The US cities are the engines of the American economy. They are and have always been vibrant centers of technological innovation, global trade, investment and cultural diversity. Today, 80 percent of the U.S. population lives in urban areas, and 85 percent of our country’s gross domestic product is generated in large cities.
But in the last four years, many cities have been in direct conflict with President Donald Trump. His antagonistic view of us and his wanton mismanagement of major crises-from COVID-19 to climate change-deprives mayors of the resources we need to grow and provide for our citizens. And his lack of moral leadership and support in helping mayors end systemic racism has made our work more difficult.
As mayors, we need a president who will be a partner in the White House: one who sees the cities as an asset to this country, not an enemy. We need Joe Biden and Kamala Harris because we know that they will work with us to address our most difficult challenges and improve the lives of millions of people who live in cities from coast to coast.
The most urgent challenge for our cities is COVID-19, and Trump still doesn’t have a national plan to defeat the virus. We both can testify that trying to manage the COVID-19 pandemic without leadership in the White House has been incredibly difficult. The federal government mishandled this public health crisis from the outset – and cities like Atlanta and Boston were largely left to fend for themselves in this unprecedented environment. It’s incredibly difficult to plan a school year, advise businesses and monitor public health responses when federal health officials are absent.
Biden has a concrete plan to expand testing, increase the personal protective equipment available, address racial disparities exacerbated by the pandemic and distribute a vaccine that is safe, effective and affordable. He also promised that if elected, he would not wait until the day of inauguration to work with the governors of the nations. This is the kind of leadership that can help us finally make progress in the fight against this disease.
The assassination of George Floyd this summer shows how urgent it is to take action against the systemic racism that plagues our country. But by refusing to condemn white racists and threatening to cut federal funding for cities that he believes allow “anarchy, violence and destruction,” Trump is making a difficult challenge even worse.
While Trump has spent months trying to blame mayors, Biden understands that what our communities need most of all is investments that will lift people up. He has a plan to address the inter-racial wealth gap by improving access to capital and credit for minority owned businesses and addressing the student debt crisis. A Biden Harris government will also make significant investments in production, infrastructure, care and education – and we are confident that this plan will work because cities across the country have already done so.
The Boston Resiliency Fund is coordinating philanthropic efforts for those residents whose health and well-being were most directly affected by the pandemic. To date, the fund has raised more than $33 million and distributed over $28 million to 351 organizations that are feeding, clothing and caring for Boston’s most vulnerable people. In Atlanta, the city issued executive orders to support families in Atlanta, including the establishment of a $22 million housing emergency program to help nearly 7,000 residents pay housing bills, the establishment of a moratorium on the closure of water supplies to residents, and the establishment of a relief fund to support creative industry workers. As mayor, we urgently need a real White House leader who can implement such approaches at the national level.
The fact that our current president refuses to acknowledge climate change should make every American concerned. For the sake of our planet, we cannot afford another four years with a climate denier at the helm. The record-breaking warming of our planet and the arrival of new, challenging weather events should be the spark for planning and preparation, not distraction.
Boston is implementing a climate action plan and working to become carbon neutral by 2050. Atlanta has launched the AgLanta Grows-A-Lot program, which requires applicants to submit plans for a five-year renewable license to adopt a vacant urban property to create an urban garden or farm. But cities can only do so much to reduce the effects of climate change. Under a Biden government, our country would have a climate change plan that not only protects our environment, but also creates millions of well-paid jobs.
In times of need, mayors are at the forefront to provide vital support to our citizens and encourage businesses and foundations to move forward. This is what so many of our colleagues are doing nationwide. But to truly address the existential challenges ahead – from pandemics to climate change – we need a White House that works with us, not against us. Together with Biden, we will be able to do extraordinary things that will lift people up in our cities.
Keisha Lance Bottoms is the 60th Mayor of the City of Atlanta. Martin J. Walsh is the 54th Mayor of the City of Boston.
The views expressed in this article are those of the authors….