The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Transcript: This is Climate: Local Solutions

MR. SAMUELS: Hello, and welcome to Washington Post Live. I’m Robert Samuels, national enterprise reporter at The Post. Today we are continuing our week-long “This is Climate” series. Our guest today is the mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, Mayor Chokwe Lumumba.

Mr. Mayor, it is good to see you again. How are you?

MAYOR LUMUMBA: Well, Robert, I'm doing well. Just continuing to chip away at this very deep and important issue.

MR. SAMUELS: There is a lot for us to talk about today so thank you for being here.

Let's just start at the beginning. Before the flooding this summer there had consistently been problems with the crumbling water system in Jackson. Could you talk to us a little bit about what the conditions were like before reporters like me started descending on your city?

MAYOR LUMUMBA: Absolutely. Unfortunately, I would like to begin with the fact that these distribution challenges have been in play for the better part of three decades or more in the city of Jackson. I am not the first mayor to lift up these challenges. They have been revealed in a multitude of ways. And so I want to make that clear.

Now I do want to say, because the package showed brown water, that has not been our challenge as it had been issues in the distribution system. That particular property we discovered that there was an issue with that facility. That was on the second floor of one building. So I just want to make that clear for people.

However, the problems are real. The problems do have adverse effects on a widespread portion of our population, particularly those that live in some of the more impoverished areas, so there are equity issues too.

There are problems with our distribution system where we have more than 50 percent loss in our system. There are problems in our water treatment facility which was not optimally created in the first place, but also has several decades of deferred maintenance that has not taken place. There are issues with White flight and how it has deteriorated a tax base that is necessary in order to maintain operations and maintenance at the water treatment facilities.

So these problems are vast. These problems are indicative of what we see nationwide in communities that resemble Jackson, that face these environmental justice issues and concerns. And so we appreciate The Washington Post and other outlets for lifting up this challenge and giving us an opportunity to speak to this very critical issue.

MR. SAMUELS: There is another issue that was alluded to in the introduction, which is the issue of extreme weather, when this seemed to have exacerbated the problem. Kids couldn't go to school. Residents couldn't flush toilets. Could you talk to us a little bit about how climate has been impacting this particular situation?

MAYOR LUMUMBA: Absolutely. You are exactly correct. You know, what the extreme weather conditions accomplish is adds insult to injury. Where we already have a fragile system, we are now having to endure extreme weather conditions, which means that we have colder winters, hotter summers, and we are experiencing more annual precipitation. And that all takes a toll on our water treatment facilities, which means that we have to weatherize them. We have to weatherize not only the membrane side of our plant, we have to weatherize our chemical treatment room or house. We have to be able to better protect the pipes.

And, you know, not only have we experienced the adverse effects of the most recent flood that took place earlier this year and how it crippled our water treatment facility, approximately two years ago we experienced the same result when a February freeze took over our city for more than two weeks, which made our raw water screens freeze. We could not get untreated water in. Therefore, we could not get treated water out. It made certain that valves within our water treatment facility were frozen shut, and there were a multitude of challenges across our water treatment facility.

You know, when you build a water treatment facility in Cleveland, Ohio, for example, you certainly expect that there is a certain number of days that you experience extremely cold temperatures. In other parts of our country, we know that this is the norm. But when you experience arctic temperatures, temperatures at some times over the last few years where it has been colder in Jackson, Mississippi, than Anchorage, Alaska, then our systems weren't built to withstand that type of temperatures or those type of weather conditions.

And so this isn't a theoretical thing. This isn't a conversation that we can talk hypothetically about what the effects are of climate change. These are real life circumstances that we are dealing with each and every day.

MR. SAMUELS: The extreme weather, floods and freezing, as was talked about earlier, are really exacerbating some of the conditions of being an overburdened and underfunded system.

When people left, when reporters left Jackson, these issues still continued. Could you talk to us a little bit about how the city is recovering and what you think have been some of the most effective mechanisms you've done to be able to handle the issue?

MAYOR LUMUMBA: Well, we have been blessed. You know, in this season of thanksgiving we are most grateful for not only the love that has been poured into the city of Jackson from all of our neighbors throughout the country that have not only given of their resources, helping with bottled water, but many of those communities have offered their best and brightest talented individuals who have a skill set to help in our operations, which has created a level of stability in our water treatment facility. However, the systems we have are the systems we have until we replace them, and so there are still significant vulnerabilities within our system.

We will not be weatherized in time for the winter months, as they are approaching and we get into the heart of what our winter is in Jackson, Mississippi. And so we will be praying for a calm winter that is not extremely adverse to the city of Jackson and to our systems. But should we experience that, then we are at risk of pipes bursting and interrupting our distribution system and our ability to get water to residents. We will be concerned with how we protect our water treatment facility, namely O.B. Curtis, from the conditions and the potential equipment failures that could take place.

So those are things that we are concerned with. And so we are observing not only how do we weatherize and protect the current water treatment facility but we are observing the need for a new water treatment facility that has greater functionality, that considers the temperature changes that we have been experiencing over the last several years, that considers whether certain processing or water processing units are less advantageous to us, such as the fact that we have a partially membrane treatment process and a partially conventional treatment process, which not only makes it difficult to obtain a workforce that has the skill set necessary to operate both systems, but it also makes it difficult to protect from the various elements that we are dealing with.

And so all of these things are in play and in consideration, but if we are honest while we are in a better place with more expertise at the table, while we are in a better place to have a resiliency playbook at hand, we still have extreme vulnerabilities right now, at this time, and we have to be cognizant of that.

MR. SAMUELS: These are tough issues for so many cities, particularly a city of your size with some of the problems that you have experienced with tax base. There has been a lot of news that has gone on in Jackson in a few weeks, including increased federal oversight of the water system. You've gone and talked about how you support the moving in of the federal government. Talk to us a little bit about why.

MAYOR LUMUMBA: Yeah. You know, I think that it is a bit of a deviation from the normal action of the EPA, and it is a deviation from, you know, normal government or federal government oversight. This is an agreed order of consent. This was a truly collaborative effort in which we not only looked at the challenges in the city of Jackson, we looked at what type of skill set is necessary as we move into a phase of creating greater resiliency, dependability, and equity within our system.

And so we welcome that. We welcome that level of expertise, and we had a part in being able to agree to the selection of who would be the third-party administrator. We talked about the terms of, you know, who is on first and who is on second, and how this plays out. And so it was truly a collaborative experience.

But then at the same time another concern that we have is that in the midst of a condition which is humiliating to our residents, which leads to a number of challenges in their daily lives, because it is not just simply a matter of not having water to cook and bathe but it is the interruption of when schools close, making decisions on childcare, when you work in a service industry whether they have to shutter their doors and where do you find your income? So all of these are important factors and cause an interruption into life.

But as residents are experiencing these extreme issues and conditions, what we do not want to happen is that because they are in a moment of crisis that we reach for something that is a worse condition than where we already find ourselves. There has been discussion about privatization. Our research, the experience that we have learned from other communities is that, one, the privatization, you do not have companies who are coming in for a benevolent purpose. They are coming in in order to exact a profit.

And when the amount of capital improvements are necessary, as it is in the city of Jackson, then what that means is that you have an affordability issue in terms of the rates, because the only recourse they would have is to raise the rates and make it more challenging for the residents that are already shouldering a disproportionate burden in order to maintain the system. And regionalization, which is a state takeover by another name, a state which has not necessarily been friendly to the needs and the requests of the city of Jackson over the course of time.

And so this agreement not only allows us to bring that expertise in hand but it allows us to partner with sincere actors that we feel comfortable are interested and focused on the same things that we are focused on, and that is providing safe drinking, dependable, and equitable water service to all of our residents.

MR. SAMUELS: What do you like about the new third-party manager, who is not member of the state government?

MAYOR LUMUMBA: Well, first and foremost, we were able to develop a relationship with him prior to his selection as the third-party administrator. The city of Jackson has been blessed to have the support of many nonprofit or philanthropic groups such as the U.S. Water Alliance. Mr. Ted Henifin, who is the third-party administrator, has been working with the U.S. Water Alliance, providing expert counsel to the city of Jackson in the midst of our emergency.

And so we had an opportunity to not only experience his level of knowledge, the depth of knowledge that he has, but also his clarity around the challenges that communities that resemble Jackson have, challenges of poverty, challenges of affordability.

And so we think that we have a team that we can walk hand-in-hand with, you know, even in the midst of debate over those solutions. We believe that sincere people can have sincere debate, and we can walk away with a plan that we can agree on, at the end of the day, as we wrestle through the details.

So I am encouraged. I think that I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the role that the EPA administrator, Administrator Regan, played in this. We have had many discussions, some just one-on-one, where we have talked, you know, in detail over what this circumstance looks like for Jackson. And we've also talked about the fact that this is bigger than Jackson. We understand that there are communities just like Jackson that are facing or will soon face similar challenges to what we are now enduring right now.

And so we are able to create a model, a model of resiliency, a model of success, we believe that will not only benefit our city but benefit many communities to come.

MR. SAMUELS: There are almost twin investigations and things going on at the same time. I want to ask you about them really quickly. The first one is about the fact that the third-party manager, Mr. Henifin, was put in place because the Justice Department decided to sue the city of Jackson for failing to provide drinking water that comes into compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. And the other being the EPA investigation into whether the Republican-controlled party, the state of Mississippi, is violating civil rights by depriving Jackson federal funds to water system. Jackson, of course, your city, is 80 percent Black.

What do you hope comes out of these two parallel investigations?

MAYOR LUMUMBA: Well, to be clear, the investigation about the Department of Justice is within the protocol any time you want a court-imposed or a court-regulated agreement to take place, and so they have to file. So this was not a filing, you know, which was adverse or against the city's interest. We have been in conversation. If that were the intent of the Department of Justice or the EPA, then they would not have sat down and talked with us and talked about certain elements of this agreed order.

And so I know that that is what we typically see, but when a federal government attempts to take over and take an adverse position against a city, they do not sit down at the table with them. They just come over and take it over because they have that authority and they have that power. So I want to provide that clarity. It is something that they have to do in order to make sure that the full effect of what we are trying to achieve is accomplished.

Now with respect to the NAACP's complaint that is now being reviewed by the EPA, I think that there is some merit there, and it is long overdue that we observe the discrepancy in funding. It is, you know, troubling to me when not only state administration after state administration, legislative session after legislative session feels that it is okay to deny these basic human needs, human needs that are not Democrat nor Republican. The water system is nonpartisan. This is how we are helping children, how we are helping the elderly, how we are helping families and those that are sick and ill take care of their basic daily needs.

And so that needs to be looked into. When you have a governor who once was the state treasurer, who brags about how he denied funding to the city of Jackson that was requested at certain times. When you have this bravado and boastfulness of "we don't give Jackson what they need," then that needs to be reviewed.

Or the suggestion at times to try to defend their position, that they have given more than $200 million to Jackson, and when you look deep into it you find that a good portion of that was a sales tax referendum where the residents of Jackson voted themselves to tax themselves an additional penny that, you know, is then allocated to certain infrastructure challenges within the city of Jackson, which has a state-imposed oversight commission which often does not align with the priorities of the majority of the residents that determine what the projects will be. That is one. Or the fact that they are talking about state revolving loan funds, which come from the federal government, which is not out of the state's coffers, which is expected that the city of Jackson pays all of that money back.

And Jackson will clearly not be able to loan itself out of this problem. This is going to require some level of value being identified from state or even federal actors, that say, look, these people deserve to have dependable quality water. When you find that even in that state revolving loan fund, Mississippi in comparison to other states does not offer the same level of principle forgiveness that other states do.

One of our loans is $27 million. The traditional principal forgiveness, or the cap that the state has established on principal forgiveness, is $500,000. That isn't sufficient to even cover the administrative cost of that $27 million loan.

MR. SAMUELS: Well, thank you so much. We are running out of time. I really wish we could continue this conversation as much as we usually do. The ability and the hardship that it must be to try and find these solutions seem truly, truly tremendous. Thank you for walking us through them today.

Unfortunately, we are out of time so we are going to have to leave it there. Thank you so much for joining us, Mayor Lumumba.

MAYOR LUMUMBA: Thank you as always. Good talking with you.

MR. SAMUELS: And thanks to all of you for joining us as well. I'm Robert Samuels, and thank you again for watching. My colleague, Frances Stead Sellers, will be back in a moment with Salt Lake City mayor Erin Mendenhall.

[Video plays]

MS. STEAD SELLERS: Hello and welcome again to Washington Post Live. I am Frances Stead Sellers, a senior writer here at The Washington Post.

For those of you just joining, we are continuing our week-long "This is Climate" series, and my guest this afternoon is the mayor of Salt Lake City, Erin Mendenhall. Mayor Mendenhall, a very warm welcome to Washington Post Live.

We are having a little trouble with sound. I don't know if everybody else is having some trouble, but maybe you could speak again.

MAYOR MENDENHALL: Thank you for having me on the show. So happy to be with you.

MS. STEAD SELLERS: Delighted to have you. I'm sorry about that little hiccup.

I wanted to start by taking you back to the beginning of the year in the State of the City address that you gave, in which you used very personal language about your clean air advocacy. You said it was in your soul. Tell me about that personal connection to this issue.

MAYOR MENDENHALL: Sure. My path to being in the mayor's office came from beginning as an activist, simply as a citizen who was frustrated and fed up with the really bad air quality that we sometimes have in this bowl-shaped valley here in Salt Lake City. At times it is the worst in the nation. And other parts of the year it is beautiful and doesn't quite make sense to a lot of people why we can be in such desperate and health-impacting circumstances. That was about 15 years ago, when I was a new mom. I now have a 16-year-old who has kind of been a part of that legacy.

But it drove me into public service of wanting to be in the meetings where the conversations, the decisions are happening about not only what our existing sources of pollution are today but how do we address the removal of these sources of pollution, the transition to clean energy, electrified transportation, and really more broadly, address what I believe is the single biggest issue we face as a worldwide community, which is climate change.

MS. STEAD SELLERS: You are using language that I associate so much with Beijing or New Delhi, and in your area, with the Salt Lake itself shrinking, increasing population, and climate change you have several factors coming together to make this such a challenge. How big a challenge is it for residents there?

MAYOR MENDENHALL: You know what? It is an incredible challenge with you layer the depletion of our namesake, the Great Salt Lake, and the threat that that poses to us, but taking on the challenge isn't new to us. We are wholeheartedly committed as a community to saving our environment, to preserving the precious resources that we have, and to becoming emission-free. That was already part of our culture here locally in Salt Lake City.

There is a really common story of people who say, "I just came to Salt Lake to ski for six months, I was going to stay for a year and have a season pass and then I was going to get out of there," and you end up staying. This place has an attractiveness, but it is really the environment that draws so many of us in, in the first place.

So for example, this year Salt Lakers have conserved 3 billion gallons of water voluntarily, without any restrictions in place at the government level. We understand the gravity of the situation that we are facing with our Great Salt Lake, and more broadly with our climate impacts. And so people are acting voluntarily to be more conservative.

But when it comes to the Great Salt Lake, the reality we face there is that the majority of that watershed that should be flowing into the lake is outside of Salt Lake City itself. We are talking about water that is taken and diverted for agriculture uses primarily, and that piece of it is outside of the hands of Salt Lake City.

MS. STEAD SELLERS: So one element, though, is in your hands, and that's growth. I think the population is expected to grow by 50 percent by 2060 or so. You are barely managing now. How do you manage those competing priorities? I mean, you need to grow, you need to increase your tax base. Growth will increase the draw on water and the threat of this toxic air you are talking about.

MAYOR MENDENHALL: That is a fabulous question, and it is absolutely true that the state of Utah is the fastest-growing state in the nation, by more than a full percentage point. We are having a lot of kids but we have a tremendous net in migration happening here because of the high quality of life that we enjoy. And yet, as Salt Lake City is the hub of that growth, we are growing vertically. Almost entirely the growth that we are experiencing is multifamily growth. And we are actually using less water as a city today than we were in the year 2000. So we have added tens of thousands of residents, we are adding many thousand each year right now, and yet we are using less water.

The type of growth matters incredibly, and as you go outside of the urban core here into more suburban communities you still see Kentucky bluegrass lawns, large acre lots that are not necessarily having local zoning restrictions or directions about how much lawn and how much water they can pour onto those surfaces.

So the way we are growing is having actually a positive impact here locally, and then the way we are investing as a city, with requirements of only LEED Gold certified buildings when we build as a city, and then buildings we are investing in as a city must be 100 percent electrified and be highly efficient and using renewable energy sources going forward. So that makes a good business case, but it is also helping us tremendously in our conservation efforts.

MS. STEAD SELLERS: So I want to ask you more about electrification a little bit later, but you've just had the hottest summer on record, I believe. How do you guide residents through that kind of climate change that is outside their own control and yet they have to live comfortably? What do you do to help people through that?

MAYOR MENDENHALL: Because I came into this local politics conversation through an advocacy lens, I learned back then that making a heartfelt case to the broad public only goes so far with the relatively small number of the demographic. When you can make a business case, and especially, sadly, in the inflationary environment that we are living in, with these cost-of-living increases impacting every household and family, it's actually easier for us to say, "The more water you use, the higher your prices are going to be," because we do have a tiered rate structure here in the city. But they are already feeling the pressure, and because it is so dry here, we are in a historic drought in the West, as you well know, we don't have to explain to people how dire the situation is.

Yellow is the new green when it comes to lawns here, and that's been true for city spaces as well. And our public-- especially here in Salt Lake City, we are a blue dot in a very red state -- really tend to understand the broad climate impacts, that they see and feel how it's affecting us locally. And they want to see these kinds of conservation efforts.

So while we have been increasing our water rates each year for the last several years, and those are forecasted to continue, we are recognizing the impacts of costs on families, but we are helping them to conserve as well. We are doing things like offering rain barrels where households can hook that up and then they can water their gardens with it. And these kinds of conservation efforts at the grassroots level, at the household level, make sense for families. They are helping them save money, and their hearts are in it from a global perspective.

MS. STEAD SELLERS: So you refer to the things you can't control that are outside your city limits. Obviously, there are state and federal actions that can happen. Are you getting the support you need from Utah Governor Spencer Cox?

MAYOR MENDENHALL: He has been very collaborative and supportive in regard to the drought and our water conservation efforts. Our legislature, as you may know, put $40 million aside earlier this year to address Great Salt Lake solutions. There were a number of bills passed that get at the opportunities that agriculture and water shareholders who use those typically for agriculture can do to let that water flow downstream and into the Great Salt Lake. And I think it is an issue that they are going to take up in about 42 days, when their session begins again, because the solution simply isn't found yet.

But the federal government has been incredibly helpful. We've received grants that have helped us put solar panels on households locally. We are working with corporations like AmEx right now on grant money that helps get solar panels onto BIPOC-owned businesses in our community. Electric vehicle charging infrastructure are more grants that we have been awarded, and we continue to go after.

The affordability part of making these kinds of transformative infrastructure investments, both from a household level but more broadly we are on a track right now to have 100 percent net renewable energy flowing into Salt Lake City, not as an opt-in but that the switch will essentially flip and we will be able to provide that for every power user in the entire city by 2030, if not before. And it makes sense from a corporate perspective, from a government perspective, and now from our local neighborhood household level. And when we show the savings there, of course, it makes it more attractive for our state partners. Even though in many political ways we are at different ends of the spectrum, they cannot deny that that savings is good and that where they can they want to be a part of it.

MS. STEAD SELLERS: Just one more quick question about what the Biden administration has done and what the commitments will be, I think President Biden has put something like $370 billion towards climate issues. What more do you expect to see from that? How will it filter down to a city like Salt Lake City?

MAYOR MENDENHALL: Yeah, the Inflation Reduction Act is tremendous. What we are working to do here may seem like a gear shift but it is actually not, is to amplify the tech community that already exists in Salt Lake City. You may have heard of Silicon Slopes, which is a little bit south of the capital city here. We have a lot of tech companies here in the city. We want those kind of companies which are the highest-paying jobs in our state, the fastest-growing industry, and is economically resilient, to be located here in our capital city, where the communities who have been impacted by environmental justice issues for generations, who have been separated and bisected from our community by infrastructure like rail and freeway systems, are finally getting not only the job opportunities that the Inflation Reduction Act is investing in but actually grant money for cities like ours to reconnect our community that has been divided. We are going hard after those grants with the administration, from built infrastructure perspective to punch through these borders that have been built, but to make also the literal connections to these jobs that we are looking to support and attract more of here in the West.

MS. STEAD SELLERS: So it seems to me the way you're talking as a red dot, blue state -- sorry, blue dot, red state -- as if there are huge opportunities for bipartisanship. Utah Senator Mitt Romney referred to the Democrats' bills as moving the chairs on the Titanic, think, but not actually dealing with the underlying problems.

What policies would you like to see going ahead to really try to grapple, in a bipartisan way, with these ongoing issues?

MAYOR MENDENHALL: I'll give you one specific example. One thing that we saw in the Science Act that was passed earlier this year is an investment for manufacturers of microchips to locate here in the United States and bring what may be currently offshore manufacturing back home here. We want to see those kinds of corporations, those tech businesses, come here to Salt Lake City in our area, but we are not unique in the Western United States in the fact that we are in an incredible historic drought. And those types of manufacturing, while they are great jobs and resilient infrastructure, and from an industry standpoint, cannot operate in many ways without a lot of water. So how can we get the federal assistance that incentivizes specifically the type of industries that don't need tremendous amounts of water but that are the kind of economies that we want to attract, and incentivize those types, those applications in that industry to access those federal dollars rather than the broad application of simply bringing the offshore manufacturing back home?

It is incongruent for us to be adjusting our zoning, partnering with businesses to say, "Come here. Put your business here. We have the highly talented employees and the space for you to grow," and yet we don't have this critical resource, and we may never here in the West for at least a very long time.

MS. STEAD SELLERS: Mayor Mendenhall, you have referred a couple of times to transforming buildings and transportation to electricity. Most electricity at this point is generated from coal. Why is it so important to make this change?

MAYOR MENDENHALL: Electricity production through coal is not something that directly affects our air quality here in Salt Lake City. That manufacturing happens outside of our valley, father south primarily. But we know that the global impacts of that coal-fired production is catastrophic, and we feel that locally with the higher incidence of COPD and asthma with our local population, especially during our air quality impact times.

And so we are sort of intrinsically connected to undoing coal as the primary source for our electricity. We care about it, even though those smokestacks aren't right here in our city. It is as though they are. That is how much Salt Lakers care about this.

And so our investment has to be in this red state that we exist. We are obligated to our state constitution not to go out to market, to ask the market how could you bring us renewable energy for the needs we have, but to work with our power provider, Rocky Mountain Power. And they have been a good partner with us so far in figuring out how do we get to 100 percent renewable energy.

That is a critical piece, I think, for the culture and the soul of this city because it is something now that we have in our hands, in terms of a relationship with the power provider. We have the legislation from our state since the year 2020, for us to do this work. And we have to get there. The globe depends upon it, our future depends upon it, and we are passionate about it. Also, we are seeing job opportunities being created from the renewable industries that are starting up here.

MS. STEAD SELLERS: We just heard the mayor of Jackson talking about creating a model out of Jackson in terms of water. What is your hope for Salt Lake City, and this is a two-part question, which other cities do you look to, either in this country or overseas, for models of how to proceed in these very ambitious targets?

MAYOR MENDENHALL: So we are at the tip of the spear, certainly for the state of Utah, but also for much of the West in the conservation efforts that we are doing around water. One of the ways that we are asking the bigger questions and looking outside, though, is updating our watershed management plan. We go way back to when Salt Lake City was first founded by the Mormon pioneers. Brigham Young actually bought up much of the watershed around the Wasatch Front, beyond our city borders, in terms of the water stewardship. So we oversee much more than our city's boundaries in terms of water collection, and we provide water to more cities than our own as a public utility. And so our footprint and our care goes far beyond the city boundaries.

But as we look at our watershed management plan, we acknowledge that climate change is impacting how much snowpack we get, which absolutely is the drinking water we rely on for the rest of the year. If we cannot adjust how much water we are going to get, how much snowpack we are going to get, then we need to even look at what types of plants and trees we have up in the watershed that can keep the soil stable, and how do we work with forestry to make sure that we are preventing wildfires and we are accounting for the loss of certain tree species up in the forest.

One of the ways we are trying to adjust that here in the city is that we are planting 1,000 extra trees every year, and we are doing it on our city's west side, which has had the greatest environmental impacts from industry, from the location, and the bisection from the rest of the city. We are trying to improve air quality locally, while we can't control how much snowpack we have. And at the same time, even though those trees take water, they end up, as you know, cooling the space around them, cooling homes in a greater way, improving walkability, and having many other environmental impacts.

Cities are where it's at. I know that Mayor Lumumba and I are biased, but we literally get to dig those holes, plant the trees, fix the infrastructure. We get to ask for the support from our state and our federal partners. But when it comes down to it, city is where the rubber meets the road. You turn on the faucet and it's probably your city that's responsible for providing you that drinking water. We can't control the climate in every way. We can't control the federal system that's happening. But we are tenaciously creative about coming up with ways we can make each household's life better, even if we are praying for snow all the while.

MS. STEAD SELLERS: What a great message to leave us with. Cities are where it's at.

Mayor Erin Mendenhall, thank you so much for joining Washington Post Live today.

MAYOR MENDENHALL: Thank you for having me.

MS. STEAD SELLERS: Thank you also to our audience for joining us today. For further programming you know where to go, We look forward to seeing you again. I’m Frances Stead Sellers. Thank you for joining us.

[End recorded session]