Elorza: Next U.S. president should trust, engage mayors

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza is encouraging the next president of the United States to work closely with municipal leaders, but allow mayors to “define what our priorities are.”

Speaking at the CityLab 2016 Conference in Miami this week, the first-term Democrat urged presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to “trust us as mayors and engage us as partners” as they craft federal policies that may affect the nation’s cities. Elorza has endorsed Clinton.

“It’s said that there are three main political parties in the United States: Republicans, Democrats and mayors,” Elorza said, drawing laughs from the crowd. “And the mayors are focused on getting things done.”

Elorza’s comments came Monday afternoon during a panel called “Rethinking Economic Inclusion” that also included New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Karen Freeman-Wilson, the mayor of Gary, Indiana. The three Democrat mayors were joined by moderator Richard Florida, one of the country’s leading urbanists.

Aside from offering advice to the next president, Elorza told the crowd his guiding principal in Providence is “making sure that people feel as though you’re looking out for them.” He said every decision he makes takes into account the “most vulnerable in our community.”

“It’s impossible to have a strong and vibrant city with the levels of inequality that many of us are experiencing,” Elorza said.

Elorza also touted Providence’s effort to reduce the so-called “word gap” between poor and more affluent children. The program, known as Providence Talks, won a $5-million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies in 2013.

One of The Atlantic magazine’s digital properties, CityLab says its annual summit is dedicated to “highlighting innovation and effective practices in urban governance.” Elorza also attended the organization’s 2015 conference in London.

Nicole Pollock, the mayor’s chief of staff, and Courtney Hawkins, the city’s director of policy, also attended the conference this week.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan