Witnessing the unification of leadership across countless nations supporting Ukraine this past week has been truly inspiring. It reinforces the power of collaboration which is core to our work as place management organizations. Further, it illustrates the power of collective action to advocate for what we know to be correct. It is contagious (the good kind of contagious). The number of bipartisan ovations equally inspired me in this week’s State of the Union address. Sure, not every point made by President Biden was agreeable to all. Still, it has been quite some time since a good number of accolades seemed to stretch across both aisles.
The winding down of the immediate COVID-19 threat or, perhaps, the united community focus to combat Russian aggression toward Ukraine seems to be breathing life back into our cities. The hopeful news is surfacing, such as the Canadian Treasury Board’s announcement to bring federal employees back to the office. Mask mandates are being amended, and children are beginning to return to more open classrooms in schools.
I was heartened to hear President Biden say, “It is time for America to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again with people” in his State of the Union speech where he continued and set forth the challenge: “Let’s take on mental health.” Return to the office and addressing mental health are top of the list for IDA members and made it to the dais in the State of the Union address this Tuesday. So too are addressing addictions impacting social issues on our streets. Leading the President’s unity agenda was “First, beat the opioid epidemic. There is so much we can do. Increase funding for prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery.” This is the top agenda item for IDA Canada’s federal agenda as well. Now is when we must unite as a profession and further advocate for the priorities necessary to rebuild our districts.
The very same priorities IDA is focused on have become a priority for the government, both in the U.S. and Canada. There are myriad ways to unite and become further engaged with your peers. Look for a release of findings from the recent Federal Policy issues survey completed by more than 70 cities. While submissions for the Annual Conference & Marketplace are being reviewed, apply to West Coast Urban District Forum call for sessions. This forum will focus on economic development strategies and ways to bring people back through placemaking and activations and dive into deep discussions around public safety, mental health, and homelessness.
Public safety and security are increasingly becoming the number one inquiry we receive in the office. So much, so that next Friday’s Advancing Places Roundtable Discussion will bring together members combating issues of security to share solutions and compare the challenges each is facing. And finally, if you haven’t documented the value of your district, new applications are being accepted for the 2022 Value of U.S. Downtowns and Center Cities and Comparisons research.