Economic Development, Public Safety are Top Issues for Nation’s Mayors, According to National League of Cities Report

Economic Development Remains Most Critical Issue for Third Consecutive Year

WASHINGTON — For the third consecutive year, economic development remained the top issue for the nation's mayors, according to a comprehensive analysis of mayoral state of the city speeches released today by the National League of Cities (NLC). In the 2016 State of the Cities report, which examines state of the city speeches in 100 cities representing a diverse cross section of population sizes and geographic regions, public safety replaced infrastructure as the second most-discussed issue. The state of the city speech is a mayor's opportunity to reflect on their city's recent accomplishments, address current challenges and present a roadmap for the future.

As the biggest issue on mayors' agendas, economic development was mentioned in 75 percent of mayoral speeches. Following closely behind is public safety and city budgets at 70 percent and 52 percent, respectively.

Top 10 Issues:
Image removed.

"As the economy rebounds, mayors are utilizing their state of the city speeches to highlight the progress their communities have made since the Great Recession," said Clarence E. Anthony, CEO and executive director of the National League of Cities. "Mayors are focusing on innovative strategies to grow jobs, modernize manufacturing and keep our residents safe. But we must work hard to address critical challenges - including inequality, gun violence, inclusion issues and a dilapidated infrastructure - for our cities, and our nation, to thrive and succeed."

This year's State of the Cities report reveals the following trends:

  • Mayors continue to focus on improving their local economies and encouraging entrepreneurship.
  • Mayors are seeing improved revenue and are being judicious about how to spend it.
  • Mayors are cautiously optimistic about the future and are leading in the development of sustainable communities where people want to live.
  • Mayors are concerned about the uptick in the murder rate even though overall crime rates are historically low.
  • Mayors are concerned about the increasing opioid epidemic. 
  • Mayors are helping their cities see the value of using technology and data to drive decisions and make their city governments more efficient and effective.

"The nation's mayors are leading our country forward with a critical focus on the issues that matter to cities," said Brooks Rainwater, senior executive and director of the National League of Cities Center for City Solutions and Applied Research. "Cities are the nation's laboratories for innovation. Mayors share good ideas and best practices not only with cities in their region and state, but also on the global level where cities are increasingly influencing policy."

For the full State of the Cities report, including a list of cities in the sample and methodology information, click here.


The National League of Cities (NLC) is dedicated to helping city leaders build better communities. NLC is a resource and advocate for 19,000 cities, towns and villages, representing more than 218 million Americans.