World Mayor vote 2021 Tony Favro
Senior Fellow

Tony Favro, is a Senior Fellow of the City Mayors Foundation and its USA Editor. He is a retired urban planner and real estate developer.  He has held positions in government as municipal Director of Planning and Zoning and in business as CEO of a real estate development firm. Tony earned a PhD in Geography from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. He has lectured at seven universities in the US and Europe.
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Articles by Tony Favro
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Local government weakened
by US Supreme Court rulings

Government: The United States Supreme Court concluded its 2021-2022 term in July with three controversial rulings. The Court ended a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion; it limited the ability of the federal government to regulate certain pollutants; and it limited the ability of local governments to place restrictions on citizens’ carrying concealed firearms in public. The Supreme Court decision will affect how local governments can protect their environment in ways that often are not considered. For example, local responsibility for garbage pickups, street cleaning, and parks has heightened local governments’ awareness of the costs of pesticide use and nonbiodegradable products like plastic bags. MORE

Policing alone cannot rid
American cities of violence

August 2022: “We are a society that is awash in guns,” notes Ralph Richard Banks, a professor at Stanford Law School and leading researcher of crime in the US. Americans comprise just over 4 per cent of the total world population but account for 50 per cent of the world’s civilian-owned firearms. And Americans’ gun ownership is increasing: the two highest years of gun sales in US history were 2020 and 2021. “I find it difficult to imagine creating the sort of safe communities we want so long as such weapons are so plentiful,” says Banks. Between 2019 and 2020, murders rose 34 per cent in cities with a population of 250,000 or more, 20 per cent in suburban areas, and 19.7 per cent in rural areas. More than three-quarters of murders were committed with firearms. The number of gun assaults also rose nationwide. MORE

After a turbulent process, the 2020
US Census still faces challenges
September 2021: The 2020 US Census was marked by challenges related to Covid-19, especially the suspension for months of traditional door-to-door canvassing. The 2020 Census was also marked by the Trump Administration’s efforts to politicize the Census process and the data generated. The United States federal government conducts a census of the nation’s population at the beginning of every decade. The results of a census help determine the amount of federal funds disbursed to state and local governments over ten years, and thus are critical to cities. MORE

US mayors caught up
in nation’s culture war

July 2021: US mayors are once again being forced to take sides in America’s culture wars. A new front opened with the police killing of George Floyd and the intense backlash on city streets. Many American cities were already advancing equity initiatives when Floyd was killed, but his murder prompted renewed efforts by mayors to achieve racial justice by rethinking policing, and, provocatively for some, applying critical race theory to teaching, training, and discussions on equity. MORE

Millions of Americans
face hunger every day

June 2021: The United States is the richest nation in the world by many measures, yet millions of Americans confront hunger. According to the US Department of Agriculture's Household Food Insecurity in the United States report, more than 35 million people in the United States experienced hunger in 2019. Older cities in the United States also contain thousands of hectares of municipal-owned land where vacant and abandoned homes and other buildings were demolished. American cities have been creating or joining food policy councils to evaluate food system problems, such as hunger, at the local level, and facilitate solutions such as putting vacant urban lands to productive community agricultural uses. There are currently more than 300 food policy councils in the United States. MORE

While Congress dithers, American
mayors push for stricter gun laws

May 2021: Guns and gun violence are seemingly normal in American culture. More than 40,000 Americans die each year from gun violence. The average number of gun deaths has risen over the past 20 years, as federal regulations on gun ownership have eased and American buy and use more guns. The pandemic, recent police shootings of unarmed African-Americans, and a flurry of mass shootings have highlighted the racial, social, and economic inequalities in America. MORE

American mayors defend
moral values in politics

January 2021: The US presidential election on 3 November 2020, and events in the weeks that followed, reinforced the notion that America is deeply polarized along partisan lines: Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal, red and blue. At the heart of the division, and its potential repair, is the weight afforded moral values in American politics. American city mayors have taken the lead in defending and applying core values to make systemic change. In the November 2020 US presidential election, Donald Trump, running as a Republican, received 74.2 million votes, not enough to win, but more than enough to reinforce the sense of a divided America. As president, Trump used lying, mockery, bullying, race-baiting, and indecency as governing tools. He brazenly flouted the courts and the law, actively undermined public integrity, and willfully spread mistrust and cynicism. MORE

An American Dream
for the 21st century

November 2020: It seems that America has once again reached a point where the nation’s consciousness is waking up, or owning up, to what Americans experiencing discrimination are saying. If more Americans, especially white Americans, are “woke”, or alert, to economic and social inequality and injustice - and the inseparability of race from inequality - it is because the politics of awareness has changed. American cities and the mayors who lead them are at the forefront of the changing moral awareness. MORE

City Equity Offices to counter
systematic racism in America

September 2020: In August 2014, a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old Black man. The killing precipitated protests in Ferguson and soul searching throughout America over racial discrimination. Within a few years of the death of Michael Brown, at least 32 cities in the United States established or strengthened a municipal equity office, including Austin, Louisville, Boston, and Oakland. These offices represented the first efforts ever undertaken by American cities to focus explicitly on systemic racism. The offices examine city governments’ internal processes and/or delivery of public services with a goal of eliminating institutional inequities and the discrimination born of it ||| ANALYSIS ||| FULL LIST |||

Ending racism in
American cities

June 2020: The police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020 underscores how race lies at the heart of political, economic, and social concerns in the United States. The resulting protests and civic unrest in over 400 American cities constitute a stunning demand that the US honor its legal commitment to opportunity for all and finally end patterns of racial inequality. A conversation with Rochester's (NY) first black mayor. MORE

US cities are waking up to
the harm done by trauma
in childhood and adult life

The challenges facing US cities and US mayors are well-known: crime and gun violence, public health, public education, housing, economic change and growth, social justice and access to opportunity, infrastructure, and climate change adaptation, among others. One of the major underlying issues which affects how mayors can respond to many of these challenges is also one of the least discussed politically and publicly: Trauma. 

People living in high-poverty neighborhoods in US cities are typically exposed to multiple on-going traumas, such as generational school failure, substance abuse, incarceration, violence in the home and surrounding neighborhood, and teen pregnancy. Exposure to chronic trauma increases the likelihood of negative outcomes for individuals and their families and for neighborhoods and cities. MORE

In the US, cities lead
in fighting poverty

April 2019: Income inequality and social mobility generate intense discussion in the United States. A number of recent studies suggest that people at the bottom of the income ladder are unlikely to climb very far over the next twenty or more years; in fact, they will likely see the gap widen between them and the next rung of the ladder. Poverty in the US, it seems, is persistent, if not intractable. Many cities are inspired by the success of New York City’s anti-poverty program. Between 2013 and 2016 the number of New Yorkers in poverty or near poverty (the percentage living below 150% of the city’s poverty threshold) decreased by 141,000, and the city is on pace to reach its target of moving 800,000 people out of poverty or near poverty by 2025. MORE

American public and mayors agree:
Keep Obamacare, forget Trumpcare

June 2017: It took seven years and 61 attempts, but, in May, the US House of Representatives managed to repeal the ‘Affordable Care Act’, commonly known as Obamacare, and replace it with the ‘American Health Care Act’ (call it Trumpcare). The fate of Trumpcare is now in the hands of the US Senate, which could pass the House's bill without changes, modify it, or ignore it. Until it is repealed by the Senate, Obamacare remains the law. Mayors of US cities have been outspoken in their condemnation of the House's repeated actions to repeal and replace Obamacare with Trumpcare. MORE

Local government weakened
by US Supreme Court rulings

August 2022: The United States Supreme Court concluded its 2021-2022 term in July with three controversial rulings. The Court ended a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion; it limited the ability of the federal government to regulate certain pollutants; and it limited the ability of local governments to place restrictions on citizens’ carrying concealed firearms in public. The Supreme Court decision will affect how local governments can protect their environment in ways that often are not considered. For example, local responsibility for garbage pickups, street cleaning, and parks has heightened local governments’ awareness of the costs of pesticide use and nonbiodegradable products like plastic bags. MORE

US local government structures under
spotlight following COVID-19 funding

June 2020: The US$2 trillion CoronaVirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed by the US Congress on 30 March 2020, includes financial aid for US state and local governments to cover costs associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. The CARES Act provides all states with direct funding based on population. However, only cities and counties with populations greater than 500,000 are eligible to receive funding directly from the federal government. Smaller local governments must negotiate with their state governments for a portion of the funding the state received.

Many US mayors are questioning the population threshold for direct funding. For example, 350 mayors of cities and villages in New York State sent a letter to their representatives in Congress requesting that all cities, regardless of their population, be able to apply to the federal government directly. “It makes no sense to use a population threshold for local budget relief in response to the COVID-19 pandemic since the resulting financial and economic distress is a problem in every city, village and town in New York,” the mayors wrote, noting that cities with a population of more than 500,000 represent only 14 per cent of the total US population. MORE

Albania strengthens
democracy by reforming
local government

April 2016: Less than a year ago, Albania had one of the most centralized governments in the world. Now, local governments are the most important service providers. The intergovernmental system has been upended by design, and momentous political, financial, institutional, and territorial changes are being managed simultaneously by new mayors, new city councils, and new laws governing municipal administration. From now on, the performance of Albania’s entire public sector likely will be determined by what happens at the local level. MORE

American mayors declare
racism a public health crisis
September 2020: Public health in the United States is a shared responsibility of the federal, state, and local governments. In recent years, the local level has been the primary driver of changing perceptions of public health. Between May and August 2020, at least 51 cities and mayors and 23 counties in the US have officially declared racism a public health crisis. These local governments include some of the largest cities in the US, such as Los Angeles (population 4,016,000) and some of the smallest, such as Bloomfield, Connecticut (population 20,000). The focus on racism is the latest effort by local governments to expand the public’s understanding of the biological, environmental, and social factors that contribute to an individual’s physical and mental health. MORE

Private property rights
limit US cities’ efforts
to conserve energy

August 2020: US mayors and cities lead government efforts to mitigate the harmful impacts of climate change, filling a vacuum left by a lack of leadership at the federal level. However, most local governments focus their efforts on city-owned buildings and public spaces. Cities are reluctant to impose regulations on privately-owned properties for fear of legal challenges, and thus rarely take advantage of significant opportunities to reduce the cities’ overall carbon footprints. MORE

American cities save money
by replacing obsolete urban
infrastructure with green spaces

August 2016: What do urban agriculture, the dark sky movement, and low-impact storm water management have in common in the United States? Very often these sustainable development practices involve the decommissioning of public infrastructure. And the impetus to implement these techniques often has more to do with saving money than saving the environment. MORE

Spatial Planning and Development in the USA:
Economic growth is of paramount importance

Spatial planning and development in the US is quite different from Europe in many regards.  One of the biggest differences between planning in the US and Europe is that spatial planning and development in the US is almost exclusively a local government responsibility. Spatial planning and development does not happen in a vacuum, of course. It is part of a whole socio-economic environment. Federal government policies on taxation, workers’ rights, property rights, etc. impose limits on what can be done. But the local government context is extremely important for understanding modernization in the US. MORE

The ups and downs of Amazon’s
search for a second h

March 2019: When Amazon announced that the New York City borough of Queens would be the location of a major new investment by the company in November 2018, the news could reasonably have been expected to have been met with a shrug. After all, Amazon’s promised 25,000 new jobs over 20 years, or an average of 1,250 jobs per year, are a drop in a bucket in a City that is projected to add 170,000 jobs annually through 2024. Even if all the growth were concentrated in Queens (population 2.4 million), the new jobs and new residents could likely be accommodated and major disruptions avoided with proper planning. Instead, Amazon’s announcement provoked heated debate around issues of inequality and local control. MORE

Mayors explore guaranteed income
targeted at low-income Americans

February 2021: In 2019 Stockton, California, became the first US city to implement a guaranteed income program, moving an idea that was essentially theoretical in America to practice. Stockton’s former Mayor Michael Tubbs, who launched the program, explained, “We need a social safety net that goes beyond conditional benefits tied to employment, works for everyone and begins to address the call for racial and economic justice through a guaranteed income.” Other US cities have begun small-scale guaranteed income pilot programs or are considering such programs. These programs not only challenge current social assistance practices but also promise to rewrite the social contract in America. MORE