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Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin in Amsterdam For Global Summit on Urban Challenges


By Barnett Wright

The Birmingham Times

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin joined a global gathering of mayors, urban innovators, business leaders, and artists this week to address solutions to pressing urban challenges, including pandemic recovery, migration, global conflict, and extreme heat.

The summit, held in Amsterdam, was put together by Bloomberg CityLab, the global cities summit organized by Bloomberg Philanthropies in partnership with the Aspen Institute.

The two-day conference began Oct. 9 and focused on the leadership role of cities on the global stage, bringing together mayors from around the world alongside prominent leaders.

“CityLab is about achieving global impact by sharing local solutions,” Woodfin said. “Big thank you to Mike Bloomberg and Bloomberg philanthropies and Aspen Institute for allowing me to share Birmingham’s story on extreme weather-related events caused by climate change and how we can better prepare for a wetter future.”

“Here’s the favorite part,” the mayor added, “none of it was on the taxpayer’s dime. [Organizers] asked me to speak and they told me they wanted to cover the trip.”

Woodfin was among U.S. mayors from Washington, D.C.; Cincinnati, Ohio; and San Francisco, California and international mayors (or officials of equivalent position) that hailed from Athens, Greece; Bristol, United Kingdom; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Dublin, Ireland; Freetown, Sierra Leone; Gdańsk, Poland; Helsinki, Finland; Reykjavik, Iceland and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Speakers included Michael R. Bloomberg, three-term mayor of New York City, Founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies; Salla Eckhardt, Director of Digital Building Lifecycle and Innovation, Microsoft; Justin Elszasz, Chief Digital Officer, City of Baltimore; and Xiaoqi Feng, Associate Professor and expert in Urban Health and Environment at the School of Population Health, University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney).

“CityLab this year visits one of the most creative cities in the world to elevate what’s new, learn from what’s working, and bring together a global community of public innovators,” said James Anderson, who leads the Government Innovation program at Bloomberg Philanthropies. “Cities are beacons in these challenging times and we look forward to bringing together many of the most inspiring city leaders, artists, thinkers, and doers once again.”

Programming included one-on-one interviews, interactive breakout sessions, artistic performances, excursions to unique destinations across Amsterdam, and discussions that will address critical issues facing cities today. Topics included governing with uncertainty brought on by the pandemic; why cities are racing to become crypto-hubs; digital safety and equity; how to help communities process painful histories; the urgent need to rethink city infrastructure and buildings in order to adapt to climate change and flooding; how cities can respond to global issues like migration and war; and the importance of green space for mental health.

CityLab was founded on the principle that the most important innovation is happening at the local level, and that global impact can be achieved when cities share solutions.