Last week, Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero was part of a delegation of mayors from across the country who met with congressional and White House officials to advocate for the priorities of America's cities. The bipartisan group was convened by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which represents U.S. cities with populations of 30,000 or more. In meetings with both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, as well as Cabinet secretaries from President Trump's administration, the mayors emphasized the centrality of metropolitan areas to the nation's economy and discussed a range of issues. Among the top priorities they highlighted:
- Continued federal support of the Community Development Block Grant and HOME programs, which are funded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development. These programs support affordable housing, homeless services, economic development in distressed areas, and anti-blight initiatives, among other crucial efforts at the local level to assist our most vulnerable residents.
- Access to affordable health care and health insurance. Mayors across the country have emphasized that any changes to the health care system need to broaden access, not restrict it.
- Infrastructure and transportation funding, including continued support of public transit and Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields grants. Knoxville has successfully applied for many EPA Brownfields grants, which have been crucial to the redevelopment of vacant and blighted industrial properties.
- Immigration. The mayors renewed their calls for comprehensive immigration reform, and their concerns that local law enforcement be allowed to continue to do their jobs of keeping local communities safe rather than being compelled to enforce federal immigration law.
- Maintaining the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds. Borrowing costs for cities and their taxpayers would rise significantly if returns on municipal bonds became taxable.
In both one on one meetings and as part of a larger delegation, Mayor Rogero met with Tennessee Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker and Knoxville Representative John H. Duncan, Jr., as well as: Representative Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee: House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and a group of other Democratic lawmakers including Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.); Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.); and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. The group of more than 30 mayors also included Mick Cornett of Oklahoma City, the President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors; Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans; Stephen Benjamin of Columbia, S.C.; Marilyn Strickland of Tacoma, Wash.; and Bill de Blasio of New York City.
"I was happy to join my fellow mayors in making sure that the needs of cities are an important part of the federal budget and policy conversation," Mayor Rogero said. "America's metro areas are economic and cultural centers, and we can't have a prosperous nation without thriving cities. I appreciate the time and substantive conversations we had with all of the congressional and administration officials who met with us. They all assured us that they will take our concerns and priorities seriously as they set the course for the coming years."