As Mayors, We Need a President Who Works With Us, Not Against Us | Opinion

U.S. cities are the engines of America's economy. They are, and always have been, vibrant centers for technological innovation, global trade, investment, and cultural diversity. Today, 80 percent of the U.S. population lives in urban areas, and 85 percent of our country's gross domestic product is generated by large cities.

But for the last four years, many cities have been in direct conflict with President Donald Trump. His antagonistic view of us and his wanton mismanagement of major crises—from COVID-19 to climate change—is depriving mayors of the resources we need to grow and deliver for our residents. And his lack of moral leadership and support in helping mayors end systemic racism has made our jobs more difficult.

As mayors, we need a president who will be a partner in the White House: one who sees cities as an asset to this country, not an enemy. We need Joe Biden and Kamala Harris because we know they will collaborate with us to tackle our toughest challenges and improve the lives of millions who live in cities from coast to coast.

The most pressing challenge facing our cities is COVID-19, and Trump still has no national plan to beat the virus. The two of us can attest: trying to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic without leadership in the White House has been incredibly difficult. The federal government has completely mismanaged this public health crisis from the start—and cities like Atlanta and Boston have been largely left to navigate this unprecedented environment on their own. It's incredibly difficult to plan a school year, provide guidance to businesses and oversee a public health response when federal health officials are absent.

Biden has a concrete plan to expand testing, increase available personal protective equipment, address the racial disparities exacerbated by the pandemic and distribute a vaccine that is safe, effective and affordable. He has also pledged that if elected, he won't wait until Inauguration Day to start working with the nations' governors. That's the type of leadership that can help us finally make progress in beating back this disease.

The murder of George Floyd this summer demonstrates the urgent need to address the systemic racism plaguing our country. But by refusing to condemn white supremacists and threatening to cut federal funding to cities that he says are allowing "anarchy, violence and destruction," Trump is making a difficult challenge even worse.

While Trump has spent months trying to blame mayors, Biden understands that what our communities need most is investment that lifts people up. He has a plan to address the racial wealth gap by increasing access to capital and credit for minority-owned businesses, as well as addressing the student debt crisis. A Biden-Harris administration will also make significant investments in manufacturing, infrastructure, caregiving and education—and we're confident that this plan will work, because cities across the country have already done it.

The Boston Resiliency Fund is coordinating philanthropic efforts for residents whose health and well-being were most immediately impacted by the pandemic. To date, the fund has raised over $33 million, and distributed over $28 million to 351 organizations that are feeding, clothing and caring for the most vulnerable in Boston. In Atlanta, the city issued executive orders to assist Atlanta families, including establishing a $22 million emergency rental assistance program to help nearly 7,000 residents pay housing costs, setting a moratorium on water service terminations for residents, and creating a relief fund to support creative industry workers. As mayors, we desperately need a real leader in the White House who can take approaches like these and make them work nationally.

Joe Biden
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks on November 1 in Philadelphia. Drew Angerer/Getty

The fact that our current president refuses to acknowledge climate change should make every American concerned. For the sake of our planet, we can't afford another four years with a climate denier at the helm. The record warming of our planet and the arrival of new, challenging weather events should spark planning and preparation, not deflection.

Boston is implementing a Climate Action Plan and working to become carbon neutral by 2050. Atlanta has established the AgLanta Grows-A-Lot program, inviting applicants to submit plans for a five-year, renewable license to adopt a vacant, city-owned property to start an urban garden or farm. But cities can do only so much to reduce the impact of climate change. Under a Biden administration, our country would have a plan for climate change that not only protects our environment, but also creates millions of good-paying jobs.

In times of need, mayors are on the front lines, providing critical support to our residents and catalyzing businesses and foundations to step forward. That's what so many of our colleagues are doing nationwide. But to truly meet the existential challenges before us—from the pandemic to climate change—we need a White House who will work with us, not against us. Together with Biden, we'll be able to do extraordinary things that lift the people of our cities up.

Keisha Lance Bottoms is the 60th mayor of the City of Atlanta. Martin J. Walsh is the 54th mayor of the City of Boston.

The views expressed in this article are the authors' own.