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January 21, 2020 Comments Off on Examining Mayoral Perceptions of Opportunity Zones Views: 1085 Connect Classroom, National News

Examining Mayoral Perceptions of Opportunity Zones

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Though there have been positive and negative viewpoints concerning the Opportunity Zones program, not much feedback has been garnered from leadership in cities and towns with federally-designated areas. The 2019 Menino Survey of Mayors added nationwide city and town mayors to the O-zone discussion. The result was that, while most U.S. mayors acknowledged having “favorable impressions” of the Opportunity Zones program, there tended to be a “broad divergence” on some of the aspects of the program.

Three-quarters of the cities in the survey sample contained eligible census tracts, with two-thirds having at least one designated Opportunity Zone. As a group, the mayors felt that the two largest influences on their governors’ Opportunity Zone decisions were 1) a desire for even geographic distribution, and 2) the mayors’ own input.

The survey indicated that:

  • 51% of mayors agreed that the program generally “targeted areas of true economic need.” However, one in five mayors disagreed that the program was living up to its basic premise, while another 29% were not sure.
  • 65% of mayors surveyed either said their governors adopted the list of requested zones, or independently generated a list similar to what the mayors would have developed. But, 35% indicted they would have designated a somewhat different set of zones.
  • Approximately one-third of mayors indicated they were “extremely happy” with their governors’ designations, with another third indicating they were “somewhat happy;” 15% said they were either “somewhat unhappy” or “very unhappy” with the designations.
  • Additionally, 60% of the mayors agreed that the program, overall, would have a “large and positive effect” on their cities’ economies. While most of those surveyed had few concerns about gentrification and/or displacement, small factions did agree that displacement could be an issue. The respondents also indicated that city government will be the leader to drive efforts pertaining to the program.
  • Finally, many of the mayors believe that local residents and businesses will benefit from the program. However, the majority of those surveyed also believed that outside investors would.

The 2019 Menino Survey of Mayors was conducted by the Initiative on Cities at Boston University. The sample size consisted of 119 mayors of cities with populations above 75,000.

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