United States Conference of Mayors

United States Conference of Mayors

Current USCM President Antonio Villaraigosa
Abbreviation USCM
Formation 1932
Type non-partisan
Headquarters 1620 Eye Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20006
Region served United States
Membership 1,200 United States cities with populations of 30,000 or more
Official languages English/Spanish
President Antonio Villaraigosa
Website Official Website

United States Conference of Mayors, sometimes referred to as the United States Council of Mayors, is the official non-partisan organization for cities with populations of 30,000 or more. The cities are each represented by their mayor or other chief elected official. The organization arose from the shadows of the Great Depression and coalesced under Herbert Hoover until its original charter was signed at the Mayflower Hotel on the eve of the inauguration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The organization sets policy as the collective voice of municipalities and their leaders. Committees and task forces develop policies that the entire body votes on before sending their resolutions to elected leaders in Washington. They also undertake studies on issues related to their special interests and fund grants and awards to incent execution of their ideals. The group has continuously evaluated the landscape of public policy and has current issues related to homeland security and economic recovery.

By standing as a unified voice through this organization, municipal leaders have influenced United States Presidents and United States Congresses to enact legislation that has provided a legacy of benefits to cities. Mayors received relief from the Great Depression and later lobbied for 1970s relief. Community Development Block Grants (CDBGs) are a legacy of the later.



Barack Obama in a U.S Conference of Mayors meeting in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 21, 2010

The organization serves the following functions: Help develop and promote effective national urban/suburban policy; build stronger and more effective federal-city relationships; monitor the effectiveness of federal policy in terms of its service to urban needs; help mayors develop leadership and management tools; and to create a forum in which mayors can share ideas and information.[1] By representing all large municipalities and their leaders in these ways, the conference is speaking for vast majority of the components of the nations economy. According to one of the Conference's own reports, metropolitan areas accounted for 84 percent of the nation's gross domestic product and at the same time generated 84 percent of the nation's employment opportunities.[2]


2008 President, Manny Diaz

In 1932, Mayor of Detroit Frank Murphy called a conference of mayors to meet in Detroit, Michigan in June. In the shadow of the depression, he felt it was worthwhile to pursue federal aid for cities. 48 mayors of cities in excess of 100,000 attended.[3] On June 3, two days after the Adjournment sine die of the first conference, Murphy appointed a seven-person commission (including himself) to lobby Washington using the powers vested in him by the conference. Murphy along with Mayor of Boston James Michael Curley, Mayor of Cleveland Raymond T. Miller, Mayor of Milwaukee Daniel Hoan, Mayor of New Orleans T. Semmes Walmsley, Mayor of Minneapolis William A. Anderson, and Mayor of Grand Rapids George W. Welsh traveled to Washington, DC to lobby the federal government for aid.[4] The mayors that went with him urgently pled for relief. On June 6 at 10:00 a.m., they met with United States Speaker of the House John Nance Garner (D), Majority Leader of the United States House of Representatives Henry T. Rainey (D) and Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives Bertrand H. Snell (R). They held out hope for a US$5 billion prosperity loan, but made it clear their true need for any relief for the despair of their constituents.[4] At 11:00 a.m., they met with United States Vice President/President of the United States Senate Charles Curtis and other Senate leaders.[5] The presence of the Mayors was unprecedented and despite some Democratic defections, a band of 12 Republicans led by Fiorello LaGuardia enabled the passage of a relief bill by a 205–189 margin.[5] Unfortunately President Herbert Hoover was not receptive to the $1.9 billion scale of the public works plan. However, the mayors were able to convince the President that federal support for local relief efforts was reasonable and this is considered a watershed event.[6] 42 of the 48 states benefited from the newly empowered Reconstruction Finance Corporation.[7] After the Emergency Relief and Construction Act of 1932 was signed into law by Hoover, the Conference wrote its charter at the Mayflower Hotel on the eve of the inauguration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.[1] It held its second meeting in 1933 and formed the permanent United States Conference of Mayors with Murphy as its President.[3]

In 1972, USMC President Mayor of Milwaukee Henry Maier led the crusade for municipal resources at a time when federal grants to state and local governments was escalating rapidly. Richard Nixon started allowing cities to participate in federal revenue sharing. This source of municipal funding relieved cities until the mid 1980s. Jimmy Carter capped revenue payments and Reagan discontinued everything except for CDBGs.[8] The CDBG program has consistently allocated over $4 billion/year to state and local jurisdictions.[9] Currently, CDBG's are being used by 1180 local governments and states.[10] Using provisions in the 1995 Crime Bill, Clinton paid for municipal enforcement authorities on behalf of cities.[11]

The current leadership of the conference is President Antonio Villaraigosa (Los Angeles, California), Vice President Michael Nutter (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), and Second Vice president Scott Smith (mayor) (Mesa, Arizona)[12].

Current issues

During the Presidential transition of Barack Obama in December 2008, The Conference held a news conference along with United States House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel, United States House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar and Congressional Urban Caucus Chairman Chaka Fattah. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced that the meeting sought support of the Conferences survey of 11,391 "ready-to-go" infrastructure projects that they hoped to see in a Main Street recovery plan during Obama's first 100 days. According to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the $73.1 billion projects had completed the design and approval process and met all political requirement except for the need for funding.[13][14] At the same time the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials called for support for more 5,148 road and bridge infrastructure projects that they categorized as "ready-to-go."[15] Many of the ideas in the Mayor proposal became part of the stimulus package.[16]

Another issue that the Conference took issue with in 2008 include the misappropriation of federal funds for municipal anti-terrorism emergency equipment through the Homeland Security Department, which was created in 2003, instead of for municipal police forces and other enforcement officials. On this issue, they stood by the International Association of Chiefs of Police who feel common domestic anti-crime expenditure might better serve the public interest. Since the September 11 attacks federally funded municipal purchases of bomb robots, chem-bio suits and other anti-terrorism equipment have often gone unused while crime is underserved. These organizations are calling for a re-evaluation of the federal grant system.[17] Along with various foreign governments, United States Chamber of Commerce and the Travel Industry Association, the conference also stood against the 2008 Homeland Security Department initiative to fingerprint foreign visitors before they leave the country by airplane.[18] These complaints came a few years after the conference complained that their cities were not receiving an equitable proportion of counterterrorism funding in the first few years after the attacks.[19][20]

The conference has been active in fighting foreclosures and predatory lending.[21] During the formulation and debate of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 in response to the global financial crisis of 2008, a conference spokesperson was cited for being in support of the inclusion of $4 billion for the purchase, rehabilitation and resale of low- and moderate-income family distressed property. The money would produce profits that would be used to develop neighborhoods. Another important feature to municipalities was $180 million devoted to grants for pre-foreclosure and legal counseling.[22]

Also in 2008, the conference unanimously both supported single-payer national health insurance and City-coordinated drug overdose prevention efforts.[23][24] After calling for a study on bottled water in 2007,[25] in 2008, the conference came out against bottled water which consumes 1.5 million barrels of oil per year to produce its plastic bottles.[26]


The organization convenes for its winter meeting each January in Washington, D.C. (January 17–19, 2009) and an Annual Meeting each June in a different U.S. city (June 12–16, 2009 in Providence, Rhode Island) in addition to ad hoc meetings.[1] At the annual meeting, members vote on policy resolutions. The results are distributed to the President of the United States and the United States Congress.

On January 11, 2007 the Conference leadership approved the annual ten-point platform called "Strong Cities, Strong Families for a Strong America", including positions on energy policy and homeland security, and support for Community development block grants (CDBG), government sponsored enterprises, the State Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIPS), and the Workforce Investment Act. In 2008, travel and tourism were part of the plan for the first time.[27]

In the past, the Conference has taken stances against Ronald Reagan's 1983 budget.[28] It has also through its president Fiorello La Guardia, spoken against cuts in the Works Progress Administration on behalf of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.[29] The conference has actively pursued legislation to curb handgun violence by changing the regulations for purchasing, adding regulatory oversight, and suing manufacturers for unreasonable marketing practices and lax safety standards.[30]

At times, the unified voice of Mayors has had significant impact on federal policies. An example was the controversy over the decision by investigators from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Department of Justice to carry out an examination of waste, fraud and abuse in the housing programs in three cities led by black mayors (Kurt L. Schmoke, Marc H. Morial and Willie L. Brown Jr.). Eventually, the housing subcommittee of the United States House Committee on Appropriations Chairman, Jerry Lewis, in response into the collective voice of the mayors, with the support of President Bill Clinton and Andrew M. Cuomo, the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, mandated a clarification of selection criteria for investigation subjects.[31]

In determining their positions and policies, the Conference has had to balance difficult political choices. They once opposed the Environmental Protection Agency in a resolution which came out against enforcing stricter smog and soot limits. The conference members felt that the stricter standards for ozone and fine particles would have hampered the economies of many municipalities, especially those that are steel-, automobile- and fossil fuel-intensive.[32]

Annual awards and grants

The U.S. Conference of Mayors also houses the Mayors Climate Protection Center, created in 2007 to provide support mayors in efforts to reduce global warming in American cities.[33] In June 2007, the Center awarded its first annual "Mayors' Climate Protection Awards" to leading mayors. The "U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement", initiated by Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels in 2005, seeks the pledges of mayors from all 50 states to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 7% from 1990 levels by the year 2012, in line with the Kyoto Protocol. As of February 2010, 1017 mayors have signed the Agreement.[34] In 2007, the mayors called for a multi-billion dollar grant to help cities fight global warming and declared global warming as first on their list of top-ten priorities.[35][36] That year the conference and the city of Seattle hosted the "2007 Mayors Climate Protection Summit in Seattle", which featured Bill Clinton and Al Gore.[37] Wal-Mart has been a corporate partner in the presentation of the first two years of these awards.[38][39]

The council has granted City Livability Awards since 1979 for mayors and governments as recognition for developing programs that enhance the quality of life in urban areas.[40] Programs such as drowning awareness and prevention programs earn such recognitions.[41]

Since 1997, the Conference of Mayors in conjunction with the Americans for the Arts has annually presented Public Leadership in the Arts Awards. The awards recognize "elected officials and artists or arts organizations that have demonstrated outstanding leadership in the advancement of the arts."[42] Various classes of elected officials are recognized and various types of contributions are recognized each year.[43]

The Conference has advocated for HIV/AIDS Prevention Grants Programs. Annually, in cooperation with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) it awards approximately hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants for HIV/AIDS prevention service to Native Americans as well as to African American or Hispanic Women at High Risk of HIV Infection.[44][45] This was part of a broader 24-year partnership with the CDC in which the conference has awarded $23 million in grants to community based organizations and local health departments to promote local prevention and education efforts.[46]


Task forces

Temporary task forces are organized to study emerging issues and make recommendations to the body of the Conference. Recent task forces have addressed AIDS, hunger and homelessness,[47][48] unfunded federal mandates, youth crime and violence,[49] high fuel costs,[50] and brownfields. The "Poverty, Work and Opportunity Task Force," chaired by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, was formed in January 2006.

Standing committees

The organizations members serve on the Council's standing committee which recommend policies for the general body to evaluate for endorsement at the summer meetings. The endorsed policies are delivered to the United States President and United States Congress.[1] The councils supports initiatives such as handgun regulation,[30] recycling, defense funding and global warming.[51][52][53] Although the organization is domestic, its reach is international. It partakes in missions to worldwide locations.[54] When the internet blossomed and Bill Clinton made plans for an unregulated and untaxed electronic marketplace, state and local officials objected. Their voice was represented by the Council.[55] Mayors may also serve on one or more of the Conference's standing committees: Children, Health and Human Services; Community Development and Housing; Criminal and Social Justice; Energy; Environment; International Affairs; Jobs, Education and the Workforce; Membership; Tourism, Arts, Parks, Entertainment and Sports; Transportation and Communications; and Urban Economic Policy.

Past presidents

The following is a comprehensive listing of past presidents of the United States Conference of Mayors:[56]

Name City Term
Elizabeth B. Kautz Burnsville, Minnesota 2009-2011
Greg Nickels Seattle, WA 2009
Manuel A. Diaz Miami, FL 2008-09
Douglas H. Palmer Trenton, NJ 2006-08
Michael A. Guido Dearborn, MI 2006
Beverly O'Neill Long Beach, CA 2005-06
Donald L. Plusquellic Akron, OH 2004-05
James A. Garner Hempstead, NY 2003-04
Thomas M. Menino Boston, MA 2002-03
Marc H. Morial New Orleans, LA 2001-02
H. Brent Coles Boise, ID 2000-01
Wellington E. Webb Denver, CO 1999-00
Deedee Corradini Salt Lake City, UT 1998-99
Paul Helmke Fort Wayne, IN 1997-98
Richard M. Daley Chicago, IL 1996-97
Norman B. Rice Seattle, WA 1995-96
Victor Ashe Knoxville, TN 1994-95
Jerry Abramson Louisville, KY 1993-94
William J. Althaus York, PA 1992-93
Raymond L. Flynn Boston, MA 1991-92
Robert M. Isaac Colorado Springs, CO 1990-91
Kathryn J. Whitmire Houston, TX 1989-90
Arthur J. Holland Trenton, NJ 1988-89
Richard L. Berkley Kansas City, MO 1987-88
Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Charleston, SC 1986-87
Ernest N. Morial New Orleans, LA 1985-86
Hernan Padilla San Juan, PR 1984-85
Richard H. Fulton Nashville, TN 1983-84
Coleman A. Young Detroit, MI 1982-83
Helen G. Boosalis Lincoln, NE 1981-82
Richard G. Hatcher Gary, IN 1980-81
Richard E. Carver Peoria, IL 1979-80
William H. McNichols, Jr. Denver, CO 1978-79
Lee Alexander Syracuse, NY 1977-78
Kenneth A. Gibson Newark, NJ 1976-77
Moon Landrieu New Orleans, LA 1975-76
Joseph L. Alioto San Francisco, CA 1974-75
Roy B. Martin, Jr. Norfolk, VA 1973-74
Louie Welch Houston, TX 1972-73
Henry W. Maier Milwaukee, WI 1971-72
James H. J. Tate Philadelphia, PA 1970-71
Jack D. Maltester San Leandro, CA 1969-70
Terry D. Schrunk Portland, OR 1968-69
Joseph M. Barr Pittsburgh, PA 1967-68
Jerome P. Cavanagh Detroit, MI 1966-67
Neal S. Blaisdell Honolulu, HI 1965-66
Raymond R. Tucker St. Louis, MO 1963-65
Arthur L. Selland Fresno, CA 1963
Richard C. Lee New Haven, CT 1962-63
Anthony J. Celebrezze Cleveland, OH 1962
Haydon Burns Jacksonville, FL 1961-62
Richardson Dilworth Philadelphia, PA 1960-61
Richard J. Daley Chicago, IL 1959-60
Norris Poulson Los Angeles, CA 1958-59
Robert F. Wagner New York, NY 1957-58
John B. Hynes Boston, MA 1955-57
Elmer E. Robinson San Francisco, CA 1953-55
Thomas A. Burke Cleveland, OH 1953
Martin H. Kennelly Chicago, IL 1952-53
David L. Lawrence Pittsburgh, PA 1950-52
W. Cooper Green Birmingham, AL 1949-50
George W. Welsh Grand Rapids, MI 1947-49
Edward J. Kelly Chicago, IL 1945-47
Fiorello H. La Guardia New York, NY 1935-45
Daniel W. Hoan Milwaukee, WI 1934-35
T. Semmes Walmsley New Orleans, LA 1933-34
James M. Curley Boston, MA 1933
Frank Murphy Detroit, MI 1933


The organization has had some controversies. In Newark, New Jersey, one of its non-partisan presidential straw polls was determined to be contrary to a New Jersey Supreme Court ruling because the court had determined that it was improper for any municipality to test public opinion outside of its jurisdiction.[57]

Also, at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, striking Boston Police Department officers decided to picket a Conference of Mayors meeting. 2004 Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry, who was the invited speaker, decided to honor the picket line.[58]

See also


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  5. ^ a b Gunther, p. 51.
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