Washington, D.C. – Mayors nationwide, from cities large and small, agree that housing availability and affordability are their most pressing concerns and the top reasons why people are moving away from their cities. In addition, they are deeply concerned by the consequences of climate change and agree that cities should play a strong role in mitigating its negative effects. And at a time when cutbacks in federal and state funding threaten to adversely impact infrastructure and education, mayors are willing to advocate for increased state and local taxes to close the budgetary gaps and enhance the quality of life for their constituents.
These are the key findings of the 2017 Menino Survey of Mayors released today by the Boston University Initiative on Cities. The annual survey, supported by Citi Community Development and The Rockefeller Foundation, details the most pressing needs and policy priorities of America's mayors. One hundred fifteen mayors from 39 states were interviewed throughout the summer of 2017, providing a representative sample of mayors and cities nationally.
"Today, the majority of Americans live in cities—and as our urban population continues to increase, so too does the demand for infrastructure and services," wrote Mayor Betsy Price of Fort Worth, Texas and Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, California in the 2017 Menino Survey Foreword. "This survey serves as a platform to share our contemporary struggles and our sources of inspiration with a national audience. It gives mayors a voice to make our needs heard and highlights the importance we place on the physical, fiscal, and social infrastructure of our cities."
The survey was released at the National Press Club on Tuesday, January 23, 2018, with a presentation of key findings and a moderated discussion with Mayor Greg Fischer of Louisville, KY.
"As the widening wealth gap, rising cost of housing and other economic challenges dominate the discourse in Washington, D.C., and across the country, the 2017 Menino Survey of Mayors provides invaluable insights into some of the most complex issues facing our nation's mayors," said Bob Annibale, Global Director of Citi Community Development and Inclusive Finance. "This year's survey confirms yet again that our nation's mayors are leading the way—prioritizing issues within and beyond their municipal borders, such as affordable housing and climate change, with innovative approaches that affect positive change for their constituents."
"Mayors, perhaps now more than ever, are being called to serve as agents of both local and global change. Our center, the Boston University Initiative on Cities, was co-founded by one of America's most revered mayors, Tom Menino, and we continue to marvel at the incredible breadth of responsibilities that mayors must bear," said Graham Wilson, Director of the BU Initiative on Cities. "We hope that the Menino Survey provides a platform for mayors to share their needs with a national audience and serves as a valuable tool for guiding those who support their work."
"Throughout the United States, mayors are leading the charge to develop the innovative solutions cities need to thrive," said Ryan Whalen, Director of Global Partnerships, The Rockefeller Foundation. "From housing affordability to climate change to the evolving budget landscape, the Menino Survey provides a window into the challenges mayors see every day in their work and opportunities to address them. These insights will serve as the foundation for the creative partnerships and problem-solving cities need to make their communities more resilient and inclusive."
Named in honor of the late Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston, the survey, now in its fourth year, explores mayoral views on issues of both local and global import—from housing the young and the old, the rich and the poor, to mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change. The key findings of the survey — which can be read in full at www.surveyofmayors.com—are below. Follow the conversation on social media using the hashtag #MeninoSurvey.
A National Housing Crunch: Housing Costs Top List of Reasons People Move
Mayors nationwide are challenged by rising housing costs. More than half of the mayors (51 percent) interviewed said housing costs are one of the top reasons people move away from their city—outpacing other highly salient issues like jobs, schools, and public safety.
Taking Action on Climate Change
Mayors overwhelmingly agreed that climate change is due to human activities—84 percent of surveyed mayors attributed increases in Earth's temperature to human activities rather than natural changes, relative to 68 percent of Americans according to a 2017 Gallup poll1. A majority of mayors are committed to local action on climate change, but the issue is politicized even at the local level.
Budgets and Federalism: Going Local to Keep Their Cities in Good Repair
Facing federal funding cutbacks, mayors are looking to a variety of alternative funding sources, particularly their own source revenues, and see new local and state taxes and resources as the most promising way to plug fiscal gaps.
1"Global Warming Concern at Three-Decade High in US," Gallup News, March 17, 2017.
The Initiative on Cities
The Boston University Initiative on Cities researches, promotes, and advances the adaptive urban leadership strategies and policies necessary to support cities as dynamic and inclusive centers of growth and positive development in the 21st century. Founded by a proven urban leader, the late Mayor of Boston Thomas Menino, and a highly regarded academic, Professor Graham Wilson, the Initiative serves as a bridge between academic research and the real-life practice of city governance.
Citi, the leading global bank, has approximately 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions. Citi provides consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services, including consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, securities brokerage, transaction services, and wealth management.
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The Rockefeller Foundation
For more than 100 years, The Rockefeller Foundation's mission has been to promote the well-being of humanity throughout the world. Together with partners and grantees, The Rockefeller Foundation strives to catalyze and scale transformative innovations, create unlikely partnerships that span sectors, and take risks others cannot�or will not. For more information, please visit www.rockefellerfoundation.org.