At the Clinton Global Initiative America meeting in Chicago earlier this summer, I joined President Clinton and other mayors from across the country and across party lines to explore how to accelerate investment in job-creating domestic infrastructure. Each mayor faced unique challenges, but there was an immediate recognition of the enormous potential to improve our cities and our economies through public-private partnerships. We looked closely at the example of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s newly created Infrastructure Trust – a nonprofit entity designed to attract private capital for infrastructure investment, which will promote job creation and economic growth in Chicago.
We all left that initial meeting with a clear desire to sustain collaboration among mayors to explore better tools for public and private financing. Mayor Nutter, president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, recently expressed interest in similar strategies to overcome the fiscal challenges local governments can face. Working together, I believe we can identify successful financing solutions and models that would work in any city in America to increase the value, efficiency, and sustainability of our cities. Simply, a successful private-partnership could improve not only our roads and bridges and electrical grids but also our citizens’ quality of life.
So, this week in Tarrytown, New York, President Clinton is hosting a two-day meeting organized by the Clinton Global Initiative that I’ll attend with Asheville Mayor Terry M. Bellamy, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, Joplin Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean, and Portland Mayor Sam Adams, as well as top city officials from Chicago, Denver, Kansas City, Louisville, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, and San Francisco. Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, former director of the Office of Management and Budget and current Vice Chairman at Citigroup Peter Orszag, as well as infrastructure experts and capital providers will also attend in the hopes of advancing that conversation that began in Chicago this June. While each of us represent different cities and constituencies, I hope we will work towards a common goal—finding a workable model to increase private investment in public infrastructure.
In Atlanta, I’ve seen the potential for success in exactly this kind of partnership in our own Atlanta BeltLine, which I believe is one of the most transformative urban development projects in the nation. The Atlanta BeltLine will be a system of rails, trails, and greenspace that will seamlessly connect 45 of our neighborhoods, while providing first- and last-mile transit connectivity for the entire metro Atlanta region. This is the most comprehensive revitalization effort ever undertaken in our city and a true model of sustainability, smart land use, and mobility.
The success of this project hinges on private-public partnerships. To date, tens of thousands of passionate grassroots supporters are engaged, and the city’s philanthropic and business communities have generously invested in this dynamic initiative.
And we’ll continue to bring our diverse perspectives and discuss strategies for accessing private capital to finance public investment in projects including transportation, water, energy efficiency, clean energy, and other strategic infrastructures. We’ll take a holistic look at our current fiscal challenges to investment in public infrastructure and existing models of leveraging private capital for investment in public infrastructure, and then think through the steps of creating an urban infrastructure bank and identifying investable projects.
In June, we started the discussion about how we could replicate Chicago’s feat in other American cities, including Atlanta. I look forward to meeting with other mayors, senior city staff, funders, and experts over the next two days to identify and implement strategies for accessing private capital to finance public investment in the roads, bridges, and water systems that bring value to our city and jobs to our citizens. Public-private partnerships are promising opportunities to get domestic infrastructure funded by putting in a small amount of public funds to attract corporate investment. More importantly, such partnerships are crucial to putting more people back to work and creating a better Atlanta.
Kasim Reed is the Mayor of the City of Atlanta.