MAYOR EXCHANGE (2017-2018)
In the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which struck Puerto Rico in September 2017, the territory’s 78 mayors stepped up. From San Juan to Hormigueros, mayors helped restore power and water service, distributed supplies, cleared and repaired local and state roads, and transmitted their communities’ needs to state and federal government entities responding to the disaster.
Recognizing the invaluable role of mayors in the immediate response and ongoing recovery, now-former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the Open Society Foundations launched the Mayor Exchange program in February 2018.
Between February and September 2018, 24 Exchange visits for the program’s 27 Puerto Rico and mainland mayors took place, and a two-day technical assistance workshop for mayors was held in San Juan, which was attended by 17 Cities and over 40 experts in disaster recovery, economic development, planning, and fiscal management
The goals of the Exchange were twofold:
Direct assistance: providing Puerto Rico’s mayors with a direct line to counterparts on the U.S. mainland to call for advice, consultation, and sharing of technical expertise to address fiscal, economic, and rebuilding challenges; and,
Creating champions to amplify Puerto Rico’s recovery: taking advantage of Exchange matches to establish visibility and urgency behind support for Puerto Rico on the U.S. mainland.
NON-PARTISAN COALITION (2018-2019)
In June 2018, a group of mayors from Puerto Rico who had participated in the Exchange program formed a working group to create a nonpartisan coalition of municipalities. The group's members, including mayors from the two main political parties of Puerto Rico, held regular work sessions to develop a platform for long-term intermunicipal collaboration and opening uniform and fluid dialogue with other leaders in Puerto Rico and in the United States, with a focus on post-Maria recovery efforts.
The coalition of mayors benefited from direct technical assistance from experts, based both in Puerto Rico and the United States (including participants in the Exchange with experience in the establishment and management of similar coalitions). At the end of 2018, the group solicited the support of Fundación Agenda Ciudadana to convene an historic municipal summit on November 1. The First Convening of Mayors: Reunited for Puerto Rico, held at the San Juan Convention Center, was attended by 46 municipalities and touched on several themes central to the development of a unifying agenda for municipalities.
Following this meeting, coalition mayors secured the support of the Ford Foundation. Together with the Open Society Foundations, Ford pledged to support mayors in building a formal organization. This organization, La Liga de Ciudades de Puerto Rico, was formally launched on October 4, 2019.