Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick is among 250 U.S. mayors in Washington this week at the 87th annual U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting. The four-day event aims to strengthening local and federal ties.
Former Vice President Joe Biden delivered the keynote address during the Thursday morning breakfast. While never serving as mayor himself, Biden, a former New Castle, Del. county councilman from 1970-72, was quick to joke about how tough being a local public official can be.
“I ran for the United States Senate because being a local official was too hard," Biden laughed. "I’m not kidding, they know where you all live.”
Biden’s keynote address at Thursday soon shifted to the importance of the relationship between local government and the federal government. The former U.S. Senator, who served six terms representing Delaware, credited mayors for getting their respective communities through the 2008 recession and to today, when he called for renewed bipartisanship at all levels, not just Washington.
“The more dysfunctional (Washington) has become, the more consequential local officials become,” said Biden, who is rumored to be considering a 2020 presidential bid, but didn’t directly address the issue Thursday. Instead, he called on approximately 250 local mayors in attendance to work across the aisle to accomplish their agendas.
Myrick sees some immediate ways the federal government can help his community.
"The federal government has to do a better job at investing in infrastructure," said Myrick, who has attended the conference for the last seven years. "Our roads and our bridges are crumbling and have been crumbling for 30 years."
The United States Conference of Mayors is a non-partisan organization bringing together mayors from cities with populations of 30,000 residents or more, according to its website. Columbia, S.C. Mayor Steve Benjamin is presiding over the meetings.
Each mayor and their cities face different challenges, but the conference’s goal is to have mayors and the federal government work together to ensure federal policy meets their local needs.
"We want a federal government that allows us to be flexible, that says take your chance, we believe that people closest to the ground now what they're doing and we're going to give you some room to run," Myrick said.
This summer, the conference is coming to Honolulu, Hawaii for its annual summer meeting.