At the Winter Meeting in DC
By: María Alejandra Pulgar
@marialepulgar – NAHJ #37172
Doral Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez attended the US Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting from January 22ndto January 25thin Washington DC. The theme of the meeting was focusing on the three strategic priorities defined for the next two years: Infrastructure, Innovation, and Inclusion, as key issues that impact the success of local governments.
For more than 80 years, the US Conference of Mayors provides a unified front for local governments when dealing with federal issues.
“Every year I look forward to participating in this conference which is a great opportunity for me and other mayors from around the country to communicate and collaborate to address the challenges our respective communities are faced with,” said Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez. “As one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S., Doral is in a unique position where we can be proactive and effective to address many of the topics affecting us that are discussed during this conference.”
According to the US Census, there are 19,354 incorporated “places” (that includes towns, cities and villages) in the country. Out of those, only nearly 4000 qualify as cities due to their population greater than 25,000 residents.
There were 236 mayors registered to attend the event, and nine South Florida municipalities were represented, including Mayor Bermudez from Doral and Mayor Francis Suarez from the City of Miami. Also, in attendance from Florida were the mayors of Bal Harbour, Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Miami Gardens, Miramar, North Miami Beach, Ocala, Orlando, Parkland, St. Petersburg, Sunrise, Tallahassee, Tamarac and Tampa.
Steve Benjamin, President of the Conference and Mayor of Columbia, SC explained that “The Winter Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors is a critical and important way for cities across the country to stay connected with one another. It’s a unique opportunity for mayors—whether Democrat, Republican or Independent—to roll up their sleeves, brainstorm about how to solve similar problems and share best practices. As the gridlock and partisanship in Washington continues to escalate, mayors remain on the front lines working productively every day for the well-being of the people who live and work in their cities. There’s no better time for the nation’s mayors to come together to work on their shared priorities and build a brighter—more inclusive—future for all Americans.”
The US Mayors and the Government Shutdown
A few hours before the government shutdown ended the USCM passed a resolution urging bipartisan cooperation to solve the issue in the Congress.
Mayor Bermudez explained the importance of that solution for municipal governments: “There are a lot of federal employees in our cities. I think the most important message of the US Conference of Mayors not only for the administration but also the Congress, in particular, the House, is that people wants them to get a resolution, to move forward and not impact our lives because of a disagreement. As mayors, we do not have the luxury of being republicans or democrats. That partisanship you see in DC cannot happen locally, people need you to answer their questions and solve their issues.”
“We have to deal with the day to day. No disrespect to people who are Federal or State elected officials, but here we have to deal with daily issues, and that is why we are asking as a group that they try to make government run. Our big issue continues to be getting things done, paving our roads, police officers that people deserves, so we can keep our communities secure, having parks built for our people to enjoy, etc.”
Doral at the forefront on inclusion and innovation
Being part of the discussions at the Conference allows local officials to exchange experiences and access programs that are beneficial for their municipalities. Bermudez explained the importance of all three priorities of the conference for the City of Doral.
Regarding infrastructure, Bermudez said that Mayors discussed “trying to get the federal government to pass a transportation bill which will allot more dollars to fix roads, bridges, and highways. Traffic being our number one concern, any time that we can try to get the federal government to allot more dollars for transportation I think it is critical.”
“On Innovation obviously we have been at the forefront; we are one of the few cities in the country designated a Smart City. There is always an opportunity to learn. I am involved in several committees like transportation and communication because they impact our city a lot more than we imagined.”
And about inclusion, Bermudez affirmed that Doral is one of the most inclusive cities in the country. “USA needs to protect its history as a land of immigrants, and also protects its borders. The most important thing that we as Mayors discussed is that we need to have a true and fair immigration reform. In Doral we are so diverse that some of the things that happen in other places are not as common, we are probably a bit ahead of the curve on that issue.”
Bermudez was appointed this year again to the Advisory board of the conference, which is important for the relevance it gives to the municipality under his leadership. “We are an important city, the third largest revenue producer for Miami Dade County, the largest county in the State. It is important for us to be there, not only protect our interests but also work together with other municipalities and make sure we are protecting their interests as well, because it would impact us directly. We need to be at the table. If we are not there we do not have a say.”