[Some of the South’s most prominent Black mayors, in four states
with the earliest and most competitive primaries, are telling
presidential candidates seeking endorsements that they’ll first have
to show how they plan to invest in their communities.]
[https://portside.org/] 

 BLACK SOUTHERN MAYORS ISSUE ENDORSEMENT “ROADMAP” TO PRESIDENTIAL
HOPEFULS  
[https://portside.org/2019-10-21/black-southern-mayors-issue-endorsement-roadmap-presidential-hopefuls]


 

 Olivia Paschal 
 September 25, 2019
Facing South
[https://www.facingsouth.org/2019/09/black-southern-mayors-issue-endorsement-roadmap-presidential-hopefuls]


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 _ Some of the South’s most prominent Black mayors, in four states
with the earliest and most competitive primaries, are telling
presidential candidates seeking endorsements that they’ll first have
to show how they plan to invest in their communities. _ 

 From left to right, southern mayors Chokwe Antar Lumumba, LaToya
Cantrell, Randall Woodfin and Steve Benjamin authored the
recently-released "Roadmap to Winning the South" for presidential
candidates. , NatalieMaynor, PopTech, and IMLS on Flickr, and Sam
McPherson on Wikimedia 

 

Some of the South’s most prominent Black mayors, in four states with
the earliest and most competitive primaries, are telling presidential
candidates seeking endorsements that they’ll first have to show how
they plan to invest in their communities.

The mayors of Birmingham, Alabama; Columbia, South Carolina; Jackson,
Mississippi; and New Orleans have released “A Roadmap to Winning the
South,”
[https://medium.com/@southernmayors/a-roadmap-for-winning-the-south-64c23bd296de]
a detailed list of policies that they say are needed for their
communities to thrive. And presidential candidates will have to
embrace them if they want the mayors’ help in winning over their
cities’ combined 1.7 million residents, including more than 345,000
Democratic voters, and the 196 Democratic delegates from the states
the cities serve.

“The Democratic nomination runs through our communities,” the
mayors write. “And given the power that we wield in this primary
process, we fully intend to use our influence and elevate the
interests of our residents to ensure that your campaigns deliver a
value proposition consistent with their distinct needs.”

Each mayor behind the roadmap is a trailblazer in their own right.
Attorney Steve Benjamin is Columbia’s first Black mayor and
currently serves as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Longtime neighborhood activist LaToya Cantrell is the first Black
woman mayor of New Orleans, elected in 2017 after serving six years on
city council. Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba — the lawyer son of
former Jackson mayor and longtime human rights champion Chokwe Lumumba
— has been heralded
[https://www.thenation.com/article/is-this-the-most-radical-mayor-in-america/]
as “the most radical mayor in America” for his promotion of
cooperative economics and people-centered development. And Randall
Woodfin, former president of his city’s school board, became
Birmingham’s youngest mayor
[https://www.al.com/news/2017/10/randall_woodfin_wins_birmingha.html]
with his landslide win over an incumbent in 2017.

Benjamin’s endorsement is among the most sought-after in the
Democratic primary field. South Carolina’s Feb. 29 primary is the
first in the South and the fourth nationwide
[https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/us/elections/2020-presidential-election-calendar.html],
and Benjamin is one of the state’s most influential Democratic
politicians. Hillary Clinton considered
[https://www.wistv.com/story/33417500/wikileaks-hacked-e-mail-shows-mayor-steve-benjamin-was-on-clintons-vp-list/]
him as a possible vice presidential running mate in 2016, and that
same year he spoke at the Democratic National Convention. His
political network is reportedly far-reaching enough to make his the
second-most coveted endorsement in the state
[https://www.apnews.com/13fa3037ea944970a5f9c8f4b583d010], behind only
longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, the House Majority Whip.

The policies the mayors are promoting aim to holistically address the
disinvestment and other structural problems major Southern cities have
faced for decades. With the region’s Republican-dominated state
governments often loathe to invest in Democratic-controlled cities and
the social safety net, local governments must increasingly step in to
fill the gaps. The mayors are asking candidates to commit to
increasing resources on more than a dozen policy fronts.

Their most specific recommendations relate to affordable housing. The
mayors want increased funding for five federal programs that address
urgent housing needs: McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, the
primary source of federal funding
[https://endhomelessness.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/HAG-McKV-draft-v4.pdf]
for fighting homelessness; Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, which
help
[https://www.cbpp.org/research/housing/policy-basics-the-housing-choice-voucher-program]
low-income families pay for private-market housing; the Low-Income
Housing Tax Credit, a tax incentive program
[https://www.nhlp.org/resource-center/low-income-housing-tax-credits/]
HUD calls [https://www.huduser.gov/portal/datasets/lihtc.html]“the
most important resource for creating affordable housing in the United
States today”; the National Housing Trust Fund, a federal block
grant that creates and funds
[https://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/HTF_Factsheet.pdf] affordable
housing for extremely low-income people; and the Capital Magnet Fund,
which directs grants
[https://www.cdfifund.gov/Documents/CMF%252520Fact%252520Sheet%252520Dec2017.pdf]
to community development financial institutions and nonprofit housing
organizations.

The mayors also want candidates to commit to mandated reporting for
Opportunity Zone Funds, a federal tax break program meant to
incentivize development in low-income neighborhoods. Recent reporting
[https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/31/business/tax-opportunity-zones.html]from
the New York Times showed that the tax breaks often go instead to
developers pursuing projects in wealthy neighborhoods, such as New
Orleans’ already-booming Warehouse District.

In addition, the mayors are asking for commitments to expand
investments in infrastructure and disaster resilience, to address the
racial wealth and opportunity gap, and to reform the criminal justice
system. The roadmap also offers a strong health equity agenda. Besides
requesting a plan for comprehensive and affordable health care, the
mayors want presidential candidates to commit to funding federal
programs that preserve environmental quality, including the Superfund
[https://www.epa.gov/superfund] and Brownfields
[https://www.epa.gov/brownfields]programs that have cleaned up
contaminated urban sites. The agenda recognizes how environmental
quality is inextricably linked to public health in the South, where
there is a long history of environmental racism
[https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/mar/08/climate-changed-racism-environment-south].

And in the future, the mayors want more direct engagement with
Southern mayors and municipal offices when presidential
administrations are designing federal programs.

“Our Southern cities represent some of America’s most dynamic
local economies,” they write. “Yet, national conversations around
urban agendas are far too often centered around larger urban centers
located outside of the South.”

_Olivia Paschal joined Facing South in August 2019 as a staff
reporter. Her work focuses on democracy, money in politics, the census
and agriculture. She previously worked at The Atlantic and was a
Facing South intern in the summer of 2017. Her reporting has also
appeared in Scalawag, Southerly, and Civil Eats, among other outlets.
Olivia holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Yale University._

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