fashion reforms that are surgical rather than kind of reaching around in the dark.

0:52:00.0 PH: Yeah. Anybody else wanna jump in? 

0:52:02.8 LL: Yeah. Look, a really tough question. And what I would say is, you've gotta make sure, as I said before, that all parts of the criminal justice ecosystem are aligned on some core principles. And for me, it's about holding violent, dangerous people accountable, not turning jails in to debtors' prisons where poor people can't get out because they can't afford a $1,000 or less bail in some instances. But also making sure that we never, never forget victims and witnesses that are out there.

0:52:36.0 LL: Obviously, criminal justice reform really focuses, in the most instance, around the defendants, and of course, they deserve their day in court. They need to make sure that the constitutional protections that they are entitled to become real and meaningful. But if we forget the victims and the witnesses, we forget the hardship that they have faced, particularly when they've been the victims of a violent crime, we are gonna lose the public. And that unfortunately is what I fear is happening too much across the country, that we've forgotten the people who need us to stand up in this moment and protect them and keep them safe.

0:53:14.1 PH: So Mayor...

0:53:14.1 BT: I'll probably go a different angle right there. I would just say mental health is really important when we're looking at this because that's something that we're hearing all the time. Mental health. And I think we're going at this with a punitive lens often, and I think we just have to also engage with our professionals that really do understand rehabilitation when people are in the system. And so I would actually echo everything that has been said before, but I just wanna bring in the element of mental health.

0:53:50.4 MD: So Mayor Lightfoot and I are in complete agreement, which isn't a total surprise. A few decades ago, I was a student at the University of Michigan who lived on the seventh floor of South Quad, and right down the hallway from me was a young woman named Lori Lightfoot. [chuckle] Both of us went on to be prosecutors before we became mayor and there is no question the people in our communities are entitled to public safety and we can't apologize for that. We need to do it well, but there are times officers are going to make mistakes making split-second decisions, and there's times when the mistakes are more deep-seated, and we respond to it in three ways: Transparency, transparency, transparency.

0:54:37.6 MD: We became the first city in the country to have every officer fully outfitted with both body cams and dash cams that were integrated, and we come out quickly after every case. And there's been times our officers have done things wrong and there's been immediate consequences. There have been a lot of times where our officers were exonerated, but the public in this town knows, right or wrong, we're gonna show what happened, we're gonna own up to it, we're gonna deal with it forthright.

0:55:10.2 PH: The... Actually, there was another question that you kind of touched on already about reallocating funds for community programs from the police department, and I think you've all touched on that a little bit. Let me move to another question, this is from a...

0:55:21.7 LL: Can I just jump in on that for a second? 

0:55:25.5 PH: Yeah. Jump in, yeah.

0:55:26.5 LL: In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, there was a huge, I think, national outcry around de-funding. I'm not one who supports de-funding in part because of this, most police departments, 95% of their budget is personnel. Because of the vagaries of union contracts, when you talk about de-funding, you're talking about getting rid of the most junior officers who are the best trained and the most diverse and come to the job with a different set of sensibilities than more veteran officers that are routinely on the job, 20, 25, 30 years. And so I think it's both and we've gotta support our police departments. And when I hear people talk about de-funding, what I hear is, "We want other forms of policing and response and investment in communities," which I agree with. But the path through to get there, in my view, is not to de-fund our police departments.

0:56:23.6 PH: Okay. Let's go, and we're about out of time, so I think we got time for one more question. This is from a student at University of Iowa, "Why has trust in the government plummeted, and what impact has this had on politics in the recent years?"

0:56:37.3 MD: When I was an undergrad and George McGovern was running for President after Nixon, we all said, "What happened to trust in the government?" So it's been a long-standing issue but I think some of the stuff we've seen, and certainly the impact of social media to spread things that aren't true, makes it that much more challenging for all of us. And I don't know what we can do except stand up and tell the truth and I do think over time that'll work.

0:57:05.2 AP: Yeah. Mayor Teague mentioned earlier that he was worried about good people not jumping into public service, and that is the lifeblood of democracy. And there's no doubt that social media and the perpetration of lies as Mayor Lightfoot raised up in one of her earlier points, has contributed to that. But I wanna add to the conversation, two factors that I think are utterly polluting our politics, and that is the surgical gerrymandering that we've experienced here in Ohio and other states have experienced, and of course, Democrats do this too, but overwhelmingly, it's Republican states that have gerrymandered their legislatures, which have resulted in some completely out of the mainstream pieces of legislation, and number two, money. Money just flowing in all directions into these races, oftentimes from not the city or district or state, swaying public opinion. And until we get meaningful reforms on both of those fronts, our democracy will continue to stumble along.

0:58:12.0 LL: I would say ditto and totally endorse. You're 100% right, Mayor Pureval.

0:58:19.7 BT: So National government does matter to people, but I think local is where people can reach out and touch individuals, and I think that is something that when people in the community are wanting something and the government don't provide it for them. So every day people ride on streets, every day there's potholes, and then neighbors who have some complaints, whether that is one against a neighbor, where there's a noise ordinance that that's not being followed or something like that, or even their own lawn. So I think a lot of this is personal for individuals when we're talking about this distrust, and I think as a government, we have to do about a job of actually explaining policies and codes and also just being quiet sometime and hearing people out. Oftentimes, we think we need to have an answer, but what we really need to do is just listen.

0:59:22.7 PH: Well, I used to tell people all the time that when I thought about government and talked about government, I really didn't buy into the Ronald Reagan government is the problem approach, but I didn't always buy into the Lynda Johnson government is the answer approach. I've always said, "Government is us, it's what we make of it." And I think the lesson from these mayors, from this discussion, is that all of us need to get more involved, we need more people getting involved, more people voting, more people showing up, and more people learning about what's really happening. And I think if we do that, I think then our democracy can be in good shape, and if we don't do that, then we do have concerns going forward. I wanna thank all of the mayors for being part of the program today, and I wanna thank all the folks that put this together, and for the audience that tuned into us. So thank you all, really enjoyed it.

1:00:06.8 AP: Thank you.