ON THE RECORD/Poverty and energy policy top concerns
In June, the Washington-based U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) will induct Dearborn, Mich., Mayor Michael Guido as the organization’s new president. Serving for 20 years as mayor of his hometown, Guido has worked to improve the city’s neighborhoods by creating safe, affordable housing and by fostering their artistic culture. American City & County talked with Guido about the issues facing his city, recent immigration concerns and the need for fiscal responsibility among local governments.
Q: What are the most critical issues facing local governments?
A: Just a couple of weeks ago, the U.S. Conference of Mayors held a poverty summit in Los Angeles. I will continue that as part of my presidency. Energy policy is coming to the forefront, [as are] alternative energy sources and competing in the global market for finite resources. We’re always concerned with our partnership with the federal government, and the community development block grants [are] important to us. We would urge Congress to authorize that and fully fund it because those are dollars that help provide programs and services that people can see, feel and touch everyday. [Also,] trying to get people in their own home and provide safe, affordable housing is very important.
Q: How has Dearborn been affected by the recent auto industry problems?
A: Dearborn is the hometown of the Ford Motor Co. world headquarters. For us, Ford’s fortunes are Dearborn’s fortunes. That’s one of the reasons the energy issue is so important to us, trying to create markets for them — not only their vehicles but for hybrid vehicles, mass transportation vehicles, buses that they produce that run on alternative fuels.
Q: Why are the arts important to the Dearborn community?
A: Arts and culture and recreation don’t cost, but they do pay. You have to [have] more than just public safety. [Chicago Mayor] Richard Daley took art to the next level with Millennium Park. [He] talked to his business counterparts and put the mayoral hug and squeeze on them and got that built and created a sense of place not only for tourists but for his community. Every community, every city or village in the United States longs to have that same feeling. There are opportunities all over to showcase your community and its creativity.
Q: How is immigration affecting your city, and how are you addressing the issue?
A: Dearborn is a great microcosm of America. We have over 80 cultures, races and nationalities in our city. About 25 percent of our population is from the Middle East. I’m a first generation American. Both my mother and father were immigrants. So, I am a living example of the immigration issue. I don’t think that mayors and the local police departments should be in the business of doing immigration checks and dealing with immigration issues because we really need to establish a trust [with] immigrants or naturalized citizens.
Q: Why is fiscal responsibility important for local governments?
A: Cities have rising healthcare costs and pensions to pay, and some of those pension systems are not fully funded. Before they buy a fire truck or pay a librarian, they have to make sure that they meet the obligation of the pension system and healthcare costs. It’s going to take a federal response so that mayors have the resources to provide public safety, parks, libraries and rubbish pick up. We have to live within our means, and we’re trying desperately to do so and still provide a good quality of life.