Clinton to address mayors' conference: Can mayors be the new innovators?

More and more, America's mayors are taking aim at broad societal problems. The US Conference of Mayors will convene on Sunday in Indianapolis.

Jim Young/Reuters/File
US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will address the US Conferences of Mayors in Indianapolis on Sunday, June 26.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton will speak at the US Conference of Mayors in Indianapolis on Sunday and, in doing so, she'll be facing the urban leaders who are increasingly at the forefront of innovative policy change.

Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump was also invited to speak at the event, but has not confirmed whether or not he will attend, according to IndyStar.

Former Secretary of State Clinton is expected to discuss the strengthening of federal-local partnerships to address issues faced by cities across the country including public safety and crime, mass transit expansion, and water and air quality.

"I think the mayors would like to hear Secretary Clinton's perspectives on issues that are profoundly impacting urban and suburban living," Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, a Democrat and Clinton supporter, told IndyStar.

Mayors will also have perspectives to share based on personal experience at tackling the very issues that have been central to Clinton's campaign, including climate change, gun control, and immigration reform.

Mayors have "some of the best executive authority in politics" to make things happen, Secretary of State John Kerry told The Boston Globe in an interview, and they're using it to experiment with policies that could never pass in Congress.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney introduced a tax on sugary drinks to fund early childhood education, as the Globe reported. In other jurisdictions, mayors have raised the minimum wage to as high $15 an hour and banned plastic grocery bags to cut down on waste.

In January, New York's Mayor Bill de Blasio expanded parental leave to up to 12 weeks at 100 percent salary, following the models of Austin and Pittsburgh.

"There is a new American localism where cities are at the vanguard of problem solving," Bruce Katz, a scholar at the Brookings Institution said to The Boston Globe. "The federal government talks about it, mayors do it. There is a huge vacuum in the United States because of partisan gridlock."

Katz told the Globe that mayors gained prominence in the 1980s and '90s, when they tackled failing schools and rising crime. As more Americans have flocked to cities, mayors have gained stature, even acting on a global stage.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton attended a climate change summit in China last week to share lessons from his efforts to transform Phoenix into a leading sustainable city. An extensive new light rail and bike lane system contributed to the city's 7.2 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions in seven years.

One of the most natural policy areas for mayors to take a leading role is in the planning of sustainable cities. Recognizing the power of local leaders to design creative ways to integrate new technologies into their localities, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) launched the Smart City Challenge in December, as Ben Thompson previously reported for The Christian Science Monitor. Seventy-eight cities submitted proposals to fully utilize technologies in their transportation networks, including the integration of self-driving buses and citywide travel planning apps.

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