- President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris met virtually with the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) on Monday to offer their full support in unifying the nation and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Biden assured the mayors that his administration will work with them on the safe and equitable distribution of vaccines as well as expanding testing capacity for all residents. "All of you have been on the front lines from the very beginning. And as we head into this Thanksgiving, a very dark winter with cases of hospitalizations and deaths spiking, I want you to know we're here for you and we're going to listen to you and work with you," Biden said. "It's the first priority we're going to have when I'm sworn in."
- Biden also acknowledged the many challenges mayors face daily outside of the pandemic — social justice, climate change, the digital divide, ending homelessness and others — and said he will forge strong partnerships between all levels of government to move forward in a cohesive manner. "Today is not a one-off meeting. It's just a start, and I promise you that ... Our team is fully available to you," he said.
Vice President-elect Harris introduced Biden at the meeting following short remarks she made to also offer her support as a "strong partner" to USCM.
"You walk the streets of America where people recognize you and look to you for confidence, look to you for a sense of security that everything's going to be okay," Harris said. "You are the ones who take the heat on a daily basis, you are recognizable as the leaders of their government in the place where they live ... And in that way you've been carrying an enormous burden of responsibility during the crises we have been experiencing, and you are relentless."
These remarks reflect a similar message Biden sent to the National League of Cities last week, in which he recognized that American cities have long lacked federal support in regards to COVID-19 response and recovery. "Congress has passed the money that was designed to do this, and it's not coming forward. I know it must be frustrating, and in the face of these challenges you've all stepped up," he said.
Cities and public sector organizations had expressed frustration with President Trump's administration far before the COVID-19 pandemic, however, especially as it relates to the climate crisis. Former New York City mayor and climate advocate Michael Bloomberg has long criticized Washington for being "asleep at the wheel," while a number of cities have dismissed federal climate guidance to take actions into their own hands.
President Trump's administration also muddied relationships with big-city leaders, including those in New York, Seattle and Portland, OR, with designations of "anarchist jurisdictions" in the wake of social justice demonstrations that shook cities this summer. Those cities filed lawsuits against the administration calling such designations — which impact funding to public transit departments and other in-need agencies— arbitrary and capricious.
Biden assured mayors that he will be a leader for all U.S. cities, despite their political leanings. "Blue cities, red cities, it doesn't matter. They're all American cities, American communities and they deserve the full support of an American president. I promise you that," he said in the Monday meeting.
Mayors Steve Adler (Austin, TX), Nan Whaley (Dayton, OH), Jorge Elorza (Providence, RI) Francis Suarez (Miami) and others took to Twitter on Monday to thank Biden and Harris for their support. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who was named the chair of Climate Mayors last week, said the nation is at a "pivotal point," and conversations such as the one between Biden and USCM "serve as a reminder that there are better days to come."
Thank you @joebiden and @kamalaharris for meeting with the @usmayors Executive Committee to discuss the key issues facing this country. We are at a pivotal point in our nation, and conversations such as the one today serve as a reminder that there are better days to come. pic.twitter.com/ELA5XeAKnh— Mayor Marty Walsh (@marty_walsh) November 23, 2020