Highlights from the 2022 Summer Meeting

Above: Mayor Victoria Woodards, Tacoma, WA. Courtesy of City of Tacoma

Our first in person summer convening since 2019, the Mayors Innovation Project Summer 2022 Annual Meeting was held August 4-6 in Tacoma, WA. It was an absolute joy to meet in person again, and to do so in the beautiful and vibrant city of Tacoma. Our off-site excursions included a welcome reception and dinner at the Washington State History Museum and an unforgettable evening at Point Defiance Park, the second largest public park in the country, which tells an incredible story of environmental reclamation and economic development through collaboration. View some highlights below:


Keynote speaker Michael Tubbs, former mayor of Stockton, CA, who now wears many hats – Founder/Executive Director of End Poverty in California, Founder/Executive Chairman of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, and Special Advisor to Gov. Newsom (CA) on Economic Mobility and Opportunity – kicked off our first night of conference. Tubbs challenged attendees to use their power and privilege as city leaders to advance meaningful change: “What are we prepared to do today, tomorrow, next week so that 50 years later our country and our communities look different? That’s the charge, that’s the awesome opportunity… that’s the work that we’re called to do. If nothing is going to change, why be in office?”

Transformational Leadership

Tubbs’ remarks set the stage for our opening panel the following morning on Transformational Leadership. The panel featured four city leaders who brought a variety of perspectives – different forms of municipal government, from different geographic and cultural areas of the country, and at different stages in their mayoral terms – and highlighted their efforts to bring lasting, impactful change to their communities. 

Moderated by former mayor Betsy Hodges (Minneapolis, MN), the session featured Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird (Lincoln, NE), Mayor khalid kamau (South Fulton, GA) and the dream team from Tacoma, WA, Mayor Victoria Woodards and City Manager Elizabeth Pauli. Collectively, this group has advanced policy and practice toward long-term climate resilience, embedded equity in city operations, and transformed policy and practice around public engagement. 

Each panelist spoke to the tools available to them as leaders to make change; examples include Tacoma’s Resolution 40622 on racial equity; Lincoln’s Climate Action Plan; and South Fulton’s resolution creating a pedestrian safety fund from traffic camera revenue. 

You can find more information in our Transformational Leadership briefing book.

Zoning for Diverse Housing Types

Thanks to a combination of technical expertise and direct mayoral experience, attendees were able to gain valuable insight into ways cities can utilize their zoning codes to address the affordable housing crisis plaguing communities around the country. 

With a conversation mostly focused on Missing Middle Housing, Mayor Lucy Vinis of Eugene, OR detailed her strategy for communicating the benefits of zoning changes while technical experts offered specific ways they have measured the need for additional housing units and tangible ways they are working to see results, including: 

  • Pre-Approved Building Plan Sets in South Bend, IN.
  • Leveraging data to determine areas of need and establish benefits of ordinance changes.
  • Encouraging and supporting mayors in being champions for policy change, even when it comes to controversial topics such as zoning reforms. 

See the Zoning for Diverse Housing Types panel presentations for more information.

Operationalizing Equity

Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland, CA detailed her city’s efforts to enact institutional change, ensuring that equity is sewn throughout each aspect of the city’s operations, even the seemingly mundane. 

In this session, Mayor Schaaf explained how her administration’s Capital Improvement Plan addresses inequities in street paving and safe streets improvements, ensuring more projects are completed in underserved neighborhoods throughout Oakland with a focus on delivering projects that brought the most benefit to each particular neighborhood, avoiding a one-size fits all approach that ends up fitting very few. 

Other panel highlights included:

  • Data driven approaches to program planning via the Equity Index in Tacoma, WA.
  • Methodology and communication tips for advancing racial equity in cities from Race Forward.
  • Strategies for operationalizing equity in cities of all sizes, exemplified by a bus stop prioritization program in Takoma Park, MD.

See the Operationalizing Equity panel presentations for more information.

Anchor Collaboratives: Creating mutually beneficial relationships

Mayor Victoria Woodards of Tacoma, WA moderated a discussion highlighting a truly unique program, a city-led collaborative of anchor institutions working together to facilitate equitable economic development, reduce health and economic disparities across Tacoma, and adopt an anti-racist approach to addressing systemic inequities. 

While the idea of place-based anchor institutions working together may be well known, panelists representing two of the largest employers in Tacoma spoke about how valuable it has been to have this effort led by the city itself. The city having a direct role highlights Tacoma’s dedication to mutually beneficial partnerships with city anchors and an overall desire to ensure that the economic benefits created in Tacoma benefit the entire community. 

See the Anchor Collaboratives panel presentations for more information.

Innovation Showcase

This year’s showcase featured mayors from around the country highlighting innovative initiatives in their cities, including:

  • Violence prevention in Madison, WI
  • Homelessness response efforts in Auburn, WA
  • Climate resiliency strategies in Fremont, CA
  • Equitable hiring practices in Woodmere, OH, and more!

Check out the Innovation Showcase presenter slides to learn more about these efforts.

For more information, including additional resources and tons of great photos, please visit our 2022 Summer Meeting home page!