WASHINGTON – Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt joined Durham Mayor Bill Bell and Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane in Washington, DC this week for the 82nd winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
“This has been a very successful conference,” he says. “We not only had an opportunity to engage with each other and discuss the achievements of cities around the country, but we’ve (also) had great access to the (Obama) administration and cabinet secretaries and their deputies, who help cities like Chapel Hill accomplish the goals we have for ourselves.”
More than 250 mayors from across the country registered for the conference. Participants got to meet with President Obama, Vice President Biden, and other administration officials.
Kleinschmidt says mayors this year were especially concerned with urging the executive branch to take action on issues where Congress is slow or unlikely to move.
“A lot of mayors are concerned that Congress isn’t moving with policy changes that urban areas across the country have been asking for for years,” he says. “And there’s a great level of enthusiasm for the President’s commitment to make things happen now–and use his pen, when he has the ability to do so, in order to make things happen.”
One of those issues is transportation—and on that issue, Kleinschmidt says the Triangle is in a uniquely strong position, because the new Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, is a former mayor of Charlotte.
“As you know, Orange and Durham Counties are submitting a transit plan that includes light rail, (and) we also hope that Wake County will come along (on that) soon,” Kleinschmidt says. “We had some good conversations with Secretary Foxx about that.”
And Kleinschmidt says Foxx also agreed to look into how Chapel Hill might resolve another recent transportation-related issue: whether or not the town is required to allow individuals with permits to carry concealed weapons on public buses.
The Conference of Mayors ended on Friday, but Kleinschmidt is staying in DC for one more day to attend a second conference—the winter meeting of the Mayors Innovation Project. Chapel Hill will play host to that conference’s summer meeting this August.