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. worriedmom

    Ok I now know that I wont be getting anything from this stimulus, even though I have paid my mortgage each month, worked hard for my money, paid taxes and been honest in paying my debts even when I was told 3 weeks ago that my employment hours will be reduced signficantly! And now I know that I have been working for those who couldn't read a contract and realize their interest rates would go up, getting food stamps and anything else free that comes their way. And you wonder why people are bitter!

    February 20, 2009 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  2. RJ

    Hey Karen... you do realize that Barney Frank is a Democrat don't you.
    LOL.. You just proved a Republican right!
    When the Republicans told Barney Frank that the crap was gonna hit the fan, he did NOTHING.
    Barney is the guy in charge of the House Financial Services Committee that handles REGULATING the financial industry.
    In 2003 he OPPOSED regulating Fannie and Freddie and in 2005 he again refused to support another bill that would have put restrictions on them.

    February 20, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  3. To Anonymous

    Anonymous February 20th, 2009 2:30 pm ET

    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!
    South Dakota is a Republican State and its a well known fact that the more educated people become the more likely they are to vote liberal. And its "atrocious" not "atricious" you idiot! Try using your spellcheck yourself before harping on those that have an opinion other than your own narrow minded views.

    February 20, 2009 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  4. Tiffanie

    Dear Anonymous.. perhaps you should take your own advice... your spell check seems to be broken as well...

    The RNC is grasping at straws trying to make it seem as though Obama is failing.. any economist will tell you that we really won't see the results from this stimulus for about 18 months... It will take that long for people to get their jobs back and start being able to afford to spend again.. The RNC is hoping to put this black cloud over the democrats so they can try to win back lost congress seats in the Mid-Term elections that take place at that time.

    That said.. I hope Obama keeps his promise about not allowing this money to be spent irresponsibly. I hope he gives that NY Senator a firm lecture about the dangers of Pork spending and that YES the american people do care about it no matter how small.. especially in this economic climate.

    February 20, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
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