Sarah Bertschy ’16, Price Fellow in Urban Policy Development
This was the week we’d all been waiting for.
No, really, this is the week that the fifty employees of the Conference plan for the entire year. I will start out by stating that there will be a severe lack of photographs because on one fateful night of the conference I broke my phone… tears… alas, I do have one AWESOME photo that I will post later on.
Thursday myself, my boss and his wife, Jillian, along with the rest of the Conference employees flew out to San Francisco to prep for the conference. When I arrived at the hotel, Mayor Ed Lee had decked out the baggage claims with numerous signs welcoming the mayors and the Conference to San Francisco for the 83rd annual U.S. Conference of Mayors summer conference. It was an impressive sight to see. After grabbing my bag, the other employees and I took a shuttle to our hotel, the Hilton in Union Square. It was a beautiful hotel, and HUGE! It had ballrooms as big as the entirety of the new Hilltop Café at Cornell. That Thursday evening, all of us worked to unload hundreds of boxes that we had FedEx-ed to the hotel, full of pamphlets and spreadsheets and printouts for different meetings that would take place throughout the Friday-Monday conference. We didn’t finish these activities until around 9 p.m., which doesn’t sound too late, but keep in mind that San Francisco is three hours behind D.C., so we didn’t finish until what felt like midnight!
Friday morning, this was it! Before we left for the Conference my boss, Dave, had informed me that, in light of a few famous politicians coming to the Conference, the press room may need my help. Dave wasn’t joking. I worked from 7 a.m. until noon just with the press office, directing press as to where to go so that they could get the best shots of Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama, our speakers that day. After that, I helped Dave out with setting up one of our meetings for the Council on the New American City. Then, we went to lunch. Lunch was a three-course meal of a wedge salad, a filet minion, and a chocolate mousse. After that, we listened to what the politicians had to say. Both Pelosi and Obama spoke about healthcare, but the dominating topic of all conversation was the overwhelming absence of beloved Mayor Joe Reilly, Mayor of Charleston, South Carolina, and the reason for his absence. Two days before the conference began, Joe Reilly was tasked with healing his city after the tragic loss of life there. The issue of gun violence, and the solutions to it never left the conversation of our 4-day conference.
On a happier note…
Friday evening was without a doubt the best evening event of the conference. We all dressed to the nines and went to San Francisco’s City Hall for the 100th anniversary of its existence and the kick-off of our conference. I wish I had a picture, because words will not do this event justice. As we walked in, I saw a red carpet–yes, a red carpet–lining the stairs of city hall’s entrance. Continuing into the grand-hall of the building the red carpet went-on leading to a 40-man band of white-suited trumpeters playing jazz. Drinks and food were everywhere. There was a raw bar, and in the center of it, a man in a white suit playing a beautiful black baby-grand piano. It was an experience I will never forget and an experience nearly no one my age gets to have. That night my boss looked at me and said “Sarah, go have fun, meet whoever you want”, and that’s exactly what I did. I met too many mayors to count, and had wonderful conversations about what they were doing in their cities. There are too many to list here, but if you like to know more, talk to me about it, I’d LOVE to tell you everything I saw/heard. The highlight of this evening was meeting and speaking to Minority Leader of the U.S. House of Representative Nancy Pelosi. Below is a picture of this great moment, the only picture I was able to salvage from my phone.
The entire weekend was filled with memories like those I made on Friday–memories I will never forget. Saturday, we heard from Hillary Clinton and Sunday from Martin O’Malley; both were incredible to listen to. This conference made all of the hard work that I have been doing for the last month all worth it. I will never forget my time in San Francisco, and I will never forget who made it possible. Thank you, Cornell College!