While the scales differ, Mesa mayor Scott Smith expects several issues related to his roles as the head of Arizona’s third-largest city and the president of the United States Conference of Mayors to crossover.
Currently the organization’s vice president under president and Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter, Smith will become the first Arizona mayor to lead the Conference of Mayors during its annual conference that begins on June 21.
“It’s exciting, it’s humbling and it’s big-time stress city,” he said of the position at a press conference on June 18.
According to its website, the Conference of Mayors brings together mayors from cities with at least 30,000 people under one overarching organization and in a non-partisan manner to provide a voice to the mayors on a national scale. Another purpose is to emphasize how important cities are to the U.S. as a whole.
“Cities are where the action’s at and cities are the future of our country,” he said.
One thing Smith can expect from his position as the Conference of Mayors president is an overlap on issues that have an effect on the City of Mesa as well, as he said many topics addressed in the District of Columbia have, “a direct effect on main street Arizona.”
An example he cited of a macro issue that can trickle down to individual cities is the immigration system, an area which he said is in need of fixing from the upper levels of government.
“My biggest fear is that Congress does nothing,” he said.
Similarly, Smith said another issue the organization will focus on with ties to Mesa is economic relations between countries in the Americas, particularly Canada and Mexico. Both, he said, have significant connections with Mesa, with Canadian winter visitors purchasing homes in Mesa during the snowy season and with Arizona’s proximity to the Mexican border.
But he said the state has “underutilized” its connection with Mexico and needs to make the bond stronger to help the city’s and state’s economies grow.
“We have some catching up to do,” he said.
A third issue Smith mentioned at the June 18 press conference is government regulation, which he said can be “unreasonable” at times. The agency he focused on was the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, and the compliance issues cities across the state like Mesa have with the amount of particulate matter, as measured by the agency’s PM-10 standards, found in the air.
Due to the way the agency measures PM-10, Smith said Mesa has to work to meet the compliance level, and he said missing that mark could lead to a shutdown on the city’s construction and result in “tens of thousands of people” out of work.
Other municipalities, he said, face EPA compliance issues with water and O-zone regulations, and they often have to solve the issue with little to no funding. That’s part of a larger trend where the lowest level of government can help find solutions to larger problems.
“Cities will probably play a significant role. We have in the past,” he said.
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