Decisions made each day by city leaders are influenced by so many forces, ranging from budget concerns to catastrophic weather events. Mayoral priorities fall into a broad range of categories, as recently identified in the 21st-Century Mayors Leadership Survey conducted by the Initiative on Cities at Boston University and spearheaded by the late Boston Mayor Tom Menino.
The report summarizes interviews and insights from more than 70 mayors of cities of all sizes to offer an inside look on their challenges, relationships and where they gain inspiration. Known as the “Menino Survey of Mayors,” it indicates that mayors’ primary challenges lie with the physical and fiscal infrastructures of their cities.
“Policy priorities for the upcoming year vary widely, but economic development, quality of life concerns and urban infrastructure were the most frequently cited,” the report states. “Mayoral policy priorities are remarkably consistent across large and small city mayors and those who govern both economically thriving and disadvantaged cities. It appears that the issues mayors view as their cities’ biggest keys to growth and vitality—economic development and infrastructure—make up two of the top three areas of focus. But, many mayors also highlight quality of life concerns, including public safety, urban planning and improved sustainability.”
“[Infrastructure is] a quality of life issue, how your neighborhood looks,” said Menino in regard to the top challenges identified by participants. “It’s having people come to a neighborhood and see a sidewalk that’s fixed, a street that’s in good condition, lighting that’s proper and trees that are trimmed.”
Mayors from all American cities report spending a significant amount of time thinking about how to better grow and plan their cities, how to manage transportation and city operations, and how to budget limited resources given contemporary fiscal constraints.
Where do they look for inspiration and ideas? They look to other cities that demonstrate success and action plans of progress.