Mayors across the United States increasingly are feeling pressure to address policy and funding issues that once were the purview of federal or state governments, a report from Bloomberg Philanthropies finds.
Based on a survey of a hundred and fifty-six mayors, the Bloomberg American Cities Initiative's 2018 American Mayors Survey (22 pages, PDF) found that their top concerns were the municipal budget (19 percent), infrastructure (17 percent), jobs and economic growth (10 percent), and affordable housing (10 percent). According to the survey, 72 percent of respondents agreed that housing affordability was becoming a problem in their cities, while two-thirds cited infrastructure as one of the top concerns they hear about from local residents. The survey also found that mayors in the South (58 percent) and the West (56 percent) were more likely than those in the Northeast (33 percent) or Midwest (16 percent) to say the sharing economy was beneficial to their community, although they were no more likely to say it was good for job creation (6 percent and 7 percent, compared with 9 percent and 8 percent).
The report also found that mayors in the Midwest and Northeast said the opioid crisis was the top challenge (6 percent and 13 percent) or one of the top challenges (43 percent and 42 percent) currently facing their cities, with 60 percent and 67 percent saying they had created new programs in the past year to address the epidemic. Among all respondents, only 20 percent had a written plan for stemming the opioid crisis. And while four in five mayors said tackling climate change was very (46 percent) or somewhat (34 percent) important, many said they were stymied in taking effective action by significant challenges, including financing (47 percent), administrative capacity (28 percent), and federal policy (25 percent).
In addition, the survey found that 43 percent of respondents said their city had experienced preemption by the state, with nearly two-thirds of mayors of large cities and 40 percent of mayors of midsize cities reporting worsening relationships with the federal government, including 44 percent of Democratic mayors and 6 percent of Republican mayors. Respondents' predictions as to what is likely to be the biggest challenge for the nation in ten years were political dysfunction (20 percent), inequality (15 percent), infrastructure (15 percent), and the national debt (11 percent).
"As dysfunction in Washington has grown worse, the responsibilities of local leaders have grown larger — and so has their importance on the national stage," said Bloomberg Philanthropies founder and former New York City mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. "That's why we undertook this first-of-its-kind survey of mayors, and it provides a clearer picture of how they see their biggest challenges."