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Mayors Highlight Salient Issues To Minority Communities

Iowa Public Radio / Sarah Boden
From the right USCM Executive Director Tom Cochran, Majors Steven Benjamin of Columbia, SC, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake of Baltimore, Frank Cownie of Des Moines, and Javier Gonzales of Santa Fe.

Trustees from the U.S. Conference of Mayors were in Des Moines Monday afternoon, ahead of the Brown and Black Presidential Forum at Drake University. The annual forum is geared towards African-American and Latino voters, and the mayors were discussing salient issues in urban and minority communities. 

"I want to hear tonight is, what are they going to do about immigration reform? We hear constantly this need to address a broken immigration system, but no one had really come forward with a plan to do it," says Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales. "Immigrants, both whether they're documented or undocumented, are part of the social fabric of our cities."

An issue that has dominated the news cycle during much of President Obama's second term is racial profiling by and accountability of law enforcement. USCM President, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake of Baltimore, knows this issue well and believes the next chief executive can force more conversations and transparency. 

"As a member of the city council I introduced legislation almost 20 years ago that dealt with the issue of racial profiling in Baltimore, requiring the police to cite every time there was an interaction  with a member of the public so we could track whether there was racial profiling or whether there was unfair treatment in certain communities," says Rawlings-Blake. "That's the type of thing that these candidates can commit to."

Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie; Columbia, South Carolina Mayor Steven Benjamin; and USCM Executive Director Tom Cochran were also in attendance. 

Only Democratic candidates participated in the forum. A separate Brown and Black Forum for Republican candidates was canceled due to scheduling conflicts. 

The Brown and Black Forum is the oldest continuous minority presidential forum in the U.S.