How We’re Supporting Mayors During the Pandemic

Just like you, we here at the Mayors Innovation Project are adjusting to the “new normal”: working from home, moving events to virtual settings, and working with cities and mayors as they continue to address the COVID-19 crisis. We are impressed by the speed with which local leaders have taken on this challenge, and we consider ourselves lucky to work with cities like our members, who continue to serve their constituents.

Today we bring you updates from our team about how we’re supporting mayors and their cities during this tough time. As always, reach out to us with questions and ideas.

New Mayors Cohort

The initial plan for our 2020 New Mayors Cohort – two in-person workshops, with the first scheduled for Dallas in March – changed to a virtual model. While our attendees always prefer in person meetings for this sort of training, the online meetings created an opportunity: some mayors joined us who would not have been able to in person. Our first session included three mentor mayors, who had a great deal of wisdom to share on managing in times of crisis. Thanks to all the newly-elected mayors who have made this a success – and thanks to Mayor Breea Clark for taking photos of our first call!

Women Mayors’ Network

When we kicked off the Women Mayors’ Network at our Winter 2020 Meeting just three months ago, we had no idea that mayors’ leadership would face a test of this magnitude. Women mayors face a double challenge: addressing the crisis while facing both blatant and subtle sexist criticisms. We started the Women Mayors’ Network, in partnership with Equity Agenda, to create a space for women mayors to support each other and learn tools for successfully navigating sexist double standards. We are so glad we can support these mayors who are truly making the network their own.

Read about women leaders’ successes thus far here, written by Barbara Lee, whose foundation spoke at our inaugural network meeting; from Rutgers’ Center for American Women and Politics, highlighting women mayors; and hear from Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta and Mayor LaToya Cantrell of New Orleans about their efforts to combat the pandemic.

Meeting with Wisconsin Municipalities

The Mayors Innovation Project is a project of COWS, based at the University of Wisconsin. While we love supporting innovation in cities across the country, we have strong connections to our Wisconsin friends. Working with staff from cities such as Madison and Racine, as well as the Wisconsin League of Municipalities, we hosted several calls in March and April. We focused on best practices cities can adopt to address the needs of economically vulnerable residents and businesses, ranging from things like organizing food distribution, to providing mortgage and rental assistance, to re-allocating CDBG funding to small and local businesses.

Have you done something similar in your state? Let us know!

Healthy Babies: Small Grants

While everyone’s main priority is addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, there are often moments of opportunity in times of crisis. How can cities use this moment to embrace long-term thinking to improve children’s health and reduce health disparities? The Mayors Innovation Project, in partnership with Healthy Babies Bright Futures, is excited to provide cities with a small grant opportunity to support efforts that decrease neurotoxic exposures. Member cities received exclusive first access – an invitation for all cities to apply coming next week!

Water Affordability Academy Now Virtual

Aging water infrastructure systems, climate change, and the general rising cost of urban living mean that access to clean and affordable water is becoming a greater challenge. Through our water affordability program, in partnership with The Water Center at Penn, we work directly with cities and utility leaders to address this. While we were forced to cancel our intensive in-person workshop with Great Lakes utility leaders in April, we are excited to provide this same critical training and support through a virtual academy. More details coming soon!

Our COVID-19 City Feed

When COVID-19 and the wave of shelter-in-place orders first hit American cities in March, we knew that knowledge-sharing would both be an enormous challenge and an opportunity. We immediately created a tracker (sortable by action and topic) to note policies put into place by cities across the country. We continue to update this tracker and look for new ways to support our cities as the impacts of the pandemic continue. Additionally, we are sending frequent emails highlighting leadership in cities as well as resources from our partners such as webinars and grant programs. Sign up for our newsletter!