Mayors are increasingly finding ways to support local infrastructure even as federal and state governments fail to act, according to the latest State Of The Cities report from the National League of Cities.
Technology-driven solutions to traffic and pedestrian safety stood out when mayors talked about infrastructure. Traffic calming strategies and flow improvements, including synchronizing traffic signals and redesigning intersections, were cited by mayors as ways to improve access to amenities and enhance safety.
Mayors are also looking at ways to improve pedestrian safety and provide additional pedestrian access to their cities. Younger residents typically cite walkability as a key part of what makes a city livable. 34 percent of mayors included initiatives to improve pedestrian mobility as part of their plans and speeches in the past year.
Alongside infrastructure, issues like climate change and the opioid epidemic are coming up more frequently, showing that mayors are having nuanced conversations about the issues hitting their communities the hardest. With federal inaction on environmental issues like climate change, mayors are increasingly prioritizing clean energy, local ways to reduce air pollution, and municipal recycling. Following the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017, more than 400 mayors have committed to adopt and honor the goals of the agreement.
Issues related to health and human services saw the largest increase over 2018 as mayors increasingly discussed topics including parks and recreation (63% in 2019 compared to 57% in 2018) and mental health (20% in 2019 compared to 4% in 2018).
While the percentage of mayors talking about opioids remained consistent (11%), the way mayors are talking about the epidemic is changing. In 2016 and 2017, mayors were talking about the opioid epidemic by describing immediate solutions focused on public safety measures, such as targeting drug dealers. In 2018 and 2019, mayors shifted to a longer-term view of the epidemic, focusing on prevention and intervention programs, including overdose prevention sites.
As federal and state governments grind to a halt when it comes to addressing key issues that impact the lives of Americans, Mayors are responding by trying to find new ways to improve their localities. The report data shows that Mayors are increasingly focused on using technology to support service delivery and understand the needs of residents. The full report is available here.