America's cities are telling the new president and a fumbling congress: "We don't think you're doing the right thing, so we will anyway."
That message was from the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), at for their annual summer conference June 23-27, this year in Miami Beach – just before congress took a Fourth of July break, and Donald Trump leaves for Europe on his second foreign trip as president.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, the 75th President of the USCM, expressed the frustration mayors feel about the actions – and inactions – in Washington. Those include climate change and health care and immigration.
“The country is hungry for results: and that’s what Mayors serve every day to the people in their communities," Landrieu said. "We govern in real time and reality. And we never step back when duty calls.
"We don’t just talk about it – or debate it. We don’t have time for that,” Landrieu said. “We cannot simply resist and retreat – we must lead and engage."
Landrieu blasted Trump's June 1 announcement that the America will back out of the Paris Climate Accord to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Every country around the world backs it -- except Syria and Nicaragua, and now the US.
Not so for the mayors of 300-plus US cities.
“If the federal government doesn’t act, it doesn’t mean we don’t have a national policy; the federal government doesn’t occupy the only place on this,” Landrieu said. “Mayors have to respond to circumstances. We have to keep moving no matter what.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and more than 300 other mayors have signed a pledge to abide by the Paris accord.
Many mayors want their cities powered 100 percent by renewable energy — wind and solar – that doesn't spew carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.
“There is no question that the federal withdrawal of national leadership is a step backward,” Garcetti said. “But before Paris and after the withdrawal from Paris, most of the local action has taken place at the mayoral level.”
The mayors also encouraged Washington to consult with them on health care – which has stymied at least the U.S. Senate.
Landrieu said the Congressional Budget Office's report on the Senate proposal was chilling.
"The bottom line is that this bill will make us sicker," Landrieu said. "A bill that rips insurance away from 22 million people and guts Medicaid is bad for hospitals and clinics in America's cities, which will once again be filled with sick, uninsured residents. Furthermore, this will set our local budgets back and hurt the economy."
Mayor John Giles, of Mesa, Ariz., encouraged the national policy-makers to let the mayors help solve the health care dilemma.
"As a Republican, I can safely say health care is a nonpartisan and local issue," Giles said. "I’m struck that in this dire situation, Washington is running away from a burning building.
"That is not what cities do," Giles said. "That is not an option for the mayors of this country. The federal government should take a page from us and come together to fix, not destroy, healthcare.”
On immigration, the federal effort to punish "Sanctuary Cities" – which want illegal immigrants to report crimes to law enforcement officials, rather than hiding out for fear of deportation -- are considered counter-productive by many mayors.
Landrieu released a June 26 letter he sent to House members opposing the Sanctuary Cities bill (H.R. 3003, which the House nonetheless passed June 29).
It would punish local officials deemed insufficiently cooperative with enforcing federal anti-immigration policies.
Landrieu asked House members to "oppose federal policies that commandeer local law enforcement or require local authorities to violate, or be placed at risk of violating, a person's Fourth Amendment rights (against unlawful search and seizure); expend limited resources to act as immigration agents; or otherwise assist federal immigration authorities beyond what is determined by local policy."
Landrieu warned it "would jeopardize public safety by withholding critical public safety funding from jurisdictions that tell their police officers not to ask an individual their immigration status.
"Many departments have such policies to encourage crime victims and witnesses to report crimes and to build trust with immigrant communities," Landrieu wrote.
A Texas Sanctuary Cities bill – SB 4, passed by the Legislature this spring – has been challenged in federal court by several Texas cities. Trump's Justice Department has joined the state of Texas in defending the law.
So, as the nation's cities assert themselves against the federal government, some major Texas cities are also asserting themselves against the state government.
Perhaps it's no coincidence that the U.S. Conference of Mayors added Austin Mayor Steve Adler to its board of trustees, and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner to its advisory board.