There was some business conducted in Memphis, TN last month that affected life in Riverdale. Believe it or not.

The Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative represents 240+ cities up and down the Mississippi River.

Nearly a month ago, the board and members of the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative (MRCTI) elected me to serve on the Executive Committee of that organization for the next two years. I am to represent all of the communities along the Mississippi River from the state of Iowa.

It’s tremendously flattering and I’m all in with my friend, Bob Gallagher, the mayor of Bettendorf, who is serving as one of the Co-Chairs of the MRCTI for the next two years as well.

But there’s a caveat. There’s always a caveat.

I’ve already notified the leadership of the MRCTI that I have an opponent this November. And if Beth Halsey wins the election, I have no idea if she’ll want to remain active in the MRCTI as I have been.

What is the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative?

The MRCTI was formed in 2012 to address economic and environmental concerns tied to the Mississippi River and the 120+ cities and towns on its banks. With its current membership standing at 90+ members, the MRCTI’s membership represents diverse geographies, cultures, political parties and economic interests in a constructive, collaborative environment. Believe it or not, when it comes to dealing with state and federal leadership, these politicians listen to mayors – because everyone knows that it’s on the local level where the hard work gets done and the impacts are felt directly by the 50+ million residents of these communities.

According to the organization’s website:

The MRCTI builds the capacity of member mayors, empowering them with the tools and support to undertake effective local initiatives which attract green jobs, move towards sustainable economies and achieve local environmental protection goals.

Ultimately, MRCTI’s work helps protect and restore the Mississippi River as a natural system that can support human culture and economies, as well as the River’s unique ecosystem and wildlife.

Why should Riverdale be in the MRCTI at all?

I’ve been asked this question on more than one occasion. And true to Riverdale residents in general, it’s usually phrased in a more direct manner: “So what’s in this for Riverdale, anyway?”

Simply put, I’m a guy who believes you have to think globally in order to act effectively on a local level. Knowing what the “big picture” is – and, more importantly, helping to shape that big picture – helps to crystalize a vision and effective action plan. Establishing and maintaining relationships with other mayors isn’t a bad thing either.

Thanks to the MRCTI, I’ve been able to expand my relationships with the other local mayors of the Quad Cities and, as a result, Riverdale is now looking at saving thousands of dollars on some city services because we’re able to cost share with other governmental agencies and organizations. On a regional and national scale, it’s been able to put Riverdale in direct contact with a variety of commercial and governmental influencers that could benefit Riverdale in the long run – specifically when dealing with rail issues, flood mitigation, and possible transit issues.

Thanks to the MRCTI, I’ve been able to continue working on relationships with federal legislators and, most recently, spent two days in Washington, DC working with FEMA, the US Army Corps of Engineers, EPA and USAD to discuss flood mitigation and drought prevention efforts that could have a direct impact on the wetlands near Havens Acres and the various creeks that run through Riverdale.

For the slight investment, I think it’s time and money well spent – even if the only direct benefit we get is continually improving relationships with Davenport, Bettendorf, Rock Island and Moline.

The end up

So, where do things go from here?

Again, a lot of it depends on the election. If I win, I’ll ask the City Council to re-commit to the MRCTI and to plan on participating in their next meeting – scheduled for March in Washington, DC. I’ll serve on the organization’s Executive Committee and continue to work for enhancing the Quad Cities’ clout among US mayors on the Mississippi.

If I don’t win, I’ll review the opportunities with Beth. It will be her call, but I hope she’ll continue to be involved and learn as I have. It’s an enjoyable and terribly educational experience that, I believe, has improved my long-term vision, increased my contacts, improved my relationships with other mayors and legislators and helped make me a better mayor.

I think it could do the same for her.

Click here to view the latest announcement from the MRCTI.