February 20th, 2009
11:59 AM ET
11 years ago

Obama shines stimulus spotlight on urban economy

President Barack Obama met Friday with 85 mayors from across the country to discuss the implementation of city-related funding from the $787 billion stimulus package .

President Barack Obama met Friday with 85 mayors from across the country to discuss the implementation of city-related funding from the $787 billion stimulus package .

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama met Friday with 85 mayors from across the country to discuss the implementation of city-related funding from the $787 billion stimulus package.

"You shouldn't have to succeed despite Washington; you should be succeeding with a hand from Washington, and that's what you're getting now," Obama said at a White House reception.

"This plan does more to lay a new foundation for our cities' growth and opportunity than anything Washington has done in generations."

The economic stimulus package sets aside billions of dollars for highway construction, transit improvements, school modernization and community development block grants. Obama promised that the money would not be squandered or lost to graft and corruption.

"What is required in return is unprecedented responsibility and accountability on all our parts," he said.

"If a federal agency proposes a project that will waste that money, I will not hesitate to call them out on it, and put a stop to it," he added.

But, he noted, "I want everyone here to be on notice that if a local government does the same - I will call them out on it as well, and use the full power of my office and our administration to stop it."

The mayors have put together a "Ready to Go" report that details 18,750 local infrastructure projects in 779 cities that can be started as soon as the new funding is received.

The projects, which represent an investment of $150 billion, would generate 1.6 million jobs in 2009 and 2010, according to the report. They range from creating bridge guardrails in Bessemer, Alabama, to renovating elementary schools in Norfolk, Virginia.

Obama was joined at the meeting by Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney General Eric Holder, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

The recession is severely straining cities' ability to meet their financial needs, according to a recent report from the National League of Cities. 84 percent of cities are reporting fiscal difficulties, the highest percentage since the group starting doing surveys in 1985.

The fiscal outlook for urban areas is expected to remain tough in 2009. The report found that 92 percent of the cities surveyed expected to have trouble meeting their needs this year.

To cope, cities are implementing hiring freezes and layoffs, delaying capital expenditures and instituting service cuts.

Sixty-nine percent of cities have instituted hiring freezes or layoffs, while 42 percent are delaying or canceling infrastructure projects. Another 22 percent have instituted across-the-board spending cuts.

Cities are seeing their tax revenues decline as property values drop, shopping slows and unemployment rises. On top of that, nearly one in two city finance officers report difficulties in gaining access to credit and/or bond financing.

City finances tend to lag the overall economy by 12 to 24 months, the league said. The weakening economic conditions will be felt by cities through 2009 and likely through most of 2010, the league said.

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (104 Responses)
  1. ray


    February 20, 2009 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  2. Farrell, Houston, Tx


    February 20, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  3. Kim, Michigan

    Seriously? President Obama who gave us a stimulus bill full of pork and far-fetched claims of job creation is going to "call out" federal agencies if they waste the money? Did he read the stimulus bill before he signed it? Or does he simply have a double standard? It's been a disappointing 30 days Mr. President.

    February 20, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    Linda from South Dakato – are all people in SD as illiterate as you? You should spell check before blogging and your grammar is atricious! If you know what that means. Typical, uneducated democRAT!

    February 20, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |

    Yep Karen, you can see where your tax dollars are going. They're going to people that lived beyond their means and bought a house they couldn't afford and need a bailout just so they can live the same way. It's going to corrupt organizations like ACORN. It's going to build a snow making maching in MINNESOTA!!!

    February 20, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  6. Matthew, Detroit

    I listened to this news conference.

    Barack did a good job but Biden is just an oaf. He comes in to each meeting making a stupid comment. He really appears dopey.

    How pissed is Barack at Edwards for Schtooking his videographer.

    Everyone complained about Cheney but this guy really appears like a dope. I really think that Barack should keep him out of site. I think it tears down Baracks credibility and he does not need that. He does much better on stage when Biden is not around.

    February 20, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  7. Ken

    If mr. Obama was relying on our annoited Media, then he could have given up long time ago........

    Remember after he went to Germany how the republicans hijacked the media and turned the election into bitter pill?

    I believe our cooperate media is republican controlled even after he became the president he is being swiftboated!

    February 20, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  8. Matthew, Detroit

    DEMS you must STOP whining.

    You have the Presidency. You have the Majority in the House.
    You have the Majority in the Senate.

    You have an advantage that no party has had for years. Why whine about it. There were plenty of Democrats that both in the house and senate voted against their own party.

    Everyone has different ideas on what should be done. NO one is stopping anyone. Our political format embraces different opinions. THIS IS NOT A DICTATORSHIP. NO ONE just gets their own way. Stop whining.

    February 20, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  9. Republican leaning toward Obama

    There needs to be some help for the retirees who are losing all their
    hard earned life savings in their 401K's and can not get it out without major penalties....with the job market as it is we can't even get a part time job to help subsidize our monthly income....

    Mr. Obama...we voted for you however, as much as we agree that Wall Street caused some of this problem....there are millions of us (retirees) that depend on investments to survive...we need some relief or we too will be losing our homes and everything we worked 40 years for....

    Also, on another note....please push for ALL of congress to have their taxes audited randomly at least once every 3 to 5 years...I believe there would be alot of surprises.

    February 20, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  10. Kayla

    repugs are crticizing a president who has been in office in a few months. they had the biggest loser for 8 years. and expect president obama to clean up his mess in one day. how stupid and ignorant can you people be?

    February 20, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  11. Matthew, Detroit



    He is a Demacrat Representative of the HOUSE. He has never been a Bush supporter. He is on the banking committe and made the famous quote "The Republicans think the Sky is falling. They are like chicken little" The reference was to Republicans demanding REGULATION of the Mortgage Environment and SPECIFICALLY Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This was dismissed by Barney Frank and said to be not necessarry in 2004, 2005, and 2006.

    At lease read what I said and get your information straight. Barney Frank never supported the president. Well, One Time (350 Billion) TARP fund.

    February 20, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  12. Matt in MN

    Karen- Tired of the Crap; you do realize of course that Barney Frank is a Democrat, and he did NOT support GWB.

    As for your talking points:
    "website so we can see how our money is being spent" – recovery.gov is a joke, HOW exactly is 53B being spend for Education and Training, What exactly falls within 111B for Infrastructure and Science. Until they give details to those labels, it's a sham.

    "sign to bill to shut down guetmo" – Yep, he signed a bill to close Gitmo within 1 year, however he's yet to mention HOW he's going to close it, or what going to happen those being held there, how their trials will no proceed, etc, etc etc. He signed a bill, and again provided no details but hey he signed the bill.

    "giving money to distress homeowners who are being foreclose on" – 75B is a half-arsed band-aid at BEST to try and fix the mortgage issue, which is ultimately at the root of this economic crisis. When there is roughly 1 trillion in bad mortgages out there right now, 75billion won't do anything, let alone actually address the situation on how we got into this mess in the first place (for that, look at Fannie and Freddie's policy changes under Clinton)

    "putting dollars into education and urban communites who need help" – I can't fault this one, as Education is need of extra money (and a ton of reforms but it won't happen until the Teachers Unions lose their grasp on the system), but I will ask what about rural areas, they also need help and in most cases already receive less funding than urban areas.

    February 20, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  13. Matthew, Detroit


    Clearly our system has failed us. Neithef of these women can spell or put together a complete thought or sentence. Our school system is broken, our teachers are failing us. It is not their fault. They clearly were passed through a bad system that did not stop and help them to learn.

    February 20, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  14. Linda in MS

    I am responding to the two articles about Mr. Obama's ratings, by the RNC and national poll here because they were closed rather quickly.
    Mr. Obama could turn water into wine and bring back the dead and most Rebublican die-hards with an axe to grind wouldn't be satisfied. The RNC is committed to make Obama look like a failure even if he isn't because they have nothing else to work with. i use to be mildy annoyed by the conservatives and their tactics, but now I am really getting pissed off because they are getting in the way big time.

    February 20, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  15. Ekbaaaal from South Dakota

    ANY republican who helped overtly OR covertly in leading us ALL hardworking people to a depression like situation should not only be thrown into a DITCH but also we should let them pukked by stray dogs!!

    First proud and privileged ones are Bush & Cheney
    followed immediately by
    Boehner, Alex Lamas and Cantor

    ALL these mudhapukkas are part of the PROBLEM and NOT the solution

    each one of these STILL complain about the solution rather than tell us or anyone the corrections / fixes!!!!

    February 20, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  16. David

    So we have the Democrats building roads, schools, transit improvements. All of these things create private sector construction jobs in the short term and produce infrastructure that will be used for at least a decade. The cost: $150 billion.

    On the other side of the isle, we have hip-hop commercials. Priceless.

    February 20, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  17. Steve (the real one)

    sensible Cape Coral FL February 20th, 2009 2:20 pm ET
    Can someone please explain to me why Republicans hate PEOPLE so much?
    I can, but not until YOU tell me why Democrats hate people so much!

    February 20, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  18. Sam Sixpack

    Why does the Federal Government need to take money from me and then give it to my city? Why can't Dallas collect its own taxes?

    February 20, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  19. The Last Patriot

    Ah yes, a hand "out" from Washington, to keep all the inner city folk dependent on their wonderful Democrat overlords.

    Democrat leadership doesn't exactly have a good record in inner city America, now does it?

    February 20, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  20. vic

    I do not believe Obamas approval ratings have dropped one bit – but, if they have, it's because every republican and right wing idiot is on every news channel 24 hours a day spewing their hate against him.
    The republican party is on a clear mission to destroy this man and they are being aided and abetted by the news media. Even CNN has joined the fray in allowing every negative talking head in America spew their venom against President obama on air.
    BUT, we the people know the truth and do not rely on the talking heads – only the idiots rely on talking heads and republican senators that we know are out for blood.
    So much for your poll!

    February 20, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  21. Matt

    From this point forward Republicans are more about getting elected than doing right by the American people. They are only opposed to the stimulus because it is not their plan. They had/have no ideas except tax cuts. Those tax cuts are disprportionately favoring of the most well-off of our country. Companies who currently have tax cuts are laying people off. Plus these tax cuts lower our national revenue and ability to pay off the foreign debt which accumulated under Republican stewardship.
    We can't just blame people for living beyond their means. The lenders should have realized many of these people were risky loans. The banking system and Wall Street are to blame for greed, and lawmakers for not pushing for more regulation.

    February 20, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  22. Michael

    I laughed so hard when I read Obama says he will call out any Federal or State agency that will waste money.
    Based on his support of Nancy Pelosi's spendulus bill, he has no clue what wasting tax payers money means. Total idiot being lead by Pelosi.

    February 20, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  23. Darko

    "You shouldn't have to succeed despite Washington; you should be succeeding with a hand from Washington, and that's what you're getting now," Obama said at a White House reception.

    Federalism who? what?

    Democratic power in big cities are the standard for how NOT to run things. Tax the prosperous more and more until they eventually move away leaving you with NO tax revenue.

    It's too bad that we're following this same road on the federal level.

    February 20, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  24. Spencer/Bad Newz, VA

    I don't know why republicans think that laying rail down is pork barrell spending. Don't those knuckleheads realize how many jobs that will produce. Here in my state of Virginia, we need a light rail system that goes from VA Beach up to Richmond. This will create jobs, cause less congestion on our already overpopulated interstate and will take a while to complete. Not only are you putting people to work who are constructing the railroads, but you'll need train conductors, train staff, etc. You republicans need to get your heads out your butts. You don't have the answer to everything.

    February 20, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  25. Doris, KY

    Linda in MS, are you pissed off because I'm not giving you (or people who are deserving) enough money by taxing my income? Well, I'm pissed off too. I think a 50% tax rate (when you count Federal, state, and local taxes) is enough? Tell me how much do you want me to pay? I need to start planning for the future.

    Linda in South Dakato, your comments speak for yourself. Is there any job for which your are qualified? Ask yourself, why can't you get a decent paying job. The answer is you are so illerate, your value to an employer is effectively zero.

    February 20, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
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