7 Steps to Municipal Resilience & Recovery

All municipal governments have the power to start on them right now. So why not start today?

We recognize that not all of you have the home rule and local control powers that provide adequate regulatory and revenue freedom. We also know that all of you are operating within bigger private and public systems, sanctioned by law, with widely distributed veto or blocking powers on your attempts at public service. But we also assume that:

  • You want to build a prosperous, inclusive, sustainable, stable home for your residents, businesses and civic institutions.
  • You’ve identified priorities in doing that work now, a sense of your current assets and liabilities (financial, legal, civic) in doing that work.
  • You’re willing to lead and take risks in doing so, but also recognize that success requires inviting, enabling and organizing contribution from a diverse network of local actors.
  • You know that effective reform requires clear continuous communication of WHY it’s being done and adjustment to feedback on HOW; both recommend specificity, incrementalism, and “walking in the shoes” of residents.

If these assumptions are correct, these seven steps are for you.

Note: We’ve tried to order the actions in each section by easiest to hardest or required sequence (learning to walk before trying to run, much less bike).

1: Make Recovery Everyone's Business

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Create an inclusive task force of public and nongovernmental leaders to create a home-grown recovery strategy


City of Chicago, Report of the Chicago Recovery Task Force

Crain’s Chicago Business, Scott Bernstein, The Recovery of Our Region Requires Collective Intent

Create a performance dashboard to track and monitor health and economic status, and signal both accomplishments and needed additional actions

Create a focused team to support especially threatened sectors such as the service industry and the arts

Secure direct support from your regional agencies and states for emerging priorities


Atlanta Regional Commission, Atlanta Livable Centers Initiative

Streetsblog, Using Highway $ for Complete Streets

Contract with community- based, civic and local research centers (independent, university, news media) to provide early warnings of threats to public health and economic stability


Asset Based Community Development Institute, Guidebooks and Case Studies to Identifying and Mobilizing Community Assets

Create and use local government technical assistance and programs at regional agencies and in emerging state and multi-state initiatives

2: Advance Equity & Opportunity for All

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Apply a racial equity lens in recovery and rebuild (and strategic) plans, with strong indicators and accountability


City of Seattle, Racial and Social Justice Initiative

Government Alliance on Race and Equity, Advancing Racial Equity and Transforming Government

Utilize tools that help establish delivery strategies to promote health, equity, poverty reduction, and economic inclusion


Center for Neighborhood Technology, Urban Opportunity Agenda (poverty reduction strategy and benefits calculator), City Presentations

Eliminate or reduce municipal fines and fees that inequitably impact low-income residents


National League of Cities, Why Cities Should Find Equitable Ways to Impose and Collect Fines and Fees

Urban Libraries Council, How Eliminating Library Fees Advances Racial Equity; St. Louis Office of Financial Empowerment (children’s saving accounts funded through parking fines)

Understand the eviction problem in your city and implement key steps to prevent eviction


Mayors Innovation Project, The Housing Crisis: What Cities Can Do

National League of Cities, Using Data to Understand Your Local Eviction Crisis

Grand Rapids, MI, Eviction Prevention

Create new avenues for public engagement and resident participation in city governance

Explore piloting a Universal Basic Income program

3: Unleash Your Local Economy

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Support “buy local” & “invest local” with procurement practices & incentives, especially in historically underserved communities

Affirmatively support your town’s small businesses, prioritizing women and BIPOC businesses

Lead & partner in the supply of essential goods & services

Lower procurement barriers to partnerships that promise increased efficiency and/or broader opportunity


Mayors Innovation Project, Contracting

Government Alliance on Race and Equity, Contracting for Equity

Meeting of the Minds, Five Takeaways from Procurement Innovation in Glasgow

Governing, Bringing Innovation to Procurement, Innovative Procurement in Philadelphia and Barcelona

Lower barriers to consolidated, joint, or cooperative purchasing and procurement


Chicago Metropolitan Agency on Planning, Partnerships for Sharing Services

Lake County Illinois, Joint and Cooperative Purchasing

Northwest Municipal Conference, Suburban Purchasing Cooperative

American Public Power Association, National Directory of Public Power Joint Action Agencies

Support “informal” approaches to otherwise expensive development and services

Procure through partnering (e.g. keep the community in Community Policing)


US Dept. of Justice, Community Oriented Policing Service, Community Policing Defined

Community Based Alternatives to Policing in California

Create and support a cadre of small builder-developers


Incremental Development Alliance, Helping locals strengthen their neighborhoods through small-scale real estate projects

Evanston Developers Cooperative: Built by and For Evanston

Support and advance employee ownership


Democracy Collaborative, Expanding Democratic Ownership

Imagined Economy Project, Cities Developing Worker Coops: Efforts in Ten Cities

City of Rochester NY, OWN Rochester

4: Zone for Equitable and Sustainable Neighborhoods

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Support outdoor dining and develop outdoor design guidelines

Create open streets and non-vehicle priority areas and encourage rain gardens and tree-planting to quickly improve neighborhood life while “greening”


U.S. National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) Streets for Pandemic Response and Recovery

Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ COVID-19 Street Rebalancing Guide

Open Street Plans Database of Cities with Open Streets (383 cities as of October 30, 2020)

EPA, Soak Up the Rain

Louisville, KY Green Heart Project, Accelerated Tree Canopy Replacement & Health Impacts

Expedite building and zoning permitting

Support tradeoff of parking spaces for parklets


Done through sponsored competition, and/or better procurement, and/or guidance (NACTO, AARP, NAR, Tulsa)

Case examples: Athens-Clarke County GA, Chicago IL, San Francisco CA, Washington DC

Support and create outdoor shopping, learning, and places of worship

Reduce or remove parking and lot size minimums

Adopt common sense, “lean” zoning codes


Placemakers, Lean Code Tool (provides model slimmed down zoning codes)

Congress for a New Urbanism, Project for Code Reform (organizes state and national assistances for smaller cities and towns’ efforts to expedite improved zoning codes, including major elements for main streets, housing, green infrastructure for stormwater management and parking; sample manual and code provisions for Vermont towns at www.cnu.org/vermont)

Enabling Better Places: A Zoning Guide for Vermont Neighborhoods, Stormwater, pp. 51-52

Develop & support rent-to-own initiatives

Allow and support in-home businesses


Project for Lean Urbanism, Leaning Toward Live-Work Units

Allow & support Accessory Commercial Units (ACUs)

Allow & support Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)


American Planning Association, Accessory Dwelling Units (includes guides, case studies, model ordinances)

AARP, The ABCs of ADUs

Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, Granny Flat Academy (links to presentation and training materials)

Eliminate or soften legacy rules on permissible number of unrelated persons living in a single home or apartment

Develop & support use of a tiny home code

5: Speed Up & Broaden Delivery of Essential Services While Saving Money

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Provide a lifeline package of broadband services

Transition public service provision from cash to touchless transactions, transition in-person permit applications to online services


Global Newswire, Big Growth in Contactless from Pandemic

Lower barriers to providing “shared package” consolidation and alternative supply chain services

Support micro-mobility for better connections and first-last mile accessibility, and bundle one-stop payment for combined on-demand and transit services


Shared Use Mobility Center, New Urban Mobility Alliance, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Communities, Micromobility Policy Atlas (Provides case studies and policies from 100 cities)

Expand transit frequency & hours of service, calibrate routes to demand

Offer one-stop packages (appropriate rates + advice + financing + contractors) for basic energy & water services including conservation, clean energy and community-scale solutions

6: Leave No Dollar Behind

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Don’t miss the opportunity to include short-term recovery assistance in current & pending Community Reinvestment Act agreements, or in actions by public employee & other pension funds


Illinois Treasurer, Access To Capital

Work with “essential” sectors to take advantage of emergency & recovery resources (e.g. flexible funding provision in CARES for health recovery, flexible funding in FAST Act for transportation dollars, use of regional capital dollars by Metropolitan Planning Organizations, stormwater agencies, utilities & Publicly Owned Treatment Works)

Provide or support assistance with tax filing & counseling that focuses on cost reduction


National League of Cities, Earned Income Tax Credit in Your City

Create “forbearance partnerships” with lenders & creditors to restructure home & business debt worsened by COVID-induced economic crisis


State of Michigan, Michigan Forbearance Partnership

Create & use locally-responsible banking ordinances targeting city banking with lenders who “greenline” or meet public policy targets


National Community Reinvestment Coalition, Summary of Local Responsible Banking Ordinances

Get your state to use their own depository authority to support your town’s initiatives, including linked deposit investment programs & mortgage forbearance

7: Build a Readiness Culture

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Repeatedly confirm and communicate community consensus on shared goals, existing plan to get there, progress on that plan and efficiency in getting there, and any needed change

Always be open to exploring proven low-cost, fast, and high-impact strategies for innovation

Use your and your State’s “emergency declaration” powers to get things done in the community’s interest if community behind them

Adopt a lean and flexible municipal ethic based on need, data-informed experiment, and recursive learning, always open to feedback from residents

Prioritize “fix it first” policies and leverage medium term opportunities around economic recovery, health and climate protection, and anticipate new policies that reward readiness

The Mayors Innovation Project provides local leaders with the most useful and relevant information in helping you address your city’s needs. Do you need support in implementing these solutions?

Learn more about membership and contact us today.