Beverly Hills Mayor Dr. Julian Gold participated in the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM), 91st Annual Meeting, held in Columbus, Ohio from June 2-5.
The Beverly Hills mayor was one of more than 300 mayors from across the United States who attended the four-day convening of plenaries, breakout sessions, committee meetings and networking.
“I think it’s a good thing,” Gold said in a phone interview the day after he returned. “I spent a fair amount of time with Karen Bass. I think we agree, and she and I have discussed this, the issues around homelessness are regional, and it’ll take a lot of people working together around city boundaries to solve the problem.”
Bass’ appointment was announced by USCM on June 5.
Gold has had a continuing dialogue with Bass as well as Los Angeles City Council Member Katy Yaroslavsky, whose district borders Beverly Hills, West Hollywood Mayor Sepi Shyne and LA County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath on ways to build partnerships around addressing the growing population of unhoused people.
“We’re all on board,” he said.
Along with achieving “functional zero” homelessness, the mayors’ conference identified critical priorities for this country’s cities, including public safety, technology, innovation, climate resiliency and more. A major focus was also the mental health and fentanyl crises facing cities.
Also, cities’ chief executives shared concerns over to what extent federal dollars resulting from the Biden Administration’s infrastructure bill will end up going to cities.
“The overarching conversation, I think, is about the federal infrastructure bill and the dollars that are sitting out there and how do we advocate for our city and region to get those infrastructure dollars,” Gold said.
During the conference, Gold spoke on a panel about his involvement in energy issues. He also joined a discussion on innovation and technology, with a focus on artificial intelligence and its potential utilizations and consequences.
“This was mostly focused on AI,” he told the Courier. “[We discussed] what we should be thinking about in terms of how we can use it and how we have to be aware of some of the things that can happen.”
The conference also examined the state’s preempting of city government. Gold and Manhattan Beach Mayor Richard Montgomery had entered the conference believing this topic would be of concern exclusively to California cities, where the state has exerted outsize control over housing issues.
California cities aren’t alone, however. Across the country, state authorities have shown a willingness to reduce the size of city councils and cut back local police departments.
“As it turns out, the state’s preemption of city governments is a nationwide issue,” Gold said. “States are threatening to take away police forces from cities. There’s a sense there is a national movement for state preemption for local control.”
This was not Gold’s first time traveling to another city to participate in the USCM meeting. He previously attended conferences, which move from city to city, in Boston and San Francisco. The first time he attended he even met then-U.S. President Barack Obama.
His experiences attending these gatherings have proven beneficial if for no other reason they remind a city executive he or she is not alone in tackling challenges facing their city.
On June 6 during the latest City Council meeting, he reported back to his fellow council members about his experience at the conference.
“The biggest takeaway for me was everybody’s got the same problems we do,” Gold said. “They are a little bit different, but everybody’s got the same problems.
USCM is a non-partisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. Each city is represented in the conference by its chief elected official, the mayor. The annual USCM conference provides mayors from across the country an opportunity to engage with the White House and members of U.S. Congress to ensure federal policy addresses the priorities of cities. There are two USCM gatherings each year—the winter and annual meetings.
Beverly Hills leadership always participates.
“The net benefit of attending is two-fold,” Gold said. “I think it’s good Beverly Hills participates in these things. I think it’s important. We’ve done some things that are cutting edge, that others can learn from, and I’m pleased to show we’re there, engaged and participatory.”
Next year’s conference is taking place in Kansas City, Missouri.