Summer 2019 Annual Meeting

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We invite you to join some of the nation's leading mayors for three days of innovative policy, networking, and southern hospitality in sunny Columbia, SC, hosted by Mayor Steve Benjamin!
The Summer Meeting will feature innovative city solutions to some of our cities' toughest challenges. Topics include violence prevention, youth leadership, household financial stability, and the latest on opportunity zones. In addition to providing you with clear policy takeaways that you can implement in your city, we'll also explore Columbia's civil rights history and much more.

About the Summer Meeting

The Summer Meeting combines rich content with the fun flavor of summer, allowing you to meet and learn from today's most innovative mayors and leading experts. It is always informal and relaxed but packed with substance. Our Steering Committee of mayors pick timely and relevent policy areas, and mayors have a chance to share their experiences, get advice from other mayors and experts, and then continue to receive support upon returning home. We focus on the “conversation in the hallway” that is often rushed at busy national meetings but can prove to be incredibly useful in advancing your goals. View the 'Agenda' tab to learn more.

Why should you attend?

 “MIP is the most consistently topical, thoughtful and engaging conference mayors can attend. MIP really has no peer.” - Mayor David Bieter, Boise, ID
"This is the best conference you will attend all year. The in-depth panel discussions on issues facing cities across the country give you policy and ideas you can use!" - Mayor Kate Stewart, Takoma Park, MD
“It is both thought provoking and inspiring to discuss mutual challenges and share solutions with electeds and experts from other cities around the country. The format of MIP conferences, where we go deep on a handful of key issues, is especially effective and engaging.” - Mayor Suzanne Jones, Boulder, CO
Download the Full Agenda


High Road Governance: A Workshop for New Mayors

Taking place directly before the Summer 2019 Meeting, this 1.5 day workshop will help mayors effectively transition from running for office to leading their cities toward the high road of equity, sustainability, and democracy. This workshop is for mayors that are in the first two years of a 4+ year term. A limited number of spots are available - travel & hotel will be covered. Learn more and register separately here.

Thursday, August 1
3:00 - 5:00pm
Steering Committee Meeting
Open to member cities only
​5:30 - 6:30pm
Welcome Reception
South Carolina State Museum, 301 Gervais Street
6:30 - 7:30pm
Welcome Dinner
South Carolina State Museum, 301 Gervais Street
​Optional: First Thursday on Main
Businesses in downtown Columbia will be keeping their doors open late, offering a mix of specials, events, entertainment, and more! Everything takes place on Main St, directly outside the Marriott hotel.

Friday, August 2
8:00 - 9:00am
Breakfast & Registration
Columbia Marriott, 1200 Hampton Street
9:00 - 9:30am
Welcome & Introductions
9:30 - 11:00am
Reducing & Preventing Violent Crime
While violent crime in cities has been steadily declining over the last 30 years, its impact on individuals, families, and institutions make it something cities must continue to work diligently to prevent. With intersecting root causes, there are many different tools cities can deploy to help prevent violence. This panel will highlight forward thinking approaches to reduce and prevent violent crime, especially in Black and Brown communities that face disproportionate impacts from them, such as using a public health approach in targeting violence, looking at root causes, and innovative targeted approaches to keep people from offending.
Moderator: Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, City of Madison, WI
Anthony Smith, Cities United
Melron Kelly, City of Columbia, SC
Mayor Ras Baraka, City of Newark, NJ
11:00 - 11:15am
11:15 - 1:00pm
Engaging Generation Z: Youth Leadership in Local Civics and Policy
Teenagers and young adults are experiencing unprecedented increases in access to information, global consciousness, organizing tools, and advocacy resources than prior generations. Local government leaders have tremendous opportunities to promote youth civic participation, leadership skill development and engagement in governance. Through this panel, discussion will focus on local innovations and mayoral leadership that support youth empowerment and engagement. Topics will include issue-specific projects to address climate change and gun control, as well as strategies for creating equitable, sustained opportunities for youth involvement in governance and policy.
Moderator: Mayor Victoria Woodards, City of Tacoma, WA
Laura Furr, National League of Cities
Lauren Harper, City of Columbia, SC
Ivanna Fregoso, City of Miramar, FL
Mayor Jake Spano, City of St. Louis Park, MN
1:00 - 1:30pm
1:30 - 2:00pm
2:00 - 4:00pm
City Tours
Choose from one of the following three options:
1. Reducing & Preventing Violent Crime (by bus): The Columbia Police Department has been a leader in 21st Century Policing since before the Obama Task Force of the same name was formed in 2014. This tour will provide an overview of how Columbia’s force is working to make the city a more safe, just, and equitable place for all residents.
2. Food Policy (by bus): Columbia recently became the first city in South Carolina to form a municipal food policy council. We’ll tour an African American owned farmer coop and an urban farming operation while hearing about the work happening on the ground to advance urban food systems, reduce food scarcity, and address food deserts.
3. Civil Rights (walking): South Carolina Civil Rights historians will take us on a walking tour of Columbia Civil Rights history that begins just outside our meeting space. The tour will include City Hall, the South Carolina State House, and the African American monument that was installed in 2001 when the Confederate flag was removed from the statehouse grounds. It will end with a tour of the Justice for All exhibit, which illuminates South Carolina’s pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement.

6:30 - 7:30
Columbia Art Museum, 1515 Main Street
7:30 - 9:00pm
Keynote & Dinner - Bakari Sellers, Lawyer & CNN Political Commentator
Columbia Art Museum, 1515 Main Street

Saturday, August 3
9:00 - 10:00am
Breakfast at Soda City Market
Soda City Market is Columbia’s weekly downtown market. Meet directly outside the Capital Ballroom at the Marriott at 9am to receive vouchers.
10:00 - 11:45am
Opportunity Zones
Opportunity Zones are low-income census tracts into which investors can move capital gains with relatively low tax deductions through vehicles called Opportunity Funds. While these funds hold promise, many worry that Opportunity Zones may not deliver the positive economic impacts to the populations they purport to serve. This session will cover what Opportunity Zones are and how they function, why mayors can play a critical role in their implementation, and how to use them as a vehicle for pushing forward a number of values-based agendas.
Moderator: Brett Theodos, Urban Institute
Rudy Espinoza, Inclusive Action for the City
Julia Parzen, Sustainability Consultant
Mayor Steve Benjamin, City of Columbia, SC
11:45 - 12:00pm
12:00 - 12:30pm
Innovation Showcase
The Innovation Showcase offers Mayors and city staff the opportunity to present to the group on a leading edge/innovative policy or program idea that they’ve successfully implemented.
Moderator: Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, City of Grand Rapids, MI
12:30 - 1:30pm
1:30 - 3:00pm
Addressing Household Financial Stability
The lack of financial security for US households is one of the most intractable problems we face as a society. Among the interconnected causes of this crisis are the volatility inherent in the low-wage labor market, a lack of opportunities for saving and accruing wealth for low- and middle-income earners, and high costs of living. Structural inequities also disproportionately affect low-income communities, including less access to generational wealth and government fines and fees that create significant debt. Cities are deeply affected by this reality, and face both an imperative and an opportunity to promote financial stability through progressive solutions. This panel will highlight avenues cities have taken to address this critical issue, including financial empowerment for residents, changes to local wage and labor laws, and debt reduction plans.
Moderator: Mayor Pro Tem Tameika Isaac Devine, City of Columbia, SC
Joanna Smith - Ramani, Aspen Institute
Gloria Saeed, City of Columbia, SC
Treasurer Tishaura Jones, City of St. Louis, MO
3:00 - 3:15pm
Closing Remarks
3:15 - 4:00pm
Steering Committee Meeting
Open to member cities only
4:00 - 5:00pm
​Optional: Historical Homes of Columbia
Local historians will lead a light walking tour, highlighting Columbia’s history and architecture. Meet in the hotel lobby.


As always, registration is FREE for member cities. Learn more and join the Mayors Innovation Project here. Otherwise: 

  • Non-member cities: $375/person
  • Non-profits/Academic: $475/person

Interested in sponsoring the Summer Meeting? Learn more here or contact


We invite Mayors, other local elected executive-branch leaders representing US and Canadian cities to attend our meetings. Other elected local government leaders and staff should contact their executive and/or us for an invitation. Registration covers the cost of materials and all meals listed on the agenda. View our refund cancellation policy here



A room block has been reserved at the Columbia Marriott, 1200 Hampton St, where the main meeting sessions are taking place, at a rate of $159/night plus tax. Attendees are responsible for making their own reservations. The deadline to book online has expired - please contact Michelle Bright to inquire about availability.




The Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE) is ~8 miles from the Columbia Marriott. 



View map of the area below. Parking is available in the City-owned garage attached to the Marriott. Self-parking is complimentary for guests staying overnight and $12/day for attendees not staying overnight. 





Emily Miota, 608-263-7958,



Materials will be available the week before the meeting.