A group of about 100 mayors and city council members met with leaders from the administration Thursday afternoon at the Old Executive Office Building, where the focus was largely on jobs and infrastructure.
Local elected officials with the National League of Cities leadership team, in Washington this week, also lobbied members of Congress to urge their support for federal infrastructure investment and financing mechanisms.
On Thursday afternoon, the group met with Jason Furman, the deputy director of Obama's National Economic Council; top advisers including Valerie Jarrett and Cecilia Muñoz; White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley; and EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. The group also met with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, among other officials. President Obama made a brief appearance.
The thrust of the talks were on Obama’s jobs bill, and in particular, the administration’s goal of investing in infrastructure. As Governing reports this month, the White House, through its Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, often reaches out to state and local leaders when their interests intersect. Naturally, city leaders share the administration’s goal of boosting spending on roads, rail and utility infrastructure.
Tualatin, Ore. Mayor Lou Ogden, who was among the attendees, said city leaders also emphasized to the administration how much they support the Neighborhood Stabilization Fund which provides billions to state and local governments to acquire and redevelop foreclosed properties that may otherwise become blights in their communities. House Republicans have sought to cancel the program, while the administration wants to expand it.
City leaders also emphasized their support for the Community Development Block Grants, which provides about $4 billion annually that can be used for programs that aid moderate- and low-income residents such as affordable housing and job training. Unlike most federal grants, CDBG funds bypass states and go directly to cities, making it particularly important to local leaders. President Obama has proposed cutting the program by 7.5 percent – much smaller than what some Republicans want, but much more than any local leader would prefer.
Mayors and councilmembers also discussed immigration issues with Muñoz, who, in addition to serving as the White House’s liaison to state and local leaders, is also a key aid on immigration policy.