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Villaraigosa: Washington Needs a Wake Up Call

January 30, 2012

In his State of the Cities report to his colleagues and the nation on January 18, Conference of Mayors President Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa challenged Washington to put partisanship aside and act on jobs and infrastructure legislation to strengthen America's metro economies.

In highlighting the findings from the USCM/HIS Global Insight 2012 Metro Economies Report (see related story), Villaraigosa contrasted the leadership being provided by mayors across the nation with the inaction coming from Congress.

"While DC dithers, our metro areas are driving America's recovery." Villaraigosa said.

Villaraigosa stressed that, "Now, as our report shows, it's time for Washington to wake up to the 90 percent. That's right, the 90 percent of the nation's economic output that is produced by our cities. From the downtowns to the suburbs…in our factories, in our offices, in our industrial parks. Over 85 percent of the nation's jobs are generated in our metro regions. And the report says something else. If cities are leading this recovery, we know it's a fragile one. And we can't let it slip from our grasp."

"While Congress played politics on the debt limit, it was in cities like Akron, Ohio, where Mayor Don Plusquellic convinced the German Auto Supplier Roechling to say ‘made in the USA.- And now 123 new jobs for skilled machine workers are available to Akron residents," said Villaraigosa.

And he added, "While Congress punted on infrastructure jobs, it was in places like Davenport, Iowa, where they created a model Downtown Jobs Program that is matching public resources with private dollars to put more people to work. It's a story being replicated from Bellingham to Boston. Now, we just need Congress to do its job."

Calling for specific action, Villaraigosa said, "Congress needs to stop starving our economic engine, our metropolitan areas, and immediately make common sense investments in transportation, infrastructure and workforce development."

"If Congress gives us the tools, we — the nation's mayors — will get it done. We-ll put more of our people back to work and get America's economy humming again," Villaraigosa said.

Villaraigosa said that mayors have been willing to make the tough choices that Washington has not made. "We have had to lay-off hard-working employees. We have consolidated departments and closed down others. And while we have been working — we have had to watch the world's best-paid debating society in the U.S. Congress."

That is why he said, "If we gave the 112th Congress a mid-term report card, the grade would be clear. Congress would get an F."

Villaraigosa criticized Congress for rejecting most of the proposals put forward by the Conference of Mayors in its bi-partisan Common Sense Jobs Agenda. He pointed out that, "the Super Committee ended in a Super Collapse… and now in 2013, we face automatic and mandatory cuts over a nine year period that will total $1.2 trillion dollars. Cuts that will devastate vital programs that our constituents count on. Cuts that will further hamper our economic recovery."

Moving forward, Villaraigosa said there is still time for Congress to act on needed legislation. "When Congress returns to session, it must make a down payment on America's economic future. It must pass a comprehensive, long-term jobs bill. We don't need another extension. We need an extension of leadership."

He also called for legislation to give businesses — large and small — incentives to hire new workers, and to help train American workers so they can "compete for the global economy's good-paying jobs."

CDBG/Public Safety/Transportation

Villaraigosa also stressed the need to restore long-term investment programs.

"When Congress returns to work, it must stop the threat to the Community Development Block Grant program. Across the country, the foreclosure crisis has blighted countless neighborhoods, littering them with boarded up homes. Since 1974, CDBG has been one of the most effective programs for addressing blight like this and revitalizing communities. But over the last two years, Congress has slashed this funding by $1 billion. We can't have the budget ax hanging over our heads... It's time to restore full funding to CDBG." Villaraigosa said.

He also called on Congress to restore the huge cuts that have been made in public safety, programs like COPS hiring grants, Byrne Justice Assistance, and firefighter assistance.

"Homeland security begins with hometown security," Villaraigosa said.

Villaraigosa pointed out that for the last seven years, the Conference of Mayors has promoted consumer financial protection and education, and he urged Congress to let the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau do its work.

And, he called on Congress to pass a long-term Surface Transportation Bill such as the Boxer-Inhofe bill that includes America Fast Forward, "the bipartisan financing plan that will put people to work today by allowing local governments to creatively leverage local dollars for roads and rail." The Mayor said that a long-term transportation bill, "will make critical improvements to our aging transportation infrastructure," that will allow business to get their goods to market faster, and help residents, "spend less time gritting their teeth in gridlock and spending more time on the things that matter."

In concluding his remarks, Villaraigosa urged immediate action. "We cannot wait another year. We cannot accept business as usual."