Mayor Michael Nutter’s four-step strategy for cities

Faced with potentially devastating cuts in federal funding, how can cities fight back?

Resist, communicate, organize and vote, said former Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter, a senior fellow for What Works Cities, during a recent panel discussion at the Columbia School of International Public Affairs’ David N. Dinkins Leadership and Public Policy Forum.

“You will only be successful working with us, not against us, not penalizing us, but trying to understand how local government works,” Nutter said, offering advice to the Trump administration. “We have work to do, we have no time to mess around, and we are going to get stuff done regardless of what some…in D.C. want to do.”

Nutter’s four-step strategy for cities:

Communicate: Communicate accurate information and data to your network. Nutter noted that one of the crucial moments in the recent failed attempt by Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act came when pro-ACA groups mobilized opposition by pointing out popular provisions of the law. “The facts brought this thing down the other day,” he said. “Facts matter; let’s stick with facts.”

Resist: Cities may have to directly oppose specific federal policies — one example Nutter used was the administration’s vow to cut appropriations to so-called Sanctuary Cities that provide shelter for undocumented immigrants. “2017 will be the rise of the United Cities of America,” he said. “Cities all across America are organizing to fight and resist this assault on our citizens at the local level.”

Organize: City leaders must urge their constituents to get involved and make clear that involvement can make a difference. “Be involved in your neighborhood,” Nutter said. “While we are trying to save the world and do all these things, make sure your own neighborhood is tight and that you’re doing what you can.”

Vote: The ultimate ability to bring change comes at the ballot box. Nutter said voters can easily become cynical and disaffected and city leaders must remind them that votes matter. “Every election is important. You’re not alive in the USA until some elected or appointed official signs your birth certificate. You’re not dead until some elected or appointed official sings your death certificate. Politics and government actually matter.”

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