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Heggins attends U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting

By Liz Moomey
liz.moomey@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Mayor Al Heggins is reflecting after returning from the U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting in Washington, D.C., from Wednesday through Friday.

More than 250 mayors from smaller municipalities to large cities such as New York and Chicago met to discuss infrastructure, innovation and inclusion. Infrastructure challenges and concerns were the main focus. Regardless of size, lack of proper and updated infrastructure is a matter of concern for all cities, Heggins said.

“Infrastructure issues are similar across the city,” Heggins said. “It’s something that we all need.”

Improving roads and sewer systems come with questions of how to pay for them, Heggins said. With some funding coming from the federal government, cities also spoke about relying on themselves to come up with money for updates.

Modernizing transportation systems to keep up with modern trends, such as electric buses, was another topic Heggins learned about at the conference.

Transportation was on her mind after this month’s 2019 NC Transportation Summit that spoke on increased population and ways for the state’s transportation systems to improve to prepare for growth. One of the talks was the commute between Raleigh and Charlotte decreasing to 22 minutes. She said Salisbury could capitalize on it being right on the rail line.

While in D.C., Heggins spoke to U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and the staff of Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., along with mayors from Mooresville, Rocky Mount, Greensboro, Raleigh and Winston-Salem about improving transportation systems in the state. Heggins said the senators and their staff were receptive to the N.C. mayors.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors also addressed inclusiveness in cities. One example they spoke about is in Louisville, Kentucky, where economic equity initiatives are underway.

The conference is geared toward cities with a population of 30,000. Salisbury has a population of about 33,600 residents. Heggins said she and other mayors from cities of a similar size spoke of how to take initiatives from larger municipalities and scale them down. 

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke to the mayors about the government shutdown, which was still closed during her speech, and things actions being done federally to help cities.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnunchin talked about the president’s economic agenda and Opportunity Zones, which are economically-distressed communities where new investments may be eligible for preferential tax treatment to spur economic development and job creation.

Heggins was recognized for her part in launching the Center for Inclusive and Compassionate Cities. Other mayors also commended her and the city for passing the resolution of reconciliation, she said.

The City of Salisbury has a membership for the mayoral conferences, which paid for her and previous mayors to attend. Heggins said she appreciated the opportunity and put forward what she has learned.

Heggins plans to share more information learned at the council retreat next month.

The conference will also have a summer session on June 28-July 1. Heggins has registered, but is unsure she will attend until after the schedule of programs comes out.

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