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Mayor Kevin Johnson traveled to Minneapolis, Minnesota last Friday to speak before the Democratic National Committee's Platform Committee, which is charged with drafting the party's stance on key issues facing the nation. The platform will be voted on by Democratic delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte in September, which Johnson also will attend. With his remarks, Mayor Johnson represented the Democratic mayors of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the national organization that represents the city's leaders.
Mayor Johnson spoke on a variety of issues, including public safety, education, and infrastructure.
Below are excerpts from his remarks made on Friday:
"U.S. cities are global powerhouses. Some U.S. cities have greater economies than entire countries. New York has a larger economy than Mexico and South Korea; Los Angeles outpaces Switzerland while Chicago surpasses Sweden. And there are also many cities who metro economies are larger than entire states. Miami has a larger economy than Arizona; Houston’s GDP is higher than the state of Georgia.
"And these numbers will continue to grow in the decades to come, especially with a 32% increase in metro population expected over the next 30 years. Cities are where this country does its business, where its people live, and where its innovations are born. And it is essential for the federal government to strongly invest in cities if we hope to restart this nation’s economy.
"We as mayors stand ready to be part of the solution to put this country back on track. Just last week, mayors gathered in Philadelphia, for 2.5 days where we produced a report entitled “Building a Better America.” This document identified the 10 major areas of need for our cities. Mayor Nutter charged us to pare this list down to the 3 most important issues that define the urban agenda: our plan to stimulate the economy, put people back to work, and maintain our global leadership.
"This agenda consists of:
• Investing in the infrastructure that will keep our cities competitive in the 21st century,
• Keeping the people of our cities safe and secure through public safety,
• And ensuring that all individuals have access to a quality education.
"These are priorities that are both transformative and attainable. They unify our interests, and transcend political party or geography. They are about improving the lives of our citizens and sustaining the promise of the American dream.
"First, let me speak about the infrastructure of American cities. This means the roads and waterways and railways and energy grids that bring us together, that provide connectivity in our cities. By investing in infrastructure, we provide both short and long-term jobs, protect our ports and exports, and reduce congestion. However, we are far from meeting this investment at the moment...
"The groundwork for action has already been laid in the first term of President Obama. We must continue the fight on the city level. This is where we can hold ourselves accountable and produce real results. Investing in our infrastructure is a truly bipartisan effort to create jobs and spur economic growth. Rebuilding America begins by rebuilding its cities: its hubs of commerce, ideas, and people.
"Our next aim must be to ensure that our people are kept secure in our cities through public safety. U.S. mayors know that crime affects our streets and our people. But with budgets already stretched thin, cities are increasingly having to cut these services fundamental to their citizen’s well-being. We have identified a few ways in which the federal government can ensure that aid goes directly toward real public safety.
"First, we must Support Local Law Enforcement. By supporting key programs like COPS Hiring grants, “Burn” JAG, and Second Chance, the federal government can lend a hand to those who keep us safe.
"Second, we must work to prevent crime before it occurs, in order to save lives and sustain our city economies. This party should prioritize efforts to prevent youth violence and bring together a collaboration of government, corporations, foundations, and educational communities to solve this pressing issue.
"Third, we must control gangs and illegal drugs. The only solution to these persistent problems is a strong intergovernmental partnership and a combination of tough enforcement and prevention measures.
"Public safety is all of these things, but it is also means non-traditional action, like working to strengthen our increasingly outdated levees. The federal government must work directly with cities to strengthen our levee protection and keep our citizens safe from devastating and life-threatening floods.
"Elevating our cities to global leaders also means that we must develop a well-educated and highly-skilled workforce. America is in the midst of an education crisis. 32% of our fourth-graders can read at grade level, and our international stature is on the decline.
"We must fight for change to prevent this from becoming our future. If we’re going to maintain a competitive workforce, we must:
• Prioritize Early Childhood Education to get our students set on the right path
• Reform K-12 education to increase graduation rates and preparing students for college and the workforce.
• Improve access to higher education to ensure college affordability and completion.
• Expand and improve our community college system to provide alternative pathways to students.
• Create a skilled workforce that keeps the best and the brightest in our country through visa reform, and STEM and technology education.
• Putting students first by reauthorizing the ESEA, with the unanimous support of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
"The urban agenda is critical to moving this country forward. By focusing on infrastructure improvements, public safety, and education at the city level, the federal government will begin the work necessary to building this nation’s prosperity. The U.S. Conference of Mayors supports many other pressing issues, including support of exports and small businesses, energy independence and job creation, and good governance issues like reforming the tax code, balancing the budget, and reducing the deficit. The U.S. mayors stand with this administration in fighting for this country’s future and we look forward to working with you in the months and years to come.