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Reopening the World: City leadership is fundamental to reopening the economy – Brookings Institution

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U.S. cities have been at the forefront of the national response to COVID-19, as global connections and high density make them especially vulnerable. Local decision-makers banded together early on and also looked to their global networks to exchange knowledge, share experiences, and support each other in managing through the crisis. For example, Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, chair of C40 cities, convened a virtual assembly in late March of 45 mayors from every part of the world, and the consensus was clear from counterparts whose cities had already been affected: act aggressively and quickly.

The cooperation has been paying off. U.S. mayors and local officials are receiving high marks for their response. In a recent Economist/YouGov poll, a majority (55 percent) said their local governments are doing a good or excellent job, while about two in five (38 percent) placed the same faith in the federal government. The most recent Edelman Trust Barometer shows local governments in the U.S. enjoying a level of trust 20 percentage points higher than the federal government.

On the one hand, reopening represents a complicated technical challenge. As Brookings and other experts have suggested, it requires getting a sequence of steps right, based on the best available evidence, and balancing public health with economic and social considerations amid uncertainty. At a deeper level, though, reopening presents a serious leadership challenge. Municipal leaders are likely to allow activity among certain groups of people, businesses, and neighborhoods before others, which may be perceived as unfair. Subsequent flare-ups of the disease may mean restrictions are quickly reintroduced.

Amid the urgency to restart the economy and restore jobs, these dynamics create high risk of increased anxiety, tensions, and social division. At the same time, mayors are more convinced than ever of the need to reduce vulnerabilities exposed by COVID-19. And they are faced with doing this as they are experiencing severe budget shortfalls. These local leaders recognize that the effects of the virus on their cities’ physical and economic makeup may be long-lasting. COVID-19 is yet another example of the extent to which their local realities are tied to global phenomena that ignore political boundaries: global health threats, climate change, migration. Their counterparts from across the globe have additional lessons to share.

For these mayors, social equity matters now more than ever, and they have elevated their city’s commitment to reaching their city’s most vulnerable and maximizing economic opportunity for all their residents.

COMMIT TO ‘BUILDING BACK BETTER’

As they emerge from lockdown, local leaders worldwide see reopening as an opportunity. The mayors of Milan, Helsinki, Bristol, and several other global cities whom we contacted are determined to reduce their cities’ vulnerabilities, and not just as they relate to COVID-19: they see a chance to build a healthier, more sustainable future that improves their cities’ resilience to a wide range of shocks and shifts. This means addressing the economic inequities and environmental stresses that make their cities susceptible—and doing so now.

As the city reopens, the government of Milan made a commitment to raise its ambition for the future of the city. It is starting to rethink community patterns and plans to construct expanded pedestrian and bicycle access on 22 miles of streets in the city this summer, reducing availability for cars. These throughways will follow subway routes to provide greater mobility for those reliant on public transportation and incentives for those who are not. Milan anticipates this will not only help lessen car usage and air pollution—its metro region has one of the highest in Europe—but create more space for commerce outside its restaurants and shops, which may be important in the era of social distancing.

Successfully anticipating global trends and integrating these transformations into reopening and recovery was a recurrent theme among these city leaders. None has set aside their city’s prior plans to address climate change, build cleaner infrastructure, and reduce inequality among their residents and neighborhoods. Helsinki, for example, has continued with its Helsinki Energy Challenge, a global competition to reduce its dependence on coal, which now heats half the city. Bristol remains committed to its One City Climate Strategy, launched in February, and is framing its model of economic recovery on the Sustainable Development Goals. COVID-19 may be a disruption, but it is not a moratorium; if anything, it has provided greater urgency for these leaders to accelerate their plans.

MAKE EQUITY THE CENTERPIECE OF YOUR CITY’S PLANS

COVID-19’s widespread economic dislocation lays bare the implications of inequality. For these mayors, social equity matters now more than ever, and they have elevated their city’s commitment to reaching their city’s most vulnerable and maximizing economic opportunity for all their residents.

The mayor of Milan launched a Mutual Aid Fund for private donations to augment a special appropriation from the City Council, both to provide grants to the newly unemployed and, as the city reopens, to offer assistance to small businesses and entrepreneurs. To develop an equitable approach to enhance safety, the city is considering the possibilities of augmenting “social distancing” with “time distancing,” staggering openings and closings or the start of shifts to space out the use of public transportation.

Bristol’s mayor has also committed to an inclusive re-opening, and the city is providing emergency grants to small businesses. Its Economic Board is focused on reducing intractable inequality in the city by creating suitable job opportunities out of its recovery plans and implementation of the climate strategy.

This emphasis is becoming a widely shared view. Social equity and local economies were the top priorities for COVID-19 recovery planning in a recent survey of the cities participating in the Rockefeller Foundation’s Global Resilient Cities Network, which launched a coalition of Cities for a Resilient Recovery based on the results.

USE CITY GOVERNANCE AS A PLATFORM FOR PROBLEM-SOLVING

It may seem counterintuitive to remain steadfast about a city’s ambitions as uncertainty and disruption continue to define its daily realities. These leaders recognize that success will require resources and leadership that extend beyond their budgets and capacity, and pursue a model of governance that is as much community organizer and advocate as producer of public services. As one senior representative from Helsinki remarked, the mayor’s office is well-positioned to help the city build its collective leadership, acting as the connective tissue among many different sectors seeking to solve their problems.

Bristol’s Economy Board, for example, is one of six boards created before the crisis to involve a diverse range of stakeholders in developing and leading the implementation of its One City Plan. Activated immediately to develop a post-COVID-19 economic recovery plan, its membership has swelled to over 40 representatives from businesses, unions, universities, civil society, and gateways such as its port and airport. Its overlap with the city’s other boards and participatory nature is positioning the city to develop a strategy and shovel-ready projects that will have community-wide support and meet the city’s post-COVID-19 priorities.

COMMUNICATE OPENLY AND TRANSPARENTLY

Such consultation is an example of the type of regular and transparent communication these leaders see as essential to building support from constituents and the general public. Seoul, applying lessons from the MERS outbreak of 2015, has made transparency a core principle of its reopening strategy, offering real-time data on the number and location of cases to mitigate public fear, reduce the spread of fake news, and increase trust in government officials. Buenos Aires retooled its existing municipal WhatsApp chatbot for coronavirus communications and has achieved a response rate five times quicker than its traditional telephone emergency response.

UNIFY THE CITY AROUND ITS CULTURAL IDENTITY

It is one of the iconic images of the COVID-19 crisis, seen by 22 million people as it streamed: Andrea Bocelli, standing in the empty Piazza del Duomo in Milan on Easter Sunday, singing “Amazing Grace.” As Milan embraces its own commitment to open communication with its residents, it is unveiling a campaign that echoes that image to show how the piazza and the city will reopen “step by step.” In similar fashion, Bristol is using its #WeAreBristol campaign, launched in 2019 to define its diverse culture as one of the city’s hallmarks, to sign up volunteers for COVID-19 relief.

Such reminders of their city’s shared identity are useful as a way to build a sense of solidarity and togetherness. The crisis has had a deep economic impact on the cultural and creative sectors, and intentionally acknowledging the central role cultural institutions play in the life of their city signals the commitment by the communities to work toward their renewal. As U.S. leaders embark upon reopening and the first steps toward recovery, such goodwill will be important to sustaining their efforts—and remaking their cities for the future.

Max Bouchet contributed excellent research assistance to collect these lessons.

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Thai leader says unity necessary to revive virus-hit economy – News 1130

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BANGKOK — Thailand’s prime minister, facing growing demands from students for change, warned Thursday that the nation must pull together to overcome the economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

In a speech marking the appointment of a new team of financial specialists to his Cabinet, Prayuth Chan-ocha said the economic crisis will not go away quickly.

Thailand has been praised for its handling of the health effects of the coronavirus, with no local cases reported for 80 days. But it has suffered an especially strong shock to its economy because of its heavy dependence on tourism and exports.

Prayuth’s speech comes at a time of growing political pressure, as a student-led protest movement issues increasingly strident calls for his government to step down, the military-installed constitution to be revised, and limits to free speech to be lifted to promote democracy.

Some of the protesters’ criticisms challenge aspects of the country’s constitutional monarchy, setting them at odds with the conservative political establishment led by royalists and the military.

Prayuth, as army commander, led a coup in 2014 that ousted an elected government, served as prime minister in the military regime that followed, and returned as prime minister after a general election last year that was widely seen as free but not fair.

He declared Thursday that “our future is in the hands of the young,” but pushed aside the demands of the mainly young protesters at frequent rallies around the country.

“Right now, we must focus on the economic survival of tens of millions,” he said. “Let’s get the economy going first, first get that done by working together, and we can look to fixing the other issues, collaboratively, later.”

He also referred to the political conflict that has afflicted the country for much of the past decade and a half, including street clashes and two military coups.

“The politics of division that rejects a united approach to solving problems belongs to another era in history,” he said.

Prayuth said he appointed experts rather than politicians to the Cabinet to manage financial policy because “the economy is as big a threat to our lives as is the health threat.”

The Asian Development Bank recently forecast that the economy will contract by 6.5% in 2020, compared to its December 2019 projection of 3.0% growth.

“We are a small boat in a big ocean, and our economy can only start returning to normality when the rest of the world starts returning to normality,” Prayuth said.

Grant Peck, The Associated Press

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As economy recovers, some Toronto restaurants commit to end tipping – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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TORONTO – As the Canadian economy continues to adapt to the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, some restaurants in Toronto are saying goodbye to a service industry staple: tipping.

So far three restaurants — Richmond Station, Ten and Burdock Brewery — have publicly signed onto doing away with the practice.

The aim is to make the industry more equitable and provide service workers with access to the social safety nets afforded to other professions.

Each of them has instead implemented what is known as a “hospitality included” fee — essentially an enforced gratuity, usually set at 18 per cent of the bill.

Unlike the practice of “tip-pooling,” which typically pays back-of-house staff such as cooks and dishwashers significantly less than front-of-house staff, a hospitality included fee is designed to be more evenly distributed.

Ryan Donovan, co-owner of Richmond Station, says his team decided it was the right choice when they saw how badly service workers were hit by the pandemic.

But James Rilette, vice-president of the industry group Restaurants Canada, doesn’t think ending tipping will go over well with customers.

He says conversations with restaurant owners and customers over the years have led him to believe that consumers tend to prefer tipping over price increases on menu items.

Rilette says the biggest problem is sticker shock — since people are going to react to seeing the price of their burger go up 20 per cent.

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Thai leader says unity necessary to revive virus-hit economy – 570 News

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BANGKOK — Thailand’s prime minister, facing growing demands from students for change, warned Thursday that the nation must pull together to overcome the economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

In a speech marking the appointment of a new team of financial specialists to his Cabinet, Prayuth Chan-ocha said the economic crisis will not go away quickly.

Thailand has been praised for its handling of the health effects of the coronavirus, with no local cases reported for 80 days. But it has suffered an especially strong shock to its economy because of its heavy dependence on tourism and exports.

Prayuth’s speech comes at a time of growing political pressure, as a student-led protest movement issues increasingly strident calls for his government to step down, the military-installed constitution to be revised, and limits to free speech to be lifted to promote democracy.

Some of the protesters’ criticisms challenge aspects of the country’s constitutional monarchy, setting them at odds with the conservative political establishment led by royalists and the military.

Prayuth, as army commander, led a coup in 2014 that ousted an elected government, served as prime minister in the military regime that followed, and returned as prime minister after a general election last year that was widely seen as free but not fair.

He declared Thursday that “our future is in the hands of the young,” but pushed aside the demands of the mainly young protesters at frequent rallies around the country.

“Right now, we must focus on the economic survival of tens of millions,” he said. “Let’s get the economy going first, first get that done by working together, and we can look to fixing the other issues, collaboratively, later.”

He also referred to the political conflict that has afflicted the country for much of the past decade and a half, including street clashes and two military coups.

“The politics of division that rejects a united approach to solving problems belongs to another era in history,” he said.

Prayuth said he appointed experts rather than politicians to the Cabinet to manage financial policy because “the economy is as big a threat to our lives as is the health threat.”

The Asian Development Bank recently forecast that the economy will contract by 6.5% in 2020, compared to its December 2019 projection of 3.0% growth.

“We are a small boat in a big ocean, and our economy can only start returning to normality when the rest of the world starts returning to normality,” Prayuth said.

Grant Peck, The Associated Press

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