The City of Carmel Takes Center Stage at the USCM and Abroad

Writer / Janelle Morrison Photos submitted

Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard, one of the trustees for the United States Conference of Mayors, recapped some of what he and his fellow mayors focused on throughout the conference hosted by Mayor Hogsett of Indianapolis. Mayor Brainard co-hosted an evening for the mayors in attendance that brought them into downtown Carmel where they were treated to a night of first-class dining and entertainment.

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“The mayors left the J.W. Marriott and were provided a police escort by the City of Indianapolis,” Brainard said. “Mayor Joe Hogsett and I produced a video that they watched while on the bus. The Visit Indy organization had a representative on each bus, and they entertained the mayors with the ‘Top 10’ facts and questions about Indianapolis and the surrounding areas. One of the questions was about the number of roundabouts that we have.”

The mayors arrived to the full red carpet treatment in front of the Palladium and were greeted by representatives of the City of Carmel and volunteers. They dined under a tent that was erected on the Center Green and were entertained by Cirque Du Soleil performers in an oval-shaped bar.

The mayors took photographs of the latest addition to Carmel’s outdoor sculptures representing famous jazz artists in front of the Palladium. The first three of six sculptures were donated to the city and will display legends like Dizzy Gillespie and Hoagy Carmichael. The Capital City Chorus was on the steps of the Palladium singing as the mayors walked in. Mayors Hogsett and Brainard addressed the audience, along with Tania Castroverde Moskalenko, the President/CEO of the Center for the Performing Arts, and Baltimore Mayor and then-President of the USCM, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

“I introduced Michael Feinstein who gave us an hour-long concert,” Brainard said. “The mayors were also entertained by two high school vocal contestants and American jazz singer, Nicole Henry. After the concert, the mayors came out onto the steps of the Palladium, and we had a fireworks display that lasted about 10 minutes. Many of the mayors then headed over to Main Street for an incredible after-party. I had several of the mayors say to me, ‘I’ve never been to a city where so many people are excited about the city’s initiatives.’

“These are mayors who have seen a lot and have heard a lot. They were very impressed with the enthusiasm and the excitement that the residents had. Our staff did a wonderful job and worked well with Visit Indy representatives. Our local law enforcement agencies worked well with all of the security agencies that came together to ensure that we had a fun and safe evening in our city. It’s been 30-plus years since two cities worked together to host the mayors. That’s unusual, and it was a way to show the other mayors how we can collaborate to everyone’s benefit in central Indiana.

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“The purpose of the USCM is to focus on federal regulation and federal programs that aid people living in cities. It is important for mayors to be able to talk to cabinet members. It’s about getting our money back from Washington and returning it to the people who paid it to Washington. It’s about making sure that Congress or the White House doesn’t do things, regardless of who is president, that make mayors’ jobs tougher or makes it harder to provide a decent quality of life in our cities.

“One of the focuses of the conference over the years has been the Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG). This was a Republican initiative from the early 1970s when Nixon was in office. It was called revenue sharing in the 1970s. One city might need it for housing for the less fortunate, and another city might need it to build sidewalks. It is available for projects that build up our community development within certain areas, and there are some income limits to the program. With cities with a population under 50,000, the money goes to the state, and then the state distributes it. Cities over 50,000, the money goes directly to the cities.

“The City of Carmel has done quite a few projects with the CDBG Program. It is a great federal program. It allows flexibility and decision-making at the local level on how the money is used. We, the mayors, would like to see that program expanded. During the stimulus, we had the Energy and Environmental Block Grants that allowed cities to choose what they needed it most for. We took our $750,000 and put it into LED street lighting. We’re getting almost a 25% annualized internal rate of return on that investment. Programs like these are what we promote at the USCM.”

Prior to attending the USCM, Mayor Brainard was again a speaker and ambassador for his city and country at
“The Purpose of the Making Cities Livable” international conference that was held in Rome, Italy, June 13-17.

Mayor Brainard was an invited to speak, along with other distinguished speakers such as Maxim Atayants, Architect, St. Petersburg, Russia; Richard M. Economakis, Architect, Professor, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN; Mayor George Ferguson, Bristol, UK; and other notable individuals. Mayor Brainard spoke about building livable cities and providing examples from Carmel.

“This trip, we learned about what’s going on in terms of cutting-edge city design across the globe,” Brainard explained. “We learn about how the private and public sector can work together to design cities that are globally competitive and attractive to Millennials and be good for people of all ages and stages of their lives. I saw a lot of new ideas and saw a lot of old ideas being implemented with new materials.

“We really need to continue to focus on making certain that the public spaces that we build are beautiful and work well with existing structures. The courtyard of Sophia Square is a good example of this. The public parks and piazzas that we are building at City Center and the green spaces are public places where all people in our community can come together and socialize. We need to give a lot of thought to how these spaces are designed and built, so that they are as nice as they can be.

“We’re continuing to study how we handle the Monon between the Arts & Design District and City Center and will probably separate pedestrians from bicyclists by creating designated paths. We are also looking at adding various amenities along the Monon and adding public plazas with restaurants and places for people to relax.”