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Nutter: Congress Must Act on Sequestration, Guns, Infrastructure, Climate Change, Immigration

By Ed Somers
January 28, 2013

In his opening report to the nation’s mayors on January 17, Conference of Mayors President Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter said, “As is always the case with the Conference of Mayors, there are certain events we can plan for, and there are moments in history that were not expected and will never be forgotten.”

Speaking to expected events, Nutter thanked the mayors for their bi-partisan leadership on the fiscal cliff, middle-class tax cuts, and protecting municipal bonds. On the threat to tax-exempt financing, Nutter said, “If we had not acted, we could have seen the erosion of this most basic federal-local partnership.”

But Nutter stressed that there is much work ahead, including another fight on sequestration, which was only delayed for two months. “We have suffered dramatic cuts from Washington. We have seen Community Development Block Grants drastically reduced. We have sacrificed for the greater good,” he said, urging that a final spending agreement not come at the expense of key domestic investment programs.

Nutter stressed that the threat to tax-exempt financing remains very real as Washington searches for more revenue to reduce the deficit. “We must continue to educate both the Administration and Congress on the negative impact that limitations to tax-exempt financing would have on the private'sector, and the job creation that comes through financed infrastructure investments.”

Nutter said that Congress should act on an infrastructure investment package as called for by both Conference of Mayors and the Administration. “We all know that investments in roads, transit, airports, ports and water systems create jobs. Most of these jobs are in the private sector… That is why this issue has had strong bipartisan support from groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and in the past, from Congress.”

And speaking to immigration, Nutter said, “Washington is well overdue to act on comprehensive immigration reform. There is too much at stake for both our economy and our social fabric for us not to resolve this issue now.”

Moving to a discussion of what he called “unplanned events in our nation’s history that rock us to the core, and become a touchstone for action,” Nutter assured all the mayors impacted by Superstorm Sandy that, “We stood with you then; we stand with you now; and we will stand with you in the days ahead until you receive everything you need from our federal government to help recover and rebuild.”

But Nutter said that, “Simply helping our cities and communities to heal the scars of devastation is not enough. Washington cannot continue to deny the basic fact that climate change is real and having a major impact on the health and safety and economy of our country.”

Nutter said that through the Conference of Mayors climate center and climate protection agreement, the Conference of Mayors has led on the issue of climate change. “Now is the time for Congress to help protect our future. No more denial; no more debates. Just action.”

Nutter then moved to the issue of gun violence. “Every day, mayors think about the children that walk or take a bus to schools in their cities… Every day, mayors worry about the brave police officers who work to protect their neighborhoods… And, far too often, it is the mayor who gets the call about a tragic crime committed with an illegal gun that has resulted in the loss of life.”

“That is why this Conference of Mayors has also long championed the issues of public safety and crime reduction,” the he added.

Since the killings of Dr. King and Robert Kennedy, the Conference of Mayors had pushed as an organization for common'sense solutions, including universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons, and large capacity magazines that Nutter said are “…designed to serve our military needs but with no practical use on America’s streets or in our neighborhoods.”

Nutter said that for far too long, the federal government has been unwilling to act. “But then, on December 14, we all witnessed a tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut that—even after all the others—we still could not imagine. 26 lives taken from us. 20 children—ages 6 or 7—shot dead at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, a terrible, unforgivable moment in our nation’s history. We cannot get those lives back. We cannot get back the more than 30,000 lives lost every year to gun violence. But we can, and we must, act to help protect lives in the future,” he stressed.

Nutter commended the Administration’s new gun safety agenda, and said that the nation’s mayors “…will stand firmly with President Obama and Vice President Biden on their plan to reduce gun violence,” and push Congress to act.

Nutter reminded the mayors of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Nutter also encouraged the mayors to live up to Dr. King’s belief that, “Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve” by participating in the first annual Mayors Day of Recognition for National Service on April 9 that is being led by the Corporation for National and Community Service to recognize the “passion, impact, and cost-effective problem solving that comes from national service programs in our cities.”

In concluding his remarks, Nutter said, “The strength of this organization should never be doubted. With great leaders like our Vice President Scott Smith, Second Vice President Kevin Johnson, CEO Tom Cochran, and each and every one of you, we can and we do make a difference…

Our power is our collective voice. If we use it, we can bring about great, and needed change.”