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U.S. mayors forced to innovate

Published: Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

I recently came across more proof that lawmakers blocking progress are weakening the institution of Congress.

Mayors from across the nation met in Washington, D.C., for three days last week to discuss a host of issues and possible solutions against a backdrop of congressional inaction. This came as President Barack Obama stated his plans to use “a pen and a phone” to “make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need.” And further, voters are recognizing that the problem in Congress starts at the state level – and many hope their legislatures will do something about it.

Scott Smith, president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and mayor of Mesa, Ariz., put it bluntly: “Rather than look to Washington for assistance, mayors have been forced to turn to local partnerships to continue to accomplish more with less.”

Smith is a Republican who plans to resign his mayoral post in April to seek his party’s nomination for the Arizona governorship. He sounds nothing like the federal office-holders and candidates who seem to specialize in partisan rhetoric. Smith told USA Today he would miss his fellow mayors, describing them as a “pragmatic bunch who care more about finding solutions than about focusing on ideological differences.”

The USCM released a study that underscored the importance of our cities to our economy. Conducted by IHS Global Insight, a Massachusetts company that researches and analyzes economic trends, the study found that:

• The national economy’s gross domestic product (GDP) will leap from last year’s 1.9 percent to 2.7 percent in 2014 – and continue climbing into 2015 with a GDP increase of 3.2 percent.

• Growth in consumer consumption (the driver of the economy) will be up sharply in 2014 from 2 percent to 2.8 percent in 2014.

• At the city level, 356 of the 363 U.S. metropolitan areas are expected to experience “real economic growth” (inflation adjusted) in 2014.

• Almost one-fifth of U.S. metro areas are projected to experience real economic growth in 2014 of 3 percent; 62 percent (226 metro areas) will have a 2 percent growth rate.

• 297 metro areas (82 percent) will see jobs growth in 2014, and 40 percent will see unemployment skink to 6 percent.

• On the national level, the U.S. unemployment rate is expected to fall to 6.5 percent in 2014, and break the 6 percent barrier in 2015, dropping to 5.9 percent.

We should praise our mayors for their innovative approaches, their willingness to put solutions and citizens over ideology and party, and their commitment to programs that help people. Congress could learn a lot from them.

• Donna Brazile is a senior Democratic strategist, a political commentator and contributor to CNN and ABC News.

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