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Infrastructure, police issues top list of concerns for U.S. mayors

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, president of the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM), leads the USCM news conference at the Hilton Baltimore to discuss priorities for the presidential and congressional elections.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, president of the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM), leads the USCM news conference at the Hilton Baltimore to discuss priorities for the presidential and congressional elections. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

Mental health, mass shootings, infrastructure, and police safety and accountability are among the most pressing issues that need to be addressed by the presidential candidates, according to a nonpartisan group of mayors led by Baltimore's Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

"We aren't asking our candidates to do something we aren't willing to do ourselves," Rawlings-Blake said Saturday. She was surrounded at the news conference by about 20 mayors, including New York's Bill de Blasio, Atlanta's Kasim Reed and Washington's Muriel Bowser.

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The U.S. Conference of Mayors, which is meeting at the Hilton Baltimore, plans to release a 10-point plan in 2016 based on this weekend's dialogue.

The group wants to thwart the "dysfunction" in Washington, said Rawlings-Blake, who led the news conference after a closed-door meeting of the organization.

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"We know that people are frustrated," Rawlings-Blake said in reference to the current national political climate. "We want to focus the conversation on things that matter."

Rawlings-Blake was elected president of the group last year, and her term in that post ends in June. The organization is made up of mayors of cities with populations of 30,000 or more.

She said no presidential candidates were mentioned by name during the meeting and said mayors from both political parties are "eager" to have discussions with candidates.

Asked later which presidential candidate she supports, she responded, "I don't plan to endorse a candidate."

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De Blasio, who was followed to the conference by several New York City media outlets, also declined to offer an endorsement.

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, vice president of the organization, stressed the importance of building a strong relationship with the nation's leader.

"We need a president who is a partner who is willing to work with us," he said.

De Blasio said the federal government needs to have a better relationship with cities.

"We are the ultimate engineers of the national economy," de Blasio said. "We can't move forward as a nation [without cities]. … None of the candidates can afford to ignore our needs."

The focus of the conference was to provide candidates with focal points that need to be addressed — regardless of political affiliation.

Elizabeth Kautz, mayor of Burnsville, Minn., and past president of the organization, stressed the importance of roads, jobs and housing.

"This is what we need to do in order for America to survive," she said.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, whom Rawlings-Blake jokingly referred to as her cousin, said he wants candidates to realize the role that cities have played in success of the country.

"Cities have created the growth in the United States," he said. "The future of the United States is critical to that growth. What is the next president going to do about that?"

Atlanta's Reed agreed. "You have to have cities that are healthy, thriving and robust," Reed said. "This will lead to employment and well-paying jobs."

Cornett cited clean water and the need for "smooth" roads as being among issues important to mayors.

"American cities have needs," he said. "We need these issues addressed."

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