Connecting state and local government leaders
City leaders staked out positions related to drones, public safety, broadband, renewable energy, blockchain technology and more at their 90th annual conference.
At their 90th annual meeting in Reno, Nevada, the U.S. Conference of Mayors adopted resolutions on hot-button issues like reproductive rights, gun regulations and the opioid epidemic. Among the 100+ resolutions were also those related to public safety, renewable energy and blockchain technology. Here’s a breakdown of what the members proposed:
Unmanned aircraft systems
The expansion of the drone industry has led to compelling and practical public sector use cases, but it also poses serious safety threats to certain critical infrastructure and individuals at large public gatherings, both of which largely fall under the purview of local law enforcement.
The Biden administration’s Domestic Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Systems National Action Plan, issued in April, recognizes the need for expanded protection from rogue drones. While the plan promotes improved training and education programs and calls on Congress to close statutory gaps, the mayors advocated for expanded domestic UAS detection and C-UAS mitigation authority for state, local, territorial and tribal (SLTT) law enforcement. This authority would allow them to take immediate action against hostile UAS operators.
They also proposed that SLTT law enforcement agencies be authorized to carry out drone detection and mitigation activities for a wide range of mission areas, including national security special events, sporting events and other mass gatherings. In addition, the mayors said local law enforcement should be authorized to protect vulnerable government buildings, airports and critical infrastructure from drone threats.
Additionally, they called for enhanced coordination and information sharing between federal and SLTT agencies to ensure local governments’ detection and mitigation technologies are authorized and effective and do not impact the national air space system or the communications spectrum.
To combat rising temperatures and the impending threat of climate change, the mayors voiced their support for all federal and local efforts to promote renewable energy and storage technologies in cities.
By advancing the development and implementation of clean energy sources like hydropower, wind and solar, cities are in position to make an immediate impact, the mayors said. Minimizing reliance on imported fossil fuels can also improve resilience and help state and local governments reach their sustainability goals.
Cities can even improve equity by lessening the energy burden on low-income households. According to the mayors, the Department of Energy reports that a high energy burden frequently causes 65% of low-income households to forgo basic needs like food, medicine and cooling or heating. “Renewable energy combined with energy storage provides financial stability for energy-burdened and energy-insecure households,” the resolution said.
To reduce the time it takes cities to review permits for residential solar and energy storage systems, the mayors advocated the deployment of automated online solar permitting platforms.
They specifically mentioned SolarAPP+, free software developed by the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, to process permits for residential solar and energy storage systems. The software can ease administrative burdens, reduce review times, lower costs and save thousands of staff hours by enabling jurisdictions to process large numbers of permit applications.
The mayors supported a number of resolutions designed to help cities bridge the digital divide.
According to the mayors, the Federal Communications Commission, Congress and some states effectively granted corporations subsidized access to local public rights-of-way to install broadband infrastructure. They asked President Joe Biden, the FCC and state governments to restore local rights-of-way to municipalities and said they would oppose any new regulation or legislation that attempted to limit their oversight and authority as well as any fees “that local governments may impose on private businesses for installing and operating permanent commercial facilities on local public property,” a resolution stated.
When it comes to broadband funding, the mayors urged the federal agencies to make sure cities of all sizes get prioritized for money flowing through the states and that affordability be considered a criteria for federal funding. They also called for the Broadband Equity, Access, and Development funding to be considered for cities and urban areas, as high-density, low-income communities of color are in need of support.
The mayors called on device manufacturers to encourage broadband adoption by developing affordable products that cater to low-income households. In addition, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration should help with coordination between states and local governments, historically marginalized and disadvantaged communities and others that would benefit from digital inclusion and equity programs.
They urged Congress to permanently throw its support behind financial programs like Biden’s Affordable Connectivity Program and continue to provide essential broadband services for low-income households even after the pandemic.
As blockchain policy discussions ramp up, cities need coherent guidelines for the testing, adoption and use of blockchain technologies to help communities grow their economies and better deliver public services, the mayors said.
Applications built on blockchain present cities with unique economic opportunities, so they urged the development and sharing of blockchain best practices and policy frameworks to further innovations.
Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve, one of the sponsors of this resolution, recently announced a pilot program to put the city’s registry of historic properties on the blockchain. The project will give residents the ability to check on the status of changes to historic buildings with just one click and even provide landowners and developers the opportunity to propose maintenance or additions.
Other initiatives supporting broader climate resilience goals were also among the resolutions. The mayors expressed support for net-zero energy codes and performance standards promoting the decarbonization of buildings and improved indoor air quality ventilation, lighting and temperature controls to modernize public school facilities.
To better support community-based organizations and law enforcement in developing public safety strategies, the conference suggested the establishment of a National Office of Community Safety that could help jurisdictions set up internal infrastructure and garner federal resources.
The mayors also voiced support for exploring tourism and entertainment options in the metaverse and raising funds and creating jobs through non-fungible tokens and virtual gaming. Working with the Metaverse Collaborative at New York University's School of Professional Studies can improve understanding of how these new worlds to promote cities, they said.
See all the resolutions here.