BALTIMORE (WJZ)–Baltimore is in the national spotlight this weekend. For the first time in eight decades, mayors from across the country are in town for the annual U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Kelly McPherson explains the impact this conference is having on the city.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake welcomed 1,200 city officials to Baltimore on Friday for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, attracting Philadelphia’s Michael Nutter, former White House chief of staff and new Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and mayors from across the country.
“My hope is that after they leave they’ll want to come back again. And we’re going to give them every reason to,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
The group spent Friday night in Fells Point and Little Italy.
“The first thing I learned is that the city is pretty neat,” said Sly James, Kansas City mayor. “I can’t wait to go the Harbor.”
That enthusiasm is exactly the perk that can come from hosting a major conference like this one.
“I think they’re mostly going to be surprised by how great it is here,” said Kirby Fowler, Downtown Partnership. “Our national press is not that strong, but I think once they get here they’re going to learn a lot from us.”
The Downtown Partnership says the mayors’ conference could turn into an important marketing tool.
“Every convention has an impact on our economy, but I think more so it has an impact on our reputation. They’re going to go back to their cities and tell people about their experiences in Baltimore,” Fowler said.
Baltimore drivers may notice some impact downtown. But one disruption that has been canceled is a protest from the Baltimore fire and police unions. Instead they’ve put up a billboard voicing concern over pension cuts.
The mayors will continue their work through Monday, including airing concerns about federal dollars drying up.
“We cannot let Washington just pass the buck to mayors and balance the budget on the backs of the local property taxpayers,” said Elizabeth B. Kautz, Burnsville mayor.
The conference is also voting on a resolution to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and will send that to Washington if it passes.
Next week there’s a conference for International Event Planners, which the Downtown Partnership says will have an even greater impact economically on Baltimore.