AAMA President Sly James: Why America Needs a New Agenda for Cities

We all know the stories of crumbling roads, failing bridges and broadband access that lags behind our international peers. The last few decades have been hard on our urban centers but Americans are falling in love with cities again. Cities all over the country are experiencing major influxes of new residents.

In fact, today, over 63 percent of the nation’s population lives in a city. That number is even higher — 70 percent — in the Midwest, where the city I lead is located. Despite this, an agenda to revitalize and restore the infrastructure of our cities has been shockingly absent from our presidential political discourse. That is, until recently.

The Democratic Party, in its Cities Agenda amendment to the platform, is now the first political party to develop a comprehensive plan on city infrastructure during this election cycle. And this week, the Republican party also made cities an issue in their campaign. Donald Trumpentered the conversation with a speech in Detroit outlining an ambitious infrastructure agenda, declaring “We will build the next generation of roads, bridges, railways, tunnels, seaports and airports that our country deserves.” We look forward to seeing the details of his plan.

Indeed, public transportation, roadways, highways, bridges, electricity, and waterways are at the very core of the services our citizens need to thrive. Our infrastructure is the skeleton that supports cities and improving it lifts up local economies.  It’s a major factor in where people decide to work and businesses decide to locate. From the creation of bike paths and making safe water accessible to all, infrastructure impacts public health and quality of life outcomes.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) releases an infrastructure report card every four years. The last one, published in 2013, was grim. ASCE gave the nation a cumulative grade of D+ on its infrastructure and that was slightly higher than the results of the previous report. But another ASCE report detailed the enormous positive economic impact that is possible through an increased investment in infrastructure.

In “Failure to Act: The Impact of Current Infrastructure Investment on America’s Economic Future,” released in 2012, ASCE found that investing $157 billion in infrastructure each year until 2020 could protect 3.5 million jobs, $2.4 trillion in consumer spending, and $3.1 trillion in GDP. $94 billion in transportation investments alone would protect 877,000 jobs.  We clearly cannot afford the status quo.

Mayors are doing everything we can to maintain the integrity of these foundational services. Some  have implemented innovative public-private partnerships to partially fill the resource gap the federal government’s inaction has left. But, too many of us are forced to navigate a patchwork of state laws that limit our ability to allocate the resources necessary to modernize local infrastructure.

The water crisis in Flint, Michigan is a devastating example of what can happen when local leaders are not fully empowered to maintain the infrastructure in their cities and towns. That’s why I could not agree more with the Cities Agenda’s basic premise that “local leaders are best equipped to create a better future for their residents — but need the resources and flexibility to get the job done.”

The Cities Agenda recognizes that local economic progress can only be achieved by addressing multiple, seemingly intractable, issues simultaneously. It calls for increased investment in housing and schools, jobs, transportation and health in cities across the nation. Specifically, it will build on game-changing programs like the Neighborhood Stabilization Program and the Hardest Hit Fund, which have revitalized communities overcome by blight.

And, the Cities Agenda promises to foster community vibrancy by expanding programs that leverage private sector investment to combat poverty, such as the New Markets Tax Credit and the State Small Business Credit Initiative. These programs are critical to the health and stability of our nation. The benefits are enormous and exponential.

As the president of the African American Mayors Association, which represents the over 500 black mayors in the country, I can tell you that mayors are driving this critical conversation on investments in infrastructure.  Mayors have seen, first hand, the impact of federal underinvestment in cities and infrastructure for too long.

Although the Cities Agenda was initially adopted by the Democrats, there is no reason that this should be a partisan issue. Republicans entering this dialogue is good for advancing the conversation on infrastructure investment. Business leaders need to weigh in just as much as labor and community members. All of us sit in the same ditch when something breaks and repairs need to made.

Regardless of who wins the White House, or the majorities in Congress this November, we must increase the pressure on our federal leaders to fix our cities.


Sly James is mayor of Kansas City, M.O., and President of the African American Mayors Association. 

Job Opening – Operations Associate

Job Description

The primary responsibility of the Operations Associate is the administration of all aspects of ongoing AAMA programming, including in-person meetings and teleconferences. The Operations Associate will report to the Executive Director and ensure the successful execution of events, including the AAMA Annual Conference. Additional duties include coordinating speaking engagements and events for member Mayors, drafting monthly organizational newsletters, assisting in the preparation of financial invoices, answering incoming office calls, and other related duties as assigned.



The Operations Associate must have strong communication and writing skills, as well as a solid understanding of Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and related applications. The candidate must be a self-starter and comfortable in a dynamic start-up environment. Bachelor’s degree is required. Experience working for an elected official or organization representing elected officials is strongly preferred, but not required.   AAMA is an Equal Opportunity Employer.



Commensurate with experience.


To Apply

Please send your resume and cover letter to info@OurMayors.org. Deadline to apply is August 19, 2016. Applications will be considered as they are received.

African American Mayors Influence and Actions Toward Gun Reform


African American Mayors Influence and Actions Toward Gun Reform

Across the United States, government leaders are often challenged to implement new legislation that will address the concerns of the community. Recent tragedies, such as the Orlando Shooting in Orlando, Florida and reoccurring police shootings, have shifted the nation’s attention to gun reform in its entirety. Mayors and community leaders have joined together to make an influential change in the towns and communities they serve. Studies have shown that there a significant change in minority communities with an African American mayor. Having an African-American mayor, in particular, makes a difference in the job prospects of black residents. Statistics state the following:

  • Under an African-American mayor, the unemployment rate for black residents drops by 1.5 percentage points.
  • African Americans are more likely to find roles in city government positions.
  • Wages go up around 6 percent, more black residents join the workforce, and those who did find jobs tend to keep them slightly longer

17464823-mmmainAfrican American mayors have made countless efforts to improve the livelihood of their communities and work diligently to adopt gun control laws that protect residents, as well as second amendment rights provided by United States Constitution. In Cleveland, Ohio, Mayor Frank Jackson adopted a set a of gun control laws. In a written statement, Mayor Jackson stated: “The City’s new laws mirror current state misdemeanor firearms offenses and address concerns with the responsible use of firearms in an effort to reduce gun violence, protect the City’s youth, and make Cleveland’s neighborhoods
safer,”. “These new laws do not limit the rights of our citizens to own firearms. This is an appropriate step to ensure that second amendment rights are protected while ensuring that weapons are not misused.”

After countless incidents centered around the need for improved gun laws, communities have gathered together to protest and lobby for reform. African American mayors have remained at the forefront of this issue urging federal lawmakers to approve federal gun legislation. “How many more lives must be needlessly lost before Congress takes action to impose even the most basic, common sense, and bipartisan reforms on the sale and distribution of guns?” Mayor Ras Baraka (Newark, NJ) said in a statement, a day after the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, the single deadliest shooting in U.S. history. Mayors across the nation have answered the call to present much need legislation that will protect their communities.


President Obama to Participate in Town Hall on Race With David Muir – Thursday @ 8pm

President Obama to Participate in Town Hall on Race With David Muir – Thursday @ 8pm

By ABC NEWS Jul 12, 2016, 6:39 PM ET

With the recent tragic events in Minneapolis, Baton Rouge and Dallas still fresh on the minds of Americans, President Obama is expected to participate in a Disney Media Networks town hall this week titled “The President and the People: A National Conversation.”

The town hall will be moderated by “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir and held in Washington D.C. It will focus on candid discussions on race relations, justice, policing and equality by the members of the community. ESPN’s Jemele Hill will join Muir.

The one-hour event will come just days after President Obama attended a Dallas memorial for five police officers shot dead last week by a sniper. It also comes after two black men were killed by officers in Louisiana and Minnesota — controversial shootings that sparked a wave of protests.

“We turn on the TV or surf the internet, and we can watch positions harden and lines drawn and people retreat to their respective corners,” Obama said today during the memorial. “We see all this, and it’s hard not to think sometimes that the center won’t hold. And that things might get worse. I understand. I understand how Americans are feeling. … I’m here to say we must reject such despair. I’m here to insist that we are not as divided as we seem. And I know that because I know America.”

The town hall is set to air Thursday at 8 p.m. ET and will be simulcast commercial-free on ABC, ESPN, Freeform, ABCNews.com, Freeform Digital, Watch ABC, Watch ESPN, Yahoo, ABC News’ Facebook page and YouTube channel as well as ABC Radio.

Disney is the parent company of ABC News.

African American Mayors Association Statement on the Deaths of Five Dallas, TX Police Officers

African American Mayors Association Statement on the Deaths of Five Dallas, TX Police Officers

(Washington, DC), Mayor Sly James of Kansas City, MO and President of the African American Mayors Association, released the following statement in response to the deaths of five police officers in Dallas, Texas:

“Everyday men and women wake up, put on uniforms and hit the streets to protect American cities. For mayors, these are among the first city employees we see each day. They protect our citizens and our families. Yesterday’s attack on them is an attack on everything we hold dear.”

“Today, I join with 500 African American mayors across the country to offer condolences for the families of the five police officers killed in Dallas, TX. Their grief is unspeakable. We will keep them in our thoughts and prayers and hope for a swift recovery for the officers injured in the shooting. Our police officers are among the most invaluable resources our communities have. They are essential to keeping our laws functioning and our citizens safe. We are deeply grateful for their partnership, today and every day.”

“More than almost any week in recent memory, these past days have thrown into sharp relief the fault lines in American society. We must work to improve trust and communication between police officers and our citizens. We must continue training for law enforcement on de-escalation and disengagement, and stem the tide of unwarranted killings. And we must immediately pass gun violence prevention legislation. At this time, we must come together and do the important work of creating an America that is safe for us all.”

“Our hearts are broken. Our cities are mourning. Today we rise to guard our guardians. Today we say enough is enough.”

Contact: Donald Gatlin, 202-587-2871dgatlin@rabengroup.com

Statement from Mayor Lester E. Taylor III on Recent Shootings of Unarmed Men and Police

Statement from Mayor Lester E. Taylor III on Recent Shootings of Unarmed Men and Police

East Orange, NJ, July 11, 2016: The tragic incidents of last week weigh heavily on my heart and my mind. Captured on video, shared on social media, replayed endlessly on our televisions, and splashed across the front pages of our newspapers, the disturbing images from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Falcon Heights, Minnesota and Dallas, Texas have forced Americans to confront a raw set of emotions about racism, injustice and law enforcement.

I’ve had to revisit my own set of emotions and the harsh reality that I am living and raising my three children in a world where we may be judged by the color of our skin and not by the content of our character.

The recent avoidable acts of violence against Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were reactions borne by bias. Statistics show that unarmed black men account for about 40 percent of the people fatally shot by police. When adjusted by population, unarmed black men were seven times as likely as unarmed white men to die from police gunfire. New training techniques, more accountability through reformed laws, and better police hiring practices are just some of the solutions that can help fix a system that has been broken for far too long.

In East Orange, we are blessed to live in a community where our police officers stand apart from other urban communities for equally reflecting the people they serve. The brave men and women of the East Orange Police Department have worked tirelessly to drive down crime, enhance community police relations, and increase youth outreach. The result is a city that is safer than it has been in 50 years. As our own police – and law enforcement everywhere – continue to cope with the senseless attack against their fellow officers, I urge everyone to continue to show their support and respect for those who selflessly risk their lives daily to protect us from harm.

As we mourn, heal, analyze, and take action, we must unite on what makes us one. We all know someone who could have been Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, or Eric Garner. We must look inward and recognize our equal worth and dispose of the stigmas that surround not only people of color, but Americans from all walks of life. Collectively and individually, we must demand change. Let the action begin with you.

African American Mayors Association Statement on the Deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile


African American Mayors Association Statement on the Deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile


(Washington, DC), On behalf of the 500 African American mayors across the country, Mayor Sly James of Kansas City, MO and President of the African American Mayors Association, released the following statement in response to the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile:


“Alton Sterling was a father of five and husband. Philando Castile was a beloved son.  But, most of all, both of these men were human beings, and Americans, whose lives were cut short. Any time someone dies violently and a family member is lost, it is a tragedy and our hearts and minds go out to the family.


From Baltimore to Baton Rouge to Falcon Heights, mayors are at the forefront of working with police officials to ensure transparency in cases involving police shootings and call for thorough investigation and the earliest possible release of information. The African American Mayors Association commends the U.S. Department of Justice for its swift decision to launch a civil rights investigation into the Alton Sterling case, and hopes that similar, swift action is also taken in the Philando Castile case.  We offer our support to the Mayors of Baton Rouge and Falcon Heights as they lead their cities through this challenging time.


The African American Mayors Association is committed to improving communication and trust between law enforcement and the citizens they are meant to serve and protect. We are likewise committed to police officer training on methods of de-escalation and disengagement for situations where the use of deadly force is unwarranted. We will continue this work, more committed than ever, to make our towns and cities safe for everyone.”

Coalition of Black Mayors Applauds Supreme Court for Affirming Women’s Right to Make Their Own Health Decisions

Coalition of Black Mayors Applauds Supreme Court for Affirming Womens Right to Make Their Own Health Decisions

(Washington, DC), On behalf of the 500 African American mayors across the country, Mayor Vivian Covington, University Park, IL and Chairwomen of the African American Mayors Association’s Women Mayors Committee, released the following statement in response to the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion rights this week:

“The African American Mayors Association applauds the Supreme Court for reaffirming the constitutional right to safe and legal abortion in their Whole Womens Health v. Hellerstedt decision. Whether they live in a bustling urban center or far-off rural town, women’s ability to exercise that right must be unconditional. This is especially true for the millions of African American women who live in our cities and the families that love and depend on them. While women with means have the ability to get health care when and where they need it, many of our citizens face disadvantages that lead to second class care.  Everyone deserves access to reproductive healthcare, no matter their zip code. This week, the Supreme Court has ensured that, unequivocally.”

Mayor Sly James of Kansas City, MO and President of the African American Mayors Association, added the following:

“Although the Whole Womens Health decision was a majority, cases like these remind us what’s at stake for the American people. It is an unavoidable reality that the decisions the Supreme Court makes, impacts the healthcare and reproductive freedom of millions. For more than 100 days, that Court has not operated at full capacity. That is simply unacceptable. Therefore, in the wake of this week’s case, the African American Mayors Association once again calls on Congress to stop gambling with the fate of American citizens, #DoYourJob, and confirm Judge Merrick Garland.”


Newark, NJ –- June 13, 2016 — Mayor Ras J. Baraka and the City of Newark’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Commission will hold a vigil in honor of the victims of yesterday morning’s mass shooting in Orlando, tonight, Monday, June 13, at 6 p.m., on the front steps of City Hall, located at 920 Broad Street.


49 people were killed and at least 53 wounded by a shooter in an Orlando nightclub frequented by that City’s gay community early yesterday morning. The shooter was killed by police. The incident was the largest mass shooting in American history. According to investigators, the suspected shooter had declared allegiance to ISIS, suffered from mental issues, but was still able to acquire an AR-15 assault rifle, which he apparently used in the massacre.


Mayor Baraka issued an attached statement denouncing the shooting for its violence, and assailed bigotry, homophobia, gun violence, and the accessibility of assault rifles to unstable and dangerous people. He called upon residents to join in the vigil.


In addition to the vigil, flags at City Hall are to be flown at half-mast today in solidarity with the rest of the country.


Who:               Mayor Ras J. Baraka

                        City of Newark LGBTQ Commission


What:             Will hold a vigil to honor the victims of yesterday morning’s mass shooting in Orlando, Florida.


When:             Monday, June 13

6 p.m.


Where:           City Hall Front Steps

                        920 Broad Street



MEDIA NOTES: Media parking will be available in streets and lots in the neighborhood.


For more information, contact the Press Information Office – (973) 733-8004.

E-mail: Pressoffice@ci.newark.nj.us




For more information on the City of Newark, please visit our website at www.ci.newark.nj.us


Follow us on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cityofnewarknj





Tonight, with the support of our LGBTQ Commission, the City of Newark and its diverse and united people will respond with love and prayer for the victims in Orlando by holding a vigil on the steps of City Hall. I urge all of Newark to join me at this vigil in sending our condolences and support to the victims, and a firm message to the world: Newark stands opposed to gun violence, homophobia, and bigotry.

“Early yesterday morning this nation saw one of the bloodiest mass shooting incidents in American history, which has left 50 dead, many more gravely wounded, families devastated, and a country in shock again. This ghastly horror is the result of many things – bigotry, the accessibility of assault rifles to unstable and dangerous people, homophobia, and appalling divisions and splinterings in our country that are making it impossible to reach unity. The result is pain and suffering, all of it utterly unnecessary and preventable.

“How many more lives must be needlessly lost before Congress takes action to impose even the most basic, common sense, and bipartisan reforms on the sale and distribution of guns? I call upon the Congress to respond to this horror with actions, not words, with legislation, not rhetoric. When will enough truly be enough? I have ordered the flags at Newark City Hall to be flown at half-mast in solidarity with the rest of the country.”


–          NEWARK –


Washington, D.C. (June 13, 2016) — The African American Mayors Association (AAMA) joins the nation in mourning yesterday’s tragic mass shooting at the Orlando, Florida Pulse nightclub which claimed at least fifty lives.

The tragedy took place during LGBT Pride Month, which commemorates the successes and  struggles of LGBT Americans. America’s mayors have been at the forefront of advancing LGBT rights, enacting LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances and human rights laws decades before legal protections were established at the state or federal level. Even today, as multiple states seek to turn back the clock on recent US Supreme Court decisions advancing LGBT equality, mayors continue to lead the fight to uphold the dignity of all residents.

According to press reports, the shooter in yesterday’s tragedy was able to acquire a military-grade firearm despite numerous red flags in his background. While solutions for confronting gun violence will vary, AAMA mayors are united in their resolve for action to eliminate senseless gun violence deaths.

Our mayors are actively responding to the Orlando tragedy in their communities. AAMA President Sly James (Kansas City, MO) has declared today a “Rainbow Day” in his city, urging Kansas City residents to wear rainbows and illuminating many local landmarks in rainbow colors in solidarity with the victims. In a local press interview, he further noted:  “I don’t care how you look at it, slice it or dice it, weapons [are] in the hands of idiots, haters, bigots and fools. People will die. We have to stop it.”