A Survey of America's Mayors

The immediate and long-term top investment concern: infrastructure with a focus on technology

Facing an unprecedented health, economic and societal crisis, due to COVID-19, mayors across the country are adapting, redefining, and reimagining how local governments serve their residents. And while each city's path forward is unique, mayors can collectively offer a fresh perspective on the strengths and limits of America’s infrastructure in supporting stability amid crisis.

 

To better understand city and local infrastructure priorities, Siemens USA partnered with the United States Conference of Mayors and The Harris Poll to survey America’s mayors. The survey revealed many mayors’ priorities, current work underway, and the infrastructure improvements necessary to help support a strong recovery and more resilient future.

 

“Mayors know that few things can revitalize an economy and a city like investments in modern infrastructure and technology,” said USCM President and Louisville (KY) Mayor Greg Fischer in the survey press release. “Rebuilding our infrastructure has been a consistent priority for mayors in cities large and small, but our need is made only more urgent by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

  • Most mayors who answered our survey agree they are under more pressure now than ever before (96%) and that the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed how mayors are viewed on the national stage (94%).

  • What keeps them up at night—most commonly—is reviving/protecting small businesses (85%).

  • Nearly all mayors (98%) expect their city’s operating budget to decline over the next 12 to 18 months, with 2 in 3 (66%) attributing all or most of the decline to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"[The pandemic made clear] the lack of access to Wi-Fi and connectability in our underserved neighborhoods, including the lack of access to tablets and laptops. [We’ve seen] the general discrepancy between our communities of color and white communities and how they have been impacted by the pandemic.”  – Mayor in the Northeast

  • Mayors’ immediate top investment priorities for economic recovery are investing in infrastructure to generate jobs and for economic growth (69%) and expanding delivery of virtual/online city services (63%).

  • 89% of the mayors who answered the survey say that cities need to implement smart technologies to help employees return to work with confidence.

  • More than 9 in 10 mayors agree that investment in technology to reimagine, rework, change, or adapt how commercial buildings are being used is necessary for the future of their city (97%), and that investment in buildings/facilities is still necessary for their city despite some tasks being conducted online during the COVID-19 pandemic (94%).

“Our Fighting Chance Fund to help small businesses [is key]. It has not typically been a role of local government to issue emergency grants to businesses, but we felt it was important that our small business owners did not wait on state or federal assistance.” – Mayor in the South

  • All mayors (100%) who answered the survey believe corporations have a role to play in helping to rebuild/revitalize their city’s economy, most commonly through capital investments (69%), start-up and small business funding/incubators (61%), and job training (56%).

  • 86% of mayors agree that it is essential that cities accelerate the implementation of smart technologies to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

  • Two-thirds of mayors (67%) agree that now is the best time for their city to invest in transit-related capital projects to address longer-term needs, and a majority (92%) agree that updating roads, signaling, sidewalks, or tunnels/bridges will help bring back jobs and revitalize their city’s economy.

“Corporations can, and should, view public entities as partners to create private developments through, in part at least, public investments in infrastructure” – Mayor in the Midwest

About the Study:

This survey, “Infrastructure, Technology and Mayors’ Priorities for Confronting a Health, Economic and Societal Crisis,” was conducted online by The Harris Poll in partnership with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, on behalf of Siemens USA, between August 24 and September 1, 2020, among 124 mayors of U.S. cities with a population size of 30,000 or more.

 

Results were not weighted and are only representative of those who completed the survey.