SPUR recently convened the mayors of the three largest cities in the region to discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their communities. Each described how they have responded to this crisis, the meaningful policy changes they've implemented and what their vision is for long-term recovery that addresses systemic racism and provides inclusive economic opportunity.
The event, entitled “Leadership in Times of Crisis,” comes as local governments are grappling with multiple and mounting health, financial and social crises. The COVID-19 global pandemic revealed disparities that have not only challenged local leaders to act swiftly but to do so amidst a unified call for racial and social justice.
SPUR President and CEO, Alicia John-Baptiste, asked Mayors Breed, Liccardo and Schaaf to reflect upon how they had to pivot their cities’ agendas for the year to respond to the pandemic, and to minimize the pandemic’s financial toll on their communities’ most vulnerable residents, on their cities’ small businesses and on municipal budgets.
Mayor Breed acknowledged that “mayors are emerging like never before” across the country. Under Mayor Breed’s leadership, the City of San Francisco is “being very aggressive in the changes in investments” in order to “address systemic racism head-on with the dollars we invest and decisions around policies.”
Mayor Liccardo highlighted the rapid fundraising effort that raised $37 million for the Silicon Valley Strong Fund to help low-income families hang on, and that San Jose was the first city in the country to announce an eviction moratorium.
Mayor Schaaf revealed that, within days of the shelter-in-place order, the City of Oakland established a testing center for first responders and health care workers because “taking care of the people taking care of the people is always a good place to start.”
All have convened economic recovery committees that will advise them on how to recover in the short, medium and long term. They all highlighted the selfless and innovative efforts of city and county staff to respond on behalf of their constituents. As Mayor Schaaf put it, “There is nothing like a crisis to unleash your most entrepreneurial bureaucrats. There is tremendous talent, innovation and creativity within government. This crisis has given people permission to try new things and take risks.”
These mayors clearly regard each other highly and lean on one another for support, to bounce ideas off of and lift up the best efforts on behalf of our entire Bay Area community.