January 20, 2022
NEW YORK – The following are prepared remarks for New York City Mayor Eric Adams at the U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting:
Thank you, Mayor Suarez, and thank you to the entire conference of my fellow mayors.
I’ve only been mayor of New York City for a few weeks, but I want you to know that I appreciate all the support and solidarity you have already shown me. There’s a lot of experience in this room. And I am proud to be among you. Listening to you. Learning from you.
As mayors from all over this great nation: There is nothing more important than for us to be working together to solve problems, deliver services, and produce results for our people. Because with so much dysfunction in Washington and division in our nation, now is the time for mayors to lead America.
Over the last two years, we have seen exactly how important this urban civic leadership is to the entire country. When COVID first appeared, every mayor could see: This wasn’t a problem that was going to be solved on an individual level. But it also wasn’t going to be addressed on a federal level. We needed to think globally and act locally, as the saying goes. And we were going to have to do it fast.
The pandemic showed us that we didn’t have a lot of space for political debates and ideological rhetoric. We were going to have to make decisions in real time. What we needed was to be radically practical. But to make those decisions and put them into play, we also needed leadership. And you, my fellow Mayors, provided that leadership when we needed it most.
Thanks to you, the 80 percent of Americans who live in cities got the guidance they needed to protect each other from the spread of COVID. During the worst months of the crisis, we were able to keep our cities going because our municipal workforce, our essential workers, stepped up and kept up. And when the vaccine became available, you made sure that your city workforce was marshaled to distribute that life-saving miracle shot to everyone who wanted it. Thanks to you, our cities kept on functioning — and America was shown a path to recovery.
But inaction by our federal government now darkens that path at a critical moment. The COVID crisis exposed problems that have been with us for far too long.
People are ready to rebuild — but we can’t just go back to the way things were before. We can't keep governing from crisis to crisis. We have to look at the rot that was exposed at the foundations of our society. We can’t just put drywall over it and pretend we didn’t see it. And we must acknowledge these truths and speak clearly to our citizens.
We can’t pretend our working-class people are getting a fair shake and a fair wage. We’re going to have to change that.
We can’t pretend that our streets and subways are safe when people can see that guns and violence are killing people every day. We have to stop that.
We can’t pretend our kids are getting an equal education when so many have fallen behind. We’re going to have to change the way we educate our kids and support our teachers.
But Mayors know: You can’t just say it. You have to do it. Because the people know you are in charge. They know who is responsible.
So, we’re going to do these things — and be radically practical. That’s our job as mayors, as leaders. But we’re going to need some help.
Now, I know there are many in Washington who are fighting hard for us. They want real change, too.
I’m proud of the New York City delegation. They are warriors! And they don’t come out to play. They come out to fight. Everyone here in Washington knows that.
But while our partners are leading the charge for justice and progress on a national level, we mayors are going to have to keep moving ahead on the local level. And we’re going to need to set an example for the federal level.
We have to be willing to try new things, big things — and implement those plans with precision. We have to turn innovative ideas into serious action with quantifiable results.
Today, I am calling for a new national urban agenda that follows these principles and ‘Gets Stuff Done,’ as we like to say in New York.
First, we need to treat the cancer of violence that is holding our cities back. To do that, we will need greater coordination with the FBI, ATF, and state law enforcement. We will also need more funding for violence interrupters and programs that address the root causes of crime. That means more resources for skills training, job placement, and youth mentoring.
Next, we will need dollars for childcare. Any working-class or low-income parent who cannot work because they cannot find affordable childcare will be trapped in a negative economic cycle forever. With the childcare initiatives put forward by the White House and majorities in both houses of Congress, we can free them from that cycle.
And, finally, we need even more infrastructure investment than we received in last year’s historic legislation, investments that go directly to cities. Cities are highly efficient users of government investment in housing, transportation, and environmental improvements. And we need the jobs they provide.
Public safety, childcare, infrastructure. That is how we create safer, more prosperous cities as we recover. That is how we bring our country back. That’s being radically practical. That’s what I campaigned on, and that’s what I’m going to deliver for my fellow New Yorkers.
As you all know: Being a mayor is hands-on work. You have to meet people where they are. You can’t pretend it’s someone else’s job. And that’s what so great about it. Mayors can make a difference — globally, locally, personally. As my administration gets underway, I look forward to getting to know many of you better.
I know we can work together on solutions for our big urban challenges.
Let’s share our creative inspirations and reality-based solutions. Let’s move forward into a future where we can combine the latest in technology with the social innovation that people are yearning for. Let’s pull together, plan together, and lead this nation by example.
Let’s be radical. Let’s be practical. Let’s ‘Get Stuff Done.’