The 2023 Mayors Forum will focus on topics particular to Big Ten college cities including development of infrastructure that promotes social cohesion, challenges and opportunities of creating an infrastructure for urban technology, and campus and community participation in local elections. November, 2023.
0:00:23.5 Jonathan Massey: Hello, everyone, and thanks for joining us tonight. I'm Jonathan Massey. I'm Dean at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning here at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and I'm thrilled to be able to welcome you to the fourth annual Mayors Forum. This is an event that we started here at Taubman College in 2020, and it has taken root and grown over the last couple of years. It's become a partnership with other units here at University of Michigan and with schools and colleges, with universities across the Big Ten Academic Alliance, and we are thrilled to be growing and evolving the conversation. We have had mayors from US cities, small and large, including Iowa City and Cincinnati and, of course, Detroit, and also Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Oakland, California, Stockton, a few other places. And this year, we bring you this event in partnership here at the University of Michigan with the Ford School of Public Policy and its center for its close-up, the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy, and also with our partners in the Big Ten collaboration around democracy in the 21st century.
0:01:44.1 JM: And we are thrilled to be here at a watch party at University of Michigan here at Taubman College, but we know that we're also joined by viewers all throughout the Big Ten academic alliance with watch events at several universities happening simultaneously. So hello to all of you who are watching at other schools. We're thrilled to be joining you in this. This kind of collaboration and conversation takes a lot of coordination, so we're very thankful to our partners in this alliance and especially to the staff here at University of Michigan who've helped organize and produce this event. I'd like to thank especially Katherine Carver and Bonnie Rogers and Sheila May, and I'd also like to thank Jim Throgmorton, and Rob Speed for helping to plan and conceptualize and organize this. And so with me here today, I'm going to hand things off to my colleague Rob Goodspeed, who's a professor in urban and regional planning and is the chair of our program. So Rob, take it away.
0:02:53.4 JM: Great. Thanks, Jonathan. So as you know, these three cities led by the three mayors we'll hear from in a minute are home to three great Big Ten universities. And I know from personal experience as graduating from two of the three and studying Madison as urban planning case study, that they're not just college towns, they're important, innovative urban centers that are each evolving in exciting ways. I'm really looking forward to the discussion tonight. And so the three mayors are Fazlul Kabir, mayor of City of College Park, Maryland, Satya Rhodes-Conway, the mayor of Madison, Wisconsin, and Christopher Taylor, the mayor of our city here in Ann Arbor. And you've heard the moderator for today's conversation is Jim Throgmorton, professor emeritus for Iowa School of Planning and Public Affairs and a former mayor himself of Iowa City and also author of this book, Co-Crafting the Just City Tales from the Field by a planning scholar-turned mayor. And so we couldn't have a better moderator for tonight's discussion. I look forward to watching and listening with all of you. Thanks so much.
0:04:06.0 Jim Throgmorton: I guess that turns things over to me. So it's a great opportunity to be here with you today and especially to be in the company of such good mayors from excellent cities around the country, but especially in the Big Ten states. Yeah, so we have several topics of interest that we will be pursuing in one way or another. Infrastructure that promotes social cohesion, challenges and opportunities of urban technology, and campus and community participation in local elections. The themes emerged from student responses as they registered for this event, but then were modified into the questions that I will articulate through the interaction of Rob Goodspeed and myself primarily. So while each question will be directed at a specific mayor, we hope that the other mayors will share their thoughts and perspectives after the initial mayor's response. Anyhow, it's a great pleasure to be here with all three of you. I'm going to start with Mayor Kabir. Mayor, you have the unique position of being new to the role of mayor, having been in office for approximately six months. What are your priorities as mayor of College Park? And what has surprised you in your first several months as mayor?
0:05:28.1 Fazlul Kabir: Jim, thank you so much for having us all. It's wonderful to see all of you. So I'm going to start with the second part of your question, which is what has actually surprised me. I'm probably the youngest mayor in the area, and I was elected just six months ago, and we had a special election and we had a regular election just a week ago so I was re-elected so one surprise I have experienced I've been serving the city council college party city council for the past 12 years before I became mayor and when I was a city council member nobody was actually telling me or calling me as a council member much but when I became mayor people started calling me Mr. Mayor, Mr. Mayor that was a little surprise I wasn't that kind of felt a little weird to me but I guess I'm getting used to with it but.
0:06:33.3 FK: In seriousness, I think I'm getting lots of opportunities in different forms. For example, I'm now getting the opportunity to see and meet many of our community members in College Park. Before I was serving only one district, now I'm serving four districts. And also I have the opportunity to work with our stakeholders and also the city council to make things happen. Going back to your first question, which was about what's my priority, I'm going to talk maybe one or maybe two. The one priority in College Park, and I think many of us actually feel that way, that College Park is growing a lot and there needs to be a sound policy on economic development. So if you've been to College Park about 10, 15 years ago, and if you visit now and drive through Route 1, you will see quite a bit of change. The landscape has changed quite a bit. You'll see construction activities and cranes on both sides of Route 1.
0:07:41.3 FK: And just last week, you probably heard the national news that the FBI, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is coming to the city of Greenbelt, which is our neighboring town. And this site is actually situated just next to the College Park neighborhood, the Hollywood and Daniel Park neighborhoods. So there will be about 7,500 jobs coming to our area. And many of these federal employees will be living in our neighborhood. And then the Purple Line is coming through. There will be five stations. So then we are having a big, new development in the Discovery District just in front of the University of Maryland. And we are having pretty smart new businesses coming. Like we have been, College Park has been named the quantum capital of the United States, or maybe the world, because of the businesses like IonQ has come to College Park. The Route 1 itself is being reconstructed, and we'll be having, over the past 10 years and 15 years, our tax base has grown quite a bit. It actually has doubled over the years. Now, that is one side of the story. The challenge is the longtime residents we have, they have been telling us that College Park has grown too much. There has been too much over-development. And they are telling us that they don't feel that small-town College Park feeling they used to have. They don't have it.
0:09:29.6 FK: So the next few years, what we have to do is strike the balance between the development and to bring back the community feelings, to have a sense of a place in College Park. So one thing we'll be doing in my term is to have kind of a visioning session with the community and asking them, what do you see College Park in the next few years? Like the opportunities we have and the different parcels that could be developed, what do you like to see there? So the idea is to go ahead of the game before a development takes place. So that's one thing. If I may, I just very quickly talk about one other priority, which is the education. So College Park. We do not have the full control over the local school system. The Prince George's County actually controls the school system of KGCPS. However, what we are doing, we are contributing supplementary programs into the school system. So just a few weeks ago, we launched a free K-12 tutoring program for all of our College Park school students.
0:10:46.9 FK: The University of Maryland and the county and the city also have launched a program called MILE program. MILE meaning Maryland Initiative of Literacy and Equity. So the idea is that University of Maryland staff and tutors. The local schools and they'll be teaching after school programs. Also, we have started to build our own schools, College Park Academy, a couple of years ago. And now we currently have that middle and high school. This school is very popular and is doing pretty good. And now we are exploring to extend it to have elementary level schools. So those kind of things we'll be doing in the next few years. Thank you.
0:11:36.5 JT: Sounds like a lot's going on, Mayor Kabir. Thanks for that overview. And congratulations on your re-election just a month or so ago, earlier in the month. Mayor Rhodes-Conroy. Conway, Excuse me. First of all, I really enjoyed meeting you in those prior meetings to the Mayor's Innovation Project. But how is your prior role as director of the Mayor's Innovation Project, a national learning network for mayors committed to shared prosperity, environmental sustainability and efficient democratic government, affected your current role as the mayor of Madison.
0:12:15.4 Satya Rhodes-Conway: I think that the 13 years I spent with the Mayor's Innovation Project has very much influenced the work that I'm doing as mayor now in Madison. It was really the inspiration for me to run when I saw in cities around the country the sort of trajectory that various cities were on with respect to housing and transportation and climate in particular. And so just for example, you know, I studied the city of Austin and some of you who are perhaps city government geeks is the word.
0:12:55.1 SR: Will recall that some time ago the voters in Austin rejected a referendum to invest in their transit system and Austin is now cursed with significant traffic issues because they were unable to invest in transit. Other communities around the country we have seen I think city after city who have not built enough housing and are facing significant economic issues as a result. And then of course the climate crisis is coming for all of us. So those three things really inspired me. Looking at the trajectory of other cities and both places that failed to take action, but also places that had taken action. I wanted to make sure that Madison was on the side of taking action. And so it's both an inspiration, but then also, of course, I've been able to draw on my connections with mayors across the country to learn from other cities and to get good policy ideas that I can bring home to Madison to implement. And then of course share what we're doing here in Madison with other cities as well. So that network of mayors that I built up over the years has really been valuable to me and I'm still a member of the Mayors Innovation Project and attend their meetings regularly and always learn something from meeting with other mayors.
0:14:17.9 JT: Great, thank you. I found the experience of attending those events to be extremely valuable, and I congratulate you for making such a contribution to it. Let's turn to Mayor Taylor. If you decide to run for re-election in 2026 and are re-elected, you will become the longest-serving mayor in Ann Arbor history. One of your many initiatives has been to develop the funding, staffing, and political will necessary to establish and achieve a goal of community-wide carbon neutrality by 2030. Can you tell us about the work surrounding this climate action plan during your tenure?
0:15:00.3 Christopher Taylor: Absolutely. Thank you for the inquiry. So Ann Arbor, of course, is a progressive town and is long viewed climate action as climate change is real, human-driven. But we have struggled on doing our part. We did have a climate action plan back in 2012, which was adopted, but no funding, no progress, no result. And so over the course of the next couple of years, putzed around with a budget amendment here, a pilot program there with nothing material. In 2017, we were very fortunate. The county passed, proposed a millage related to mental health and to public safety, but bottom line is that it included a rebate, an unallocated rebate back to jurisdictions that had police departments and that would be a sort of a general fund allocation. We at the city took the initiative to invest that rebate money in programs that had previously been community values, but not previously funded. Pedestrian safety, affordable housing, and climate action. That initial tranche of funding enabled us to build up some staff on a reliable basis and develop the expertise and community initiative necessary to put together our A2Zero plan.
0:16:23.5 CT: Our A2Zero plan is our plan to achieve community-wide carbon neutrality by 2030, accomplished through just and equitable means. This plan is pretty exciting. We adopted it by city council in 2020. But without funding, without further funding, it would be moving along gently with the prior mileage funding, but that of course expires and was inadequate. We then in Michigan, you need to take taxes to the voters. And so, and we are a property tax jurisdiction, we're not an income tax jurisdiction. And so in 2022, we proposed that the, a community climate action millage to the voters for a 1 mill, 20-year tax raising approximately 140, $160 million over the course of time. That millage went to the voters in 2022 and it passed, I'm happy to say on a by a squeaker, 7129. And now we're poised to do outstanding things. We're staffing up as you might suspect, we are enabling with the great work by the Biden-Harris Inflation Reduction Act, the consumer-focused rebates and initiatives we are able to layer onto those programs, ourselves offering rebates for energy generation and energy efficiency appliances.
0:17:54.8 CT: We're able to concierge with residents to enable them to understand what federal opportunities are available. We're looking to create America's first low-income carbon-neutral neighborhood with district-wide geothermal. There's just a lot of stuff going on in Ann Arbor and I'm just so excited and proud that the community is behind it.
0:18:16.2 JT: Sounds terrific. I'm very impressed. I want to spin off of that to ask the other two mayors a related question. Let me introduce you to that a little bit. Should cities reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated as a result of actions that take place within their city limits? Or should cities take a free ride and avoid reducing their emissions unless neighboring cities do so as well and let the state, the federal government, and other countries fix the problem? What do you think?
0:18:49.5 SR: Your question presupposes the answer, Jim.
0:18:54.0 JT: Indeed.
0:18:55.8 SR: No, absolutely. Cities should to do everything we can to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I suppose I have to say that because I'm currently the chair of climate mayors. And I believe very strongly that local government has a role in solving our climate crisis And but if not us then who right every level of government has to work to reduce both our own footprint within government, but then we have to work to facilitate the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from our community. It's not easy and mayor Taylor. I'm jealous of your funding situation, but it is necessary that we all do everything that we can.
0:19:38.6 JT: Mayor Kabir, how about you?
0:19:41.5 FK: Yeah, absolutely. I do agree too that, the cities should never take a free ride on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And mainly for two reasons. First of all, even on a smaller scale, whatever you do that can contribute in a meaningful way so we can make meaningful contributions to the larger the global emission reduction goals. But more importantly, I think if we take the lead, even our sounding communities may not be doing it, then we can set an example and we can be model for them. And that actually happened in College Park a couple of months ago. Our city council passed the Better Bag law, and which basically bans the single use plastic bags in College Park. And we are a small town, but then people are asking, what's the use of banning it when the entire county, and we are in the Prince George's County, and when the county itself hasn't done this banning.
0:20:44.9 FK: So we used this example and it called our council members. And the night we approved the budget we took the vote, we passed the bill. I called our county council member and I told him that, Hey this is what the community wants you to do, even though they have been trying before. But thankfully the county has passed down the law, very similar law. And the better bag laws will be the law since from January. And there are other example College Park has done, for example, we have approved the tree ordinance to stop people from cutting down mature trees, canopy trees, because the tree canopies and declining in college park in the sounding areas. And we also working on these other things, for example, putting solar panels on all of the city buildings and changing our gas powered vehicles by the electric EV vehicles and putting EV stations on the city side of ways.
0:21:51.6 JT: Very good. Sounds like progress there in College Park as well. One of the things I said over and over again when I was mayor with regard to climate action, if not us, then who, and that seemed to resonate with a lot of people. So let's turn from climate action to an immediately related topic, having to do with transportation. What future transportation strategies are you thinking of to make cities more sustainable? And what have you been doing in your cities? So we'll start with Mayor Kabir and Mayor I admire the detail of which you are providing us, but we don't have a whole lot of time. So I'd like you to be condensed if you could. So what future transportation strategies? We'd love to hear about the construction of the Purple line bike rail in College Park. I understand the Purple Line will bring significant advantages to the university, better connecting the campus to the local area and to the broader region, adding bike lanes and reducing the need for cars. So can you tell us a little bit about it?
0:23:01.9 FK: Absolutely. This is very exciting projects. So this is a purple line, is a new light train line that will be connecting east to west of the Washington DC northern areas. And it will be going through the University of Maryland campus. Thus the college park will be having 5 of the 21 stations. And it'll be reducing the travel times. It'll be linking the employment centers. And most importantly, it'll be bringing about 6300 jobs, and the construction jobs because there will be three or four years of construction going on. And more importantly, when the purple line is constructed, then you'll be removing about 17,000 cars a day from our roadways. That's a big deal. The purple line will be big deal for the College Park University of Maryland students because they will be reducing the travel time and they will be also going to the other employment center from the campus. And it will be reducing the impact of driving and parking on a daily basis. Yeah, it's pretty exciting project.
0:24:28.9 JT: Very good. How about you Mayor Rhodes Conway? What have you been doing in Madison? What keeps transportation?
0:24:35.0 SR: I'm jealous of the purple line. That sounds great. [laughter]
0:24:40.4 JT: Me too.
0:24:40.9 SR: So the big push that we have done here is to, after some 30 years of talking about some form of rapid transit, we are currently building out our first bus rapid transit line. And thanks to President Biden and the bipartisan infrastructure law, which this week is the second anniversary of, we are able to make all of the new BRT buses electric. And so that's very, very exciting. We are transitioning the rest of our fleet as well, but on a slightly slower pace. But the fact that we can get the new ones all electric is just really exciting. We're also very proud to be a platinum biking city and a gold walking city, and we work hard to maintain that status and to continue to invest in both biking and walking infrastructure. And we're a Vision Zero city.
0:25:35.0 SR: So we're working to make sure that our most vulnerable users of our streets are safe and that we're reducing injury and fatality crashes in the city of Madison. The only other thing I'd mention, it's sort of transportation adjacent, is that we recently took delivery on our hundredth electric vehicle for the city fleet. And we are well on our way to electrifying all of our light duty vehicles. And we have a pretty ambitious pilot to fuel our heavy duty vehicles on biodiesel. Since we don't think we can get electric vehicles fast enough, on the heavy duty side. But I will say we do have the first operational all electric firetruck in North America. We're very proud of that.
0:26:24.7 JT: Very good.
0:26:24.8 SR: And it's a prototype that we're testing for Pierce. It's called the Volterra. And they'd promised us that we will get the first one off the line when they actually go into production. So we're trying to make sure that our fleet and our transportation for city staff is as strong and as sustainable as possible.
0:26:46.9 JT: Very good. So Mayor Taylor, are you gonna get a firetruck electrified, or what? [laughter] I dunno.
0:26:51.5 CT: Yeah. As quickly as possible. We've had solid waste trucks on order, electric solid waste trucks on order for almost two years now. So let's get that supply chain moving.
0:27:03.0 JT: Yeah. So to be more precise here about what we wanted to ask you about, tell us about the Moving Together Toward Vision Zero. But also, some of us are interested in whether the University of Michigan proposed BRT, Bus Rapid Transit, line should extend across the city, as was proposed in an earlier plan. What do you think?
0:27:30.4 CT: Yeah. That second bit first, however the university is in the middle of some internal conversations about making sure that they are able to bring all the people they want, they need, that are needed to come from East Medical Center to North Campus, to the Park and Ride, to the the Michigan Medicine and down to Central Campus. And the precise mode of that, I think, is still a little TBD. But the bottom line is, if we can extend that down into the city proper towards the South, well, of course, that would be excellent and outstanding. With respect to our Vision Zero and our comprehensive transportation plan, we too are working towards to be a Vision Zero City, looking to reduce and eliminate pedestrian and other fatalities and major injuries. We're doing so with a couple of means. First is through, on the bike side, we're working on protected bike lanes. We have rolled a number of miles out of protected bike lanes. And they are getting a lot of usage. I myself have transitioned to an e-bike, and it's incredibly... It makes it fun to commute. We're looking at 5 miles of protected bike lanes every year for the next five years.
0:28:46.1 CT: We are also, of course, putting roads where appropriate on road diets. We're bumping out crosswalks, making sure that we have rapidly-flashing beacons to protect pedestrians. Working hard to reduce speed. That's a little more difficult in Ann Arbor, in Michigan, because state law restrictions. But we're looking to do what we can to to have geometry and design do the work in that regard.
0:29:11.2 CT: Finally, we're also... Part of our transportation plan is land use, right? I mean, we want to put people where they can access public transit, which is a separate authority from the municipal organization. We wanna make sure that people are able to get in and outta town, the downtown, easily without a car. We wanna make it available for people to live within the downtown, within walking distance of the downtown. We, and probably talk a little bit more about this downstream, but have a housing crisis in Ann Arbor, an affordability crisis. We have artificially-constrained density in our city for too long. And we are looking to make sure that that land use is part of our social and transportation solution.
0:29:56.3 JT: Indeed. So thanks for the lead into the next question.
0:29:58.7 CT: Yeah, sure. [chuckle] Yeah.
0:30:01.7 JT: So you refer to the challenge of ensuring residents can find housing they can afford. Huge issue. The cost of housing keeps rising, and the people harmed most are those near the bottom of the income bracket. Many of them are recent refugees or immigrants from other countries who need housing on an emergency basis. I witnessed this just a few days ago, watching one of our council meetings. However, the need for affordable housing often seems like a problem that can't really be solved. Action to alleviate one problem can exacerbate other connected problems. For example, many cities have been amending their zoning codes to solve the problem. But opening up low density, single family zoning districts to duplexes and townhouses in one city can drive some residents to adjacent cities that don't take that kind of action.
0:30:58.5 JT: It's part of the politics that our nation's experiencing right now. So, Mayor Taylor, how is Ann Arbor addressing affordable housing and homelessness, planning for density, diversity, vacant housing, and historical reparations?
0:31:15.6 CT: Yeah. So with respect to direct services to unhoused persons, that is... With the way that we are organized, that's a county function. So we do have a shelter. It is within the... It's right near... Right within our downtown in our DDA district. But it is run by... It is a county project, not a city project. So we don't provide that direct service. But we do, with our housing mission, provide substantial affordable housing throughout the city to folks between 0% and 60% AMI. We are also, of course, looking to expand that. One of the things I'm particularly excited about is that in addition to going out to the voters in 2022 asking them to support community climate action, we had previously gone out to the voters in 2020 to ask them to support affordable housing with their tax dollars.
0:32:05.0 CT: And I'm excited and proud again that basically on that same 71-29 vote, the residents did support another one year... Pardon me, one mill, 20 year millage to support the construction and provision of supportive services for anywhere between 1000 and 1500 units of new permanent, affordable housing within the city. And so that's something that we're working on with our planning commission, looking to provide city resources, city land for the purpose. We know that expanding supply in this area is crucial, but it's not the complete solution to affordability, because supply and demand is real. And it hits everyone. And so with a city that has, over the course of the decades, artificially constrained supply...
0:32:51.1 CT: Or perhaps maybe intentionally constrained supply. We're looking to shift that, particularly now on our transit corridors. We have a new zoning designation, TC1, which provides strong incentives for high density residential and commercial mixed use development on our transit corridors in order to provide places which are not directly adjacent to existing neighborhoods, thereby sort of reducing conflict, but are on our transit corridors to let folks come in and out of town without a car, relying upon expanding public transit. We have taken aggressive action on at least two of our transit corridors. We've got two more on deck, and in our first TC1 developments, I think, are just a couple of weeks away from our planning department. And so we're excited about that project to use the demand that exists in order to solve this important problem.
0:33:50.1 JT: Very good. I wonder if the other two mayors might comment and maybe connect what Mayor Taylor said about Ann Arbor to your cities.
0:34:01.7 SR: Well, I think like Ann Arbor, Madison faces a housing crisis as well. For many, many years, we under-built housing in relationship to our population growth. And so when I came into office, we had a deficit of about 4,000 units of housing that we needed to produce just on the rental side and a vacancy rate in the 1-3% range. We're still there. We haven't really meaningfully moved the vacancy rate, in part because our population is growing very rapidly. We're one of the fastest growing cities, certainly in the state and I think also in the country. So we have worked very hard to produce more housing in Madison and actually throughout Dane County. So one of the things that I think is critical is having partnerships with other levels of government. But we've done very similar work adjusting our zoning to make it easier to build more types of housing by right. We do have a transit oriented overlay district that housing within proximity of our high frequency transit routes is easier to build that we allow for more density. During my first term, we doubled our affordable housing fund and we're projecting now.
0:35:20.5 SR: So I'm in the first year of my second term, we're projecting another 60% increase in our affordable housing fund. We've completely transformed our approach to dealing with homelessness, which is a whole another story, which I won't go into. But housing is probably the most, the biggest challenge that Madison faces right now. I will say that we're also working to try and crack the nut of producing housing for ownership that is affordable to first time home buyers. And that is frankly more difficult than creating more rental housing in part because of some of the things that the federal government has done and in part because it's just a more difficult market. So we're working hard to figure out what role the city can have in creating that type of housing. And so very interested in what other places are doing. But I think this is a case where certainly Madison and I would venture other cities as well have to take a sort of all of the above approach. We project that we need to be creating about 2000 units of housing a year to keep up with population growth. And that's a lot. And so really, really need to be using all of the tools in the toolbox and that's what we're trying to do.
0:36:45.6 JT: Very good. Mayor Kabir, how about College Park?
0:36:49.0 FK: Thank you. So the housing crisis is not only College Park's issue, it's actually a regional issue. The entire DMV area, DC Metro and Maryland and Virginia, the entire area is having this crisis right now. College Park is doing its best. And thankfully we have just, we have approved two purpose-built affordable housing complexes. And the one is, we are going to approve in a month or two. The one, one of the two that we approved that will have about 317 unit apartment complex units. And they will be having a 60% to 80% AMI. People with low income, 80 million income, they will be coming and they can have these units. We'll also be supported by the low income housing tax credits and also the opportunity zone by the federal government and also local county and state fundings. The other complex close to the College Park Metro Station, that will be having 420 units affordable housing. Again, 80%. And the good thing about that housing complex, the Amazon will be contributing $56.3 million to build this housing in College Park. In addition to that, we have done something which is, people are really excited. That is about home ownership program at an affordable rate.
0:38:40.1 FK: So we have a entity called CP COP College Park City University Partnership. So this is an entity that is having College Park, City of College Park people and also the University of Maryland people. So combine-ly we have a CP COP and this unit, this organization has rolled out very recently a housing trust program. And the idea is to buy homes, single family homes and sell these at an affordable rate. The way it works is that kind of trust program. So the trust actually divides the entire lot, including the lot and also the housing itself. But it sells the house, the structure to the buyer. So in that way, the house becomes very affordable. We have invested $15 million. The city has invested, the state of Maryland has invested. So I believe on last September, just three months ago, we bought our first... We actually sold our first home in the city.
0:39:48.6 FK: So we also have four or five homes right now, and we'll be buying many homes and we're selling those homes. And this is a very exciting program. Very quickly we are also doing something for our students because we have a large student population, and it is very difficult for them to afford their student housing in their student complexes and their apartment complexes. So we're exploring the idea of a student rental subsidy program or a student housing voucher program. And finally for our aging population, we have rolled out aging in Place program where we have partnered with AARP. And that program would be giving grant money to the people who have been living in college for a while and we will be building... We'll be supporting them on a small projects, things like building the rails, for example, or stairs, or fixing roofs or fixing windows or doors. So that program is going to, we have actually funded, the city council funded this program, but it's going to be launched in a month or two. Thank you.
0:41:04.2 JT: Sounds very interesting. Thank you so much. We have a couple more questions that I'd like to ask, so I'll try to get through them pretty quickly. We have basically four minutes and then we get into the lightning round and we set the idea. So Mayor Rhodes-Conway, you were a founding member of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income. The Madison Forward Fund was a guaranteed income research program to support Madison families. What was the impact of that program on your community? Have you expanded on it or what can you tell us about it?
0:41:37.7 SR: Yeah, thanks for the question. I'm really proud to be one of the early mayors into mayors for a guaranteed income. I think I was number 12 or 13, and we now have over 100 mayors that have joined mayors for a guaranteed income. And we've launched counties for a guaranteed income organization as well. And the idea behind these organizations is to promote the concept of a guaranteed income. And that we trust people to know what their families need, and that folks who are experiencing poverty, this is a... Poverty is a policy and a structural problem, not a personal flaw. And that we really do trust folks to know what they need. And that might be healthcare. It might be something related to transportation. It might be related to housing, it might be food, it might be school supplies. And there are certainly benefit programs out there that help with some of those things, but not with all of them, and they're not flexible.
0:42:34.4 SR: So, I was lucky enough to be able to privately raise funds for Madison's, the Madison Forward Fund, our guaranteed income program. We did a year of $500 to 125 families, I think. We did this as a randomized control trial. So we are still gathering data and analyzing that data. The year is over. And we did pause the program, and we're eagerly awaiting the data analysis. I can tell you though, that the initial stories, the anecdotes that we've gathered from families have been very positive. Stories like it allowed a mother to pay her childcare debt so she could put her kid back in childcare, and be able to have more time to herself to work. And that it was, it helped folks with medical issues, again, with housing. I mean, there's just it's really basic stuff that folks are paying for with these funds. And what we wanted to do in Madison was to contribute to the research on the issue of guaranteed income. And so that's why we set it up as a randomized controlled trial. And it going forward. My belief, and I think mayors for a guaranteed income more generally believes that this should be a federal policy.
0:44:02.4 SR: This is not something that cities are equipped to do one by one on our own. This is something that the federal government can and should do, and in fact has done in effect, in the form of the child tax credit. And we know when the child tax credit was in effect, that it lifted millions of children out of poverty, and the federal government could reinstate that child tax credit and lift those kids out of poverty again and more, and should do that. So our advocacy is really with the federal level now, to make sure that folks understand the benefit of guaranteed income programs and the actions that the federal government could take.
0:44:45.4 JT: Sounds like a very exciting and important piece of research. Thanks for describing it. I wonder, mayor Taylor, I wonder if you could briefly react to that. But please be brief and then Mayor Kabir.
0:44:58.5 CT: Absolutely. The short answer is double it or affirm it more accurately. Not to, we're ourselves incredibly excited about, we do have a basic income program as a utilizing American Rescue Plan dollars. We similarly are rolling that through a research center, so as to ensure that the pilot program that we are running does have data and results that are gonna be useful to, as mayor said, hopefully encourage our... Are betters at the state and national level to utilize those resources for these purposes. Our program is focused on low income entrepreneurs, folks who do hair on the side, who have a repair business on the side, that sort of thing. To see whether the assistance that a basic income program can provide to these folks with gig jobs can make a real difference in people's lives.
0:45:58.1 JT: Great. Mayor Kabir?
0:46:00.9 FK: Yeah. Thank you. So if you look at the census data, some people really get scared when they see College Park's property rate. It is at 25% level, which is a huge number on the surface. But that is because we have a very large student population and they don't really make a lot of money. So we do not actually have that, the property is not a big problem in College Park. So that's the bottom line. But thankfully, we have rolled out other programs. For example, we got quite a bit of the upper grant money, the COVID grant money from Biden administration. And we have used it to give grants to the people in need in College Park and also the businesses. The other two programs we have rolled out, the one is we have the senior tax credit program. We just approved two weeks ago. And what we'll be doing, we'll be giving out $150 to each household if that person is 65 years old and the house is less than $500,000, property value. We are also exploring something called ITOC, the income tax offset credit. Some of the jurisdictions actually have it. And Maryland law allows the counties or other towns to grant a property tax credit against their real property tax to offset the increases in municipal income tax revenue. So this is something we're exploring and we'll be getting the community's input before rolling out.
0:47:44.8 JT: Great. One more question and then, let's see if we have 13 more minutes and then maybe a little bit of the lightning round kind of work. I'm gonna direct this at you, Mayor Kabir. Smart cities are attractive targets for malicious cyber attacks because of the data being collected, transmitted, stored and processed. Those data can include significant amounts of sensitive information from governments, businesses and private citizens. Cyber attacks on cities could generate significant damage, including the shutdown or compromising the vital services such as electricity or water. So I understand that you have taught cybersecurity at the University of Maryland for eight years. Can you share your thoughts on how cities can prepare for the risk associated with smart city technologies?
0:48:36.9 FK: Thanks for asking this question. I have a lot of passion for this subject. You're right. So there is a good news and bad news. Let me tell the bad news, which you already have mentioned a little bit, that if the attack happens in to any town, then it could be disastrous. If you could remember a couple of years ago, the city of Atlanta, they fell victim to a ransomware attack. And the attacker encrypted the city data and demanded payment in cryptocurrency for its release. And it actually disrupted a lot of services including the online bill payment service and the court systems. So even though the actual physical infrastructure hasn't been touched, but there was a significant impact on the financial and the operational side.
0:49:34.3 FK: The good news is that there have been quite a bit of standard policies that people in the cities and towns can adopt and if you adopt them there shouldn't be a huge problem. And for example, I just wanna give a very quick example. So data encryption is one of the things. Make sure the staff does the updating and the patching the systems on a regular basis. And also the employees should be training and the awareness should be built because many of these attacks happen because of a human error. And there are experts in the community, experts in the business community, they can actually help come and help and do that. Let them do their job. And we must be having every city must be having an incident response plan that if an attack happens what can respond it. And time to time we should be doing a regular security audits to see that all the vulnerabilities and to assess the effectiveness of existing cybersecurity systems are in place. So I mean, it's not that difficult. It's just to follow the policy will take care of everything.
0:51:00.5 JT: It's very helpful. Thank you. I wonder if Mayor Taylor or Mayor Rhodes-Conway would like to add anything briefly to what Mayor Kabir has said.
0:51:10.1 SR: The only thing I would add is that I think one of the challenges that cities face is making the needed investments in the sort of invisible infrastructure of our cities. And so certainly our IT departments are part of that. As our HR departments and our finance departments and our attorney's offices and our clerks. And these are the things that help keep our cities functioning every day that people don't necessarily see or understand why we should be investing money in them. But as you've just heard, it's really critical for us to be investing in that sort of hidden infrastructure to keep our cities going.
0:51:46.9 CT: What they said.
0:51:49.2 JT: Very good. Very good. Well, we have a few other questions that we can take seven or eight minutes to respond to. I wanna pick the one that's listed as I think number 11. So it has to do with democratic governance within cities. And about the divide between elected officials and their staff and the public. And I thought about this a lot, actually. It seems to me there's a pretty big divide that is pretty easy to not be conscious of when you're in an elected position or when you're the staff position. But there can be a very big divide. So I'm wondering what activities and interventions you are promoting within your cities to promote a sense of community among your residents and to create a sense of belonging at the city level. And of course, this has to do in part with the arrival of more and more people from other countries who may not speak English and are trying to find their ways into the society. So do you have thoughts about that question? Maybe we can start with Rhodes, Mayor Rhodes-Conway.
0:53:02.1 SR: Sure. I guess I would just shift the frame a little bit. I actually don't think that the presence of immigrants is a sort of root or factor in this. I actually think that I would look towards the national political environment. I would look towards social media. I would look towards the rise of miss and disinformation in those two arenas as being really the root of some of the divisions between, I would say city government writ broadly and our communities. And city government has traditionally been the level of government that's most trusted by people. And I think we have to work to maintain that. I think we have to collectively learn how to do a better job communicating with people where they are. The other factor here of course is the demise of the local newspaper, and the sort of having a place where people would go to get good information about their community, and in absence of that, people get bad information from all sorts of places.
0:54:28.3 SR: So I think it's incumbent upon cities to do a better job communicating with folks about what we're working on and why, how we're responding to their day-to-day issues, and to be out there engaging folks as much as we possibly can. One of the things that the city has done here in Madison is we actually hire through our Department of Civil Rights, three people whose job it is to connect with communities, whose primary language is not English. So we have folks that work with the Spanish speaking community, the Hmong speaking community, and the Mandarin speaking community. And just to really liaise with them, to introduce them to city government, to help them navigate anything they might need to understand what's going on. We also have a project which is sort of awkwardly named Voice of the Customer [chuckle] which is meant to really think about how we're connecting with our customers, with our residents, and to get feedback regularly, but also be thinking well about the ways in which we do outreach and engagement. And so we've dedicated, not insignificant amount of time and energy to making that work. And, but there is always more that each one of us, each of our cities could do to engage with our residents.
0:55:57.3 JT: Great answer. Now, I could ask the other two mayors the same question, but I'm conscious of the time and I wanna ask a couple other questions to acknowledge the fact that some questions were submitted by students, and I want to get those into the mix here. So I guess I'll direct this to Mayor Kabir and ask you for a quick response, if you don't mind. So how's your city thinking about the challenges of internet access, broadband access, and digital equity? What solutions has your city developed to address these digital divide issues?
0:56:34.4 FK: So, thankfully college Park, we do not have, I haven't heard of the Digital Divide, which may not be the case. But so far, during, at least during my council term, I haven't heard about that. But we do have an equity issue. We have major resolutions, and we also have hired, we have opened and created a new position, the equity officer. We have another issue that we have been dealing with right now is, we used to have a community called Lakeland Community that actually had been very vibrant over 50 years ago, but there was a project by a Department of Housing Urban Development Park, and they spent $5.7 million in grant money. And they basically, they took out the old declining houses in the community. And the City of College Park actually bought this house. Now, that was an unjust work that actually the city did. And recently the city made a resolution and we acknowledged and we apologized for our past history right now. And right now we are going through the restorative justice work with them. We have created a new community to make sure these equity issues is resolved and addressed in College Park.
0:58:04.3 JT: Great. Thank you for the response. We have time for one more question. I'm gonna direct this to Mayor Taylor, and I'll try to be as brief as I can. How do you think universities and cities can collaborate most successfully in your city? What's working well, what's not?
0:58:22.9 CT: Well, we are all incredibly fortunate to have universities among us to be university cities. Universities among us is an opportunity of course to enjoy the enjoy students, the vibrancy, the excitement, the life that they bring to our hometowns. The ability for faculty and the like to provide research and run research programs within our communities to be real laboratories of how urban environments can be optimized. We also, if we're factory towns, our factories are never gonna leave. They're never gonna shut down. They're gonna continue to keep growing. And they are also focused on being world-class institutions for the purposes of social good. So we work incredibly closely with the University of Michigan. The University of Michigan doesn't have to run any run, follow any of our rules. They're created by the state constitution. But the university understands, as I'm sure the other universities of in the Big Ten, understand that a successful, world-class research institution requires a successful city environment, requires a successful home. And so we're so fortunate to work with the university time and time again on making that happen.
0:59:41.6 JT: Thanks so much. So we're out of time pretty much. So I want to thank to all three of you for providing us with such insights into your cities and to your own way of thinking about being a mayor and serving the people of this country and your cities best. Thanks so much for your contribution. It's been a lot of fun.
0:59:58.7 CT: Pleasure.
1:00:00.3 SR: Thank you.
1:00:00.6 FK: All right. Thanks, Jim.
1:00:01.2 JT: Good night to all of you.