The day before President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney go head-to-head in their first debate, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett and his peers will seek to remind the candidates to give careful thought to the economic future of American cities.
Cornett and four other U.S. mayors will participate in a panel discussion Tuesday in Denver that focuses on jobs, job training, education and infrastructure in cities. The U.S. Conference of Mayors is hosting the discussion.
Cornett said neither presidential candidate has spent enough time focusing on cities as economic engines.
“We don't think the campaigns so far have concentrated on the most important factor in driving the economy, and that is taking care of the cities, specifically infrastructure needs and education,” he said. “All of that is necessary to increase jobs and improve the economy.”
Cities vs. states
Cornett has long been an advocate of shifting as much power as possible to the local level. He often cites the MAPS tax as an example of how voters can invest in themselves in a more productive way than would have been possible otherwise.
“We have long believed that the federal dollars that are going to be distributed around the country should go through metro areas, and not through state governments, where typically it won't filter down to cities. We're not satisfied with the current funding streams,” Cornett said. “The amounts are not what I'm concerned about. But the distribution method is critical.”
The panel is nonpartisan. The focus will not be on the merits of either candidate, but on what policies they could implement that would most benefit American cities.
“City government doesn't need to be partisan,” Cornett said. “And from that respect, we've got to hear from both candidates on these issues.”
Others on the panel are Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock; Sacramento, Calif., Mayor Kevin Johnson; Mesa, Ariz., Mayor Scott Smith; and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.