U.S. mayors call for federal government to bolster cities

Dallis Watson and Dillan Joseph (front R) embrace outside of the New Orleans Superdome during the African American Leadership Project's "Hands Around the Superdome" event in New Orleans, Louisiana August 29, 2015. REUTERS/Edmund D. Fountain

National government urged to better channel infrastructure funding, increase affordable housing and help businesses weather disasters

TEPIC, Mexico, March 14 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Mayors from 21 U.S. cities including New York and Los Angeles backed a proposal calling for the federal government to better channel infrastructure funding, boost affordable housing and strengthen businesses and communities to withstand shocks.

The Rockefeller Foundation-backed 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) initiative said its federal policy recommendations would help protect cities as they deal with problems like increasingly extreme weather events, social inequality and crime.

"Cities have always taken responsibility for driving their own transformational policy changes to keep their residents safe and prosperous," said Michael Berkowitz, 100RC president, in a statement.

"But the nature of the challenges they will face in the 21st century – from catastrophic events like hurricanes, to long-term stressors like unemployment and violent crime – require an active and engaged federal government to help."

Responsible for 80 percent of global economic output and set to be home to two-thirds of the world's people by 2050, many cities are grappling with how best to integrate and protect their booming populations.

In the United States, city leaders have vowed to lead the drive to slash carbon emissions driving climate change, after President Donald Trump said he would pull the country out of the Paris climate change deal.

The 100RC proposal urged the U.S. government to set up a national bank to fund investments aimed at making infrastructure more resilient, that would help cities pull in financing from the public and private sector.

It also called for federal funding to help small businesses to better prepare for disasters and to recover after they hit.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said efforts to tackle social inequality needed to run alongside moves to strengthen infrastructure in his flood-prone city.

"Being resilient means more than having levees and wetlands to hold back water," he said.

"It also includes combating the long-standing, generational challenges around crime, education, income inequality and striking a balance between human needs and the environment that surrounds us."

Bolstering police forces, investing in crime prevention and ramping up schemes to reintroduce offenders to the community, would also benefit cities, along with improved support for violent crime victims, 100RC said.

"Our cities and our nation are experiencing complex and unprecedented challenges, such as the increasing impacts of climate change and acute shortages of affordable housing," said Jesse Arreguin, mayor of Berkeley, California.

"Cities are leading the charge in addressing these and other urgent challenges."

The Rockefeller Foundation partners with the Thomson Reuters Foundation on resilience coverage.

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