“Potholes don’t care if you put an ‘R’ or a ‘D’ on them, they just want to be filled.” – Fort Worth, Texas, Mayor Betsy Price
by Angelina Panettieri
The National League of Cities spent this week in Cleveland, Ohio, at the Republican National Convention, convening Republican local officials, talking to leaders, and getting the inside scoop on how the decisions made by GOP delegates will impact cities. Here are our key takeaways from this week’s convention:
1. Infrastructure Investment Is a Bipartisan Issue
On Tuesday, July 19, NLC hosted a policy briefing with Build America Mutual on the challenges facing cities as they work to improve their infrastructure to meet the needs of a 21st century economy. The panel discussion, which featured local officials, financial industry leaders and former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, centered around the need to overcome partisanship and collaborate across party lines and find creative solutions to finance strong infrastructure networks. As Betsy Price, mayor, Fort Worth, Texas, told attendees, “potholes don’t care if you put an ‘R’ or a ‘D’ on them – they just want to be filled.”
Clarence Anthony, CEO & Executive Director of NLC, summed up the event by saying, “we are going to both the Republican and Democratic conventions because cities need to be partners with the next president of the United States, whoever that will be. We need the candidates to understand that we must make infrastructure a priority for America. Cities are a crucial part of that conversation because when cities succeed, the nation succeeds.”
Additional panel participants included Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors; El Paso County, Colorado, Commissioner Sallie Clark, president of the National Association of Counties; and Sheila Amoroso, who managed the municipal bond department at Franklin Resources, one of the largest investors in municipal bonds.
2. Public Safety Remains a Top Concern
Speakers inside and outside Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena raised the specter of threats to America’s national security. On Wednesday night, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich spoke at length about the current threats to the country from terrorism, citing recent incidents in Nice, Istanbul, and Bangladesh and the need for a strong American response. Responding to these threats, he said, “because safety and security are the preconditions for our freedom and prosperity, it is also the first step towards rebuilding the America we love.”
He also touched on the shootings this month within our borders in Baton Rouge, Dallas, and Minnesota, saying, “if anyone publicly threatens the life of the President of the United States, the Secret Service is on them in an instant. Our law enforcement officers deserve the same respect. And of course, if individual officers are found to have violated someone’s rights, they must be held accountable under the law. America is based on the rule of law.”
During his acceptance speech at the closing of the convention Thursday night, Donald Trump also focused heavily on international and domestic threats to Americans’ safety. Citing “poverty and violence at home, war and destruction abroad,” he renewed his pledge to tighten immigration controls and build a wall along the U.S. border, and to “restore law and order to our country.”
3. Economic Growth Is Important to Everyone, But the Path Is Murky
Whether you look at the newly-minted Republican platform, the speeches given during the convention, or the many panel discussions occurring throughout the city, one thing was clear: economic growth is one of the biggest concerns for Republican leaders this year. However, there is still plenty of room to disagree on what policy proposals and positions are most likely to provide that growth.
In a panel hosted by Politico, Rep. Kevin Brady (TX), Chairman of the influential House Ways and Means Committee, said that the recently-unveiled proposed GOP tax plan was intended to make Main Street more competitive globally by creating a business-friendly economic environment.
Significant disagreements remain within party leadership about positioning on trade issues. Presidential nominee Donald Trump has expressed opposition to free trade agreements, doubling down on his opposition during his acceptance speech Thursday night. At the same time, Republican leaders in Congress have incorporated increased free trade into their economic plans, and the GOP platform affirmed during the convention supports expanding free trade.
4. A President Trump Will Face Challenges in Washington
National party conventions are traditionally times for party leadership and dedicated advocates to gather, unify, and get excited for the general election ahead. While the convention closed to raucous cheering in the Quicken Loans Arena, if Trump is elected president, he will have his work cut out for him when he arrives in Washington. Many members of Congress elected not to participate in this year’s convention, and a number of those that did participate expressed reservations about elements of Trump’s policy positions.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (TN), in a panel Thursday afternoon, acknowledged that while she would speak that evening in support of Trump’s candidacy, he had “said things [she] wished he had not said and that he should not have said.” During another panel Wednesday morning, Rep. Kevin Brady discussed the space between Trump’s economic positions and those of the congressional Republican leadership, saying that he and other colleagues hoped to convince Trump of the value of a free-trade plan and reach an agreement with him on it soon. At this point, it appears unlikely that Trump will take the White House with his party unified behind him in Congress, and he will need to work hard to make progress on his priority initiatives on Capitol Hill.
5. Everyone Must Get Involved
Former presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz created waves at the convention Wednesday night when he said, “If you love our country, and love our children as much as you do, stand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom, and to be faithful to the constitution.” However, that message – that voters must get engaged in this election cycle – is central to NLC’s work this election season. If you want to stand with cities and ensure that the issues most important to your community have a presence in the national political debate this year, join with us and sign onto our city issues platform.
If you will be in Philadelphia next week for the Democratic National Convention, please RSVP and join us at our events for local officials. If you can’t be there in person, follow #StandWithCities on Twitter to get the latest updates from our team on the ground!
About the author: Angelina Panettieri is the Principal Associate for Technology and Communication at the National League of Cities. Follower her on twitter at @.