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Survey: Mayors unified on battling poverty, other key issues

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BOSTON (AP) — U.S. mayors from blue and red states and regardless of party affiliation share many common concerns about poverty, racial and income inequality and immigration, according to a new survey.

The findings, based on interviews with more than 100 mayors from cities that collectively averaged 262,000 residents, point to an emerging national urban agenda as the Donald Trump administration prepares to take office, said Graham Wilson, director of the Boston University Initiative on Cities.

A report from the group, founded by Boston’s former Democratic Mayor Thomas Menino before his death in 2013, was slated for release Tuesday at the Rockefeller Foundation in New York City.

The interviews were conducted before the November election but after the major party nominees were set. A number of mayors were uneasy about the prospect of a Trump presidency, with several suggesting Trump’s campaign rhetoric had created widespread fear in big cities.

Others worried about the continued flow of federal dollars into urban areas, regardless of the election’s outcome.

Betsy Price, mayor of Fort Worth, said mayors understand the importance of putting the divisive election behind and working with the incoming administration to tackle poverty and other urban issues.

“Most mayors realize the policies that we put in place and the actions that we take in cities, no matter what your political thinking is, have great impact on our citizens,” she said.

About 70 percent of survey respondents were Democrats, about 80 percent were white and 75 percent male, numbers reflective of big-city mayors in general, the researchers said.

The mayors said the new administration must quickly forge an urban agenda and be a “champion” for American cities.

“Our cities need a federal partner that understands the importance of the work being done in American cities,” said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, a Democrat, in a statement accompanying the report.

One mayor interviewed suggested that at least three cabinet secretaries be former mayors. Trump has not nominated any mayors to date.

While Democratic and Republican mayors often diverged on specific policy approaches, the report cited many common themes emerging regardless of party affiliation and noted symmetry in responses to key questions from mayors leading cities in states that backed Trump, and in states that voted for Hillary Clinton.

For example, an equal percentage of mayors (45 percent) from Trump states and Clinton states said inner-city poverty was their most pressing economic concern. Next was the shrinking middle class, cited as the top concern of 29 percent of mayors from red states and 27 percent from blue states.

“Simply put, mayors are likely to be unified on key issues irrespective of their states’ political views,” the report said.

Forty-seven percent of Democratic mayors considered poverty the most serious urban issue, while 39 percent of Republicans considered it most serious. Democrats were more likely to cite income inequality as their biggest economic worry, while more Republicans singled out the shrinking middle class.

Mayors across the geopolitical spectrum cited the importance of diversity, building inclusive communities and creating a welcoming environment for immigrants. Asked to name the most marginalized group in their cities, 50 percent of all mayors said blacks, 28 percent said Latinos while 27 percent chose immigrants.

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