- - Wednesday, January 18, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The historic, controversial presidential election of 2016 is now behind us. The people decided. Now comes the hard part, governing. As usually happens after a presidential campaign, serious, talented individuals come forth to help. There is something magical about contributing to a new federal administration, a chance to effect change across America. It is an appealing part of our national ethos. However, the allure and power of Washington sometimes fails to reach much of America.

There are innovative men and women all across our country who are constantly studying, testing and enacting solutions to many of the challenges faced by citizens. We call them “mayors.” They are on the ground in cities using what works, discarding what doesn’t work, and sharing with other mayors. They are faced with real, gritty problems day in and day out, problems that require leadership and solutions that are directly in touch with the ground truth. The mayor’s office is the most senior executive position in America where one can routinely and directly affect the quality of life of the American citizen.

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett’s impressive leadership of his city continues. Oklahoma City has taken a responsible pay-as-you-go approach to that city’s infrastructure and improvements through its Metropolitan Area Projects Plan. Not overtaxing. Not overspending. Just getting the job done right. Also addressing a significant health issue, his work has garnered national attention with his community’s obesity efforts. Mick is also the current president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

In Garland, Texas, Mayor Douglas Athas leads one of the most ethnically diverse, fast-growing metro areas in the country. The innovation, creativity and community connections being forged in Garland are remarkable.

Mayor Lenny Curry of Jacksonville reached across traditional political and community lines and brought his city together to reform that city’s failing pension system. Voters approved that plan by more than 65 percent of the vote.

Wichita’s Jeff Longwell worked with global agriculture company Cargill to keep its 900 employees and operations in Wichita. This was no small feat given that the company was eyeing locations in Texas, Colorado, Arkansas and Minnesota. However, Cargill decided that the best place to lead its global markets is in Wichita because of the strengths and partnerships fostered in that community that grows jobs and improves the quality of life.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer has made unifying San Diego and restoring integrity and transparency to City Hall central to his administration. San Diego’s open data portal allows residents and others access to information about what their city government is doing and how they are doing it, information that previously was inaccessible. It also allows innovators to see what the city government is doing, allowing them to develop creative ways to help the city. Like his Republican colleagues across the country, Mayor Faulconer believes that his entire community deserves access to opportunity. He’s focused on creating an environment where students can thrive, developing new ways to enhance public safety, along with enhancing neighborhoods and repairing city streets.

In Indianapolis, we created the largest citywide robotics championship in the country to enhance STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education, rebuilt infrastructure above and below ground on a scale never before seen in Indy, successfully promoted charter-like innovation within a public school system, and challenged the nation on transportation energy.

And these are just a few of many accomplishments that Republican mayors are demonstrating in cities all across America.

I invite President-elect Donald Trump and his staff to sit down with Republican mayors to learn more about the innovative solutions developed at the local level, many of which can be expanded and applied at the federal level. They are developing practical, principled solutions to address financial management, connectivity, growth, opportunity and community.

As well intentioned some in Washington may be, local knowledge is necessary to develop practical solutions. These early conversations can lay the groundwork for establishing direct lines of communications between the White House, the Senate and the House, and the agencies tasked with addressing issues in our local communities. Mayors have the firsthand knowledge of what’s working and the best way to fix what is not working. Working with the mayors will also send a strong signal to statehouses across America that mayors know their communities better than anyone. All three levels working together can be very powerful.

Having these conversations is essential for continued opportunity and prosperity, whether in a city of 8 million or 8,000. What better way for the incoming administration to “make America great again” than by working side by side with the men and women who spend every day of their lives doing just that?

America’s Republican mayors are ready to help.

Greg Ballard is a former mayor of Indianapolis.

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