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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Hernández Ortiz of Villalba, Sifre of Ponce participate in national mayors meeting

By The Star Staff

Puerto Rico Mayors Association President Luis Javier Hernández Ortiz, along with Marlese Sifre, the interim mayor of Ponce, participated last week in the 92nd edition of the winter meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors, where common issues affecting municipalities were discussed.

“In our mission to find alternatives to solve the situations we face every day, generating contacts with mayors of large and small towns helps us to be more effective,” said Hernández Ortiz, the mayor of Villalba. “The meeting established some key priorities, such as the growing mental health crisis, which is a particularly sensitive issue in Puerto Rico, as well as public safety, housing and homelessness.”

Other topics included the democratization of technology and innovation, as well as workforce development and investment in infrastructure.

Sifre pointed out that additional meetings with the White House and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also went in that direction.

“Direct collaboration with White House, Cabinet and agency officials, as well as congressional and political leaders is vital,” she said. “Communication technology always helps, but nothing replaces direct and personal contact.”

The mayors present at the meeting, both Democrats and Republicans, also reviewed the legislative priorities for the rest of the current 118th Congress, and defended the mayors’ abilities to do their jobs, keep their residents safe and protect their rights.

“This ranges from following up on legislation passed by the 117th Congress and signed into law by President Biden, to provisions of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Act over 10 years, and the $13 billion Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to bolster public safety programs,” Hernández Ortiz said.

Particularly important for Sifre was the meeting on women entrepreneurs and small business owners, and networking opportunities with mayors.

“These are issues that affect us all regardless of language, budgets or the size of our cities,” she said. “This was evidenced in one of last Friday’s meetings, for example, on how the COVID-19 pandemic affected the way we work in future health situations.”

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