Mayors Matter!

Mayors Matter!

Photo credit: Kevin Dietsch

“History will say we are living in a time more transformational than the industrial revolution. And as that economy has shifted, so many people have been left behind,”  said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan at the opening “Mayors Matter” panel hosted by The Hill and moderated by Editor-at-Large Steve Clemons at the St. Regis Hotel in downtown Washington that included five other of the nation’s leading Mayors: Topeka, Miami, Kansas City, Fort Worth, and Rochester Hills, Michigan.  Mayor Brant of Rochester Hills is also President of the US Conference of Mayors who were simultaneously meeting in Washington. The event was sponsored by AARP and thus an emphasis on re-training and re-skilling the 50 plus for a productive place in the future of work.

In town to discuss inclusion in its many dimensions and also generational inclusion, the common thread was community – the responsibility of communities to come together to solve problems by passing the political paralysis in Washington as they face local and regional challenges. What strengths does the 50 plus community bring to healthy communities? And which cities are taking the building blocks they have and reinventing themselves?

Mayor Durkan (D) warned on a panel that senior citizens are getting “locked out” of the growing tech economy in the city, emphasizing the need to include them in the sector.

“We reflect the changing times in America,” Durkan said referring to Seattle. “How do we make sure that there’s true economic opportunity both for our youth coming up, but also for our seniors and whatever their second and third acts are?”  Seattle ranked as one of the five metro areas dominating in growth within the technology sector, according to the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. Seniors are also projected to make up nearly 20 percent of the population in Seattle’s King County by 2040, according to Census data. “I think the shift in the economy has been transformational and I think history will say that we are living in a time more transformational than the industrial revolution. And as that economy has shifted, so many people have been left behind. There are those who are locked out and the bridges to that economy have been shot. So we really have to be looking at how do we make Seattle more affordable for more people? How do we make sure that there’s true economic opportunity both for our youth coming up but also for seniors with whatever their second and third acts are.? So those are some of the things.”

Mayor Jenny Durkan

“Everybody brings something special to the table,” said Mayor Betsy Price of Fort Worth, Texas who is a big promoter of re-training and re-skilling workers. “Re-skilling is the big word now! Everybody has their own needs at different points in their lives. And I think communication is the key. You have to get out and get them engaged and give them a chance to interact. Engagement has been one of the hallmarks of my career. Mayors are where the rubber hits the road.” Mayor Price, FYI, rides a bicycle to work and has been known to solve community problems by bringing people together for bike rides.

Mayor Betsy Price

“We take an approach that we deal with most of our issues in house and we don’t rely on Washington,” said Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, although Federal funds are from taxpayers and also accessible to which they are entitled and use. Being a coastal city, he emphasized the movement of the wealthy citizens to inland due to climate change and how to protect those who might be displaced.  He also focused on women and their importance in society. “I have no brothers – three sisters, a wife and a mother. And my father works for them, They are incredibly powerful, incredibly engaged. Every mayor would agree first and foremost, you have to be a good listener [to solve problems] We have over a billion dollar budget. So the question is how are you prioritizing that budget and what are you doing to move the needle to allow people to live in dignity particularly at the later stage of their life where they’re not going to be able to make more money. They’re not going to be able to go out into the workforce most likely. And, and they want to live in dignity and with dignity and deserve to live in dignity, particularly given what they’ve done for us, for our generation and given us everything essentially talked at all about retraining or senior workers.” Suarez was named as one of TIME’s most influential.

Mayor Suarez

While the above three Mayors weren’t the only show in town, they were part of a small round table discussion that Hollywood on the Potomac attended prior to the main forum and thus the emphasis.

“This has been a great conversation,” concluded moderator Steve Clemons who wrapped the session.  “I would love to have another forum another day with the three of you on lifelong learning, on training, on credentialing what’s going on across the spectrum; but also, with the 50 plus community because they’ve got so many assets. So how do you free up that talent and make it nimble is a whole other conversation.”