By Amie Rivers, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier
WATERLOO — Five Democratic presidential hopefuls speaking back-to-back in one place doesn’t happen very often in Waterloo — and, it turns out, it hasn’t happened nationally either, at least with candidates being asked questions about local issues by mayors from across the United States.
“What is happening today has never happened before,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said at the start of the Local America Presidential Forum, a five-hour event at the Cedar Valley Sportsplex in Waterloo that drew a few hundred people.
Garcetti said it was important for those five Democratic presidential candidates — Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former U.S. Housing Secretary Julian Castro, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, businessman Tom Steyer and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg — to understand, if they don’t already, why local issues matter.
Amy Klobuchar touts experience as a county attorney
First up was Klobuchar, paired with Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart. Klobuchar touted her eight years as a county attorney.
“There’s nothing sexier than a good water/sewer project,” Klobuchar said, talking about her infrastructure proposal, which would include fixing roads, schools and broadband internet.
“If we put this major investment in infrastructure ... that will be a great help to the cities of this country, and they can get to jobs, and they can get to hope.”
Julian Castro touts experience as a mayor
Castro said his time as mayor of San Antonio taught him about the value of investing in local communities.
“What I found out when I got into local government was, there are a lot of things you can do, but you need a strong partner in the state and you need a strong partner in the federal government,” Castro said.
He said he’d begin with his former federal agency, Housing and Urban Development, by funding and changing the formula for Community Development Block Grants and helping start partnerships between internet service providers and housing authorities to offer free and reduced broadband to seniors and low-income communities.
Cory Booker cites his work as a mayor
Booker talked with Sioux City Mayor Bob Scott about the partnerships Booker formed while mayor of Newark.
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“But, God, it was so hard — we had to fight bureaucracy in order to get control of land in our own city,” Booker said of an urban food network he implemented.
“Dear God, we need a mayor in the White House.”
Booker, who just released his rural America plan, talked about how he’d create revenue streams for farmers and encourage responsible land practices.
“The disappearance of the American farmer is the shame of this country,” he said.
Tom Steyer talks up his Iowa connections
Steyer talked up his Iowa family connections and his plans to spread the wealth around by providing a Medicare public option, investing in unions and “middle-class jobs” and implementing a progressive tax code.
He also talked about founding Need to Impeach, which pushed for President Donald Trump’s impeachment long before the current proceedings.
“I started Need to Impeach because there’s something wrong, and it’s deep — there’s never just one cockroach,” Steyer said.
Chicago mayor challenged Buttigieg
Buttigieg told Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, “The right role of Washington is to encourage, support, cross-pollinate and fund the local issues.”
Lightfoot, unlike the other mayors, repeatedly challenged Buttigieg on everything from whether he would break his nondisclosure agreement with his former employer McKinsey (he said he is asking McKinsey) to his challenges connecting with black voters.
“There’s a lot of hurdles to get over,” he admitted.
“I’m from a city with a complicated story and past. ... We have had to face that and work side by side in order to reach the solutions.”