Bloomberg Philanthropies released the results of its 2018 American Mayors Survey, the largest and most comprehensive survey of mayors to date. The survey reveals that America’s mayors increasingly feel on the hook for addressing major policy and funding issues — from affordable housing to infrastructure — that were once the purview of federal or state governments. The research also provides a deep examination of how local leaders are responding to climate change and the opioid epidemic as well as the degree to which mayors rely on experimentation, partnership and citizen engagement as central strategies to improve their community.
The 2018 American Mayors Survey builds on existing research and reveals the issues and challenges that are top-of-mind for local leaders in the U.S. It is the first to include small cities (30,000-plus residents) alongside larger metropolises. Mayors of 156 cities and from all regions of the country participated.
The survey is part of Mike Bloomberg’s American Cities Initiative, a program designed to empower city leaders to generate new ideas and advance policy that moves the nation forward. The findings will help promote bold leadership in America’s cities, advance critical policies and legislation, and empower citizens to solve urban problems.
“Cities are a nexus of new solutions for the nation,” said Michael R. Bloomberg. “These results give us a comprehensive snapshot of the issues that matter most to city leaders and will inform and further enhance our strategic investments in public-sector creativity.”
Key Findings Include:
- Cities are thriving but need to address housing and infrastructure concerns – More than 70 percent of cities reported rapid growth and success attracting new businesses and citizens indicating that cities continue to be areas of growth for the nation. However, affordable housing and infrastructure are among the top concerns for mayors.
- Cities are leading on climate change, but can do more – Mayors are already taking action on climate change across all regions and political spectrums, however, more opportunity exists to explore other forms of climate mitigation. Nearly 40 percent already encourage sustainable modes of transportation like walking, cycling and buses but only 15 percent have experience promoting low-carbon new buildings or experience procuring renewable energy (24 percent). According to the City Energy Program, buildings are the largest single source of U.S. carbon emissions, pointing to real room for change.
- Sharing economy is impacting larger cities positively, but few see positive impacts for jobs – More than half of the participants felt the sharing economy with services like Uber, Airbnb and Lyft had a beneficial impact but few mayors say that the sharing economy is creating jobs or offering benefits to young people (total 5 percent). Almost 60 percent of large cities reported feeling a significant impact whereas only 8 percent of smaller cities felt the sharing economy had yet to impact them significantly.
- Cities rely on law and order to stem the opioid crisis – The opioid crisis has hit some regions harder and more deeply than others. More than 40 percent of mayors in the Midwest and Northeast see opioids as a top challenge but only 20 percent have a written plan for addressing the epidemic. Of the programs that exist, 62 have support wide distribution of naloxone by law enforcement.
- Mayors are pragmatic coalition builders – Constructive relationships with city and state legislators are common with more than 70 percent of respondents reporting positive relationships despite the fraught political climate.
- City halls are rethinking staff roles and ways to harness the power of citizens to develop new solutions – About half of those surveyed have appointed a chief data officer and one-third have installed chief innovation officers. Mayors are also sharing ideas with each other and adopting new ways to engage residents in their work, including soliciting feedback and citizen data collection.
These results underscore that cities are important players in the American response to 21st Century challenges and highlight areas where cities need more support.
Review and download the report:
Explore our previous coverage of mayors’ priorities: