Executive Director's Column
March 5, 2010
Kautz Leads Mayors Back to Fight for Jobs
Conference President Mayor Elizabeth B. Kautz led mayors back to Washington to fight for real jobs legislation to provide fiscal assistance and real jobs for our unemployed. Our 2010 Winter Leadership meeting last week is the third time this year President Kautz has been back here in Washington on the issue of jobs asking Washington to wake up and recognize the needs of millions of Americans who just want a job.
On the first day of our Leadership Meeting, we went to the Senate side, where Alaska Senator Mark Begich gave mayors almost two hours of his time as he strategized openly with them. He went through the recent announcements of the Senate leadership stating that there will be several jobs bills over the next few months. Each one of the ďjobsĒ bills is labeled in certain categories. There are lists of subjects under each category, and itís not clear with many of these items if these proposed pieces of legislation would actually provide the immediate and direct jobs that are needed in our cities now. The fact is that the Senate actions are hard to follow these days. Thereís the food fighting we have had with the healthcare legislation that the American people do not understand. Thereís the announcement of a large jobs bill. Then thereís the sudden announcement by Majority Leader Reid that there will not be a big jobs bill, instead it will be several smaller jobs bills. And they have announced that all the legislation that now comes from the Senate will be called a jobs bill. So we have to read beyond the label.
While there is confusion about the legislation and the timetable in the Senate, one thing is true and perfectly clear. Senator Mark Begich of Alaska is the best urban Senator since Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, who was a boy mayor of Minneapolis at age 30 before he became a legend in the Senate giving his creative energy for mayors and cities. Senator Begich continues, in open meetings and closed meetings, to be an advocate for cities. Senators are talking about Senator Begich, about how his voice, mind and actions, in just a few months, in a little over a year, are helping bring some common sense to the Senate as to what cities mean to this great nation. Anchorage has sent Mr. Begich to Washington. He hasnít forgotten Anchorage. And he hasnít forgotten his brothers and sisters, the mayors of this nation, the cities, and above all the people they serve.
Miller Jobs Bill is Real
On the House side, President Kautz led a group to meet with Congressman George Miller, where he briefed them on a real jobs bill he will soon roll out. The Miller bill would provide funds in a distribution structure that is identical to the very successful and popular CDBG program. Hence, the cities with a certain population would receive funds directly, and not through the states. Mayors could use the money for hiring people or mayors could use the money for job retention to save jobs and avoid future layoffs. Nonprofit funding coordinated through the mayorís office could also be funded.
Congressman Miller told the mayors that heavy lifting from the mayors would be needed if the bill will succeed. The mayors gave support and were pleased to find someone that was offering a real jobs bill that they could understand.
The next day, mayors met en masse with our friend, Philadelphia Congressman Chaka Fattah. The mayors talked to him about the unfortunate situation we now have with the Department of Energy and our new energy block grants. The mayors are concerned that the Department has no history with administering block grants to cities. After a frank, open, and direct discussion, Congressman Fattah pledged his help.
Congressman Fattah also briefed the mayors about the Miller jobs bill that was the subject of the Kautz meeting with Miller the day before. Congressman Fattah introduced Dr. Gordon Lafer, Senior Labor Policy Advisor to the Committee on Education and Labor, who outlined the features of the bill. He received an enthusiastic response and all mayors pledged their support.
President Kautz also presented to the mayors, for the first time, Small Business Administrator Karen G. Mills for the purpose of discussing how the SBA can assist small businesses access credit. Since the economic downturn began in September of í08, mayors have been fully aware of the economic damages to small businesses on Main Street America. Mayor Kautz announced she would be working closely with Administrator Mills as mayors continue to push Washington to focus on the serious challenges small business continues to face.
Healthcare Dominates/End in Sight?
For months now, President Obamaís primary focus has been on healthcare. The number one priority of the American people and mayors is jobs, jobs, and jobs, above any other issue. The day after the mayors left town, President Obama held eight hours of televised discussions on healthcare with Democratic and Republican members of Congress. President Obama is trying to break the gridlock. As U.S. Mayor goes to press, President Obama is speaking from the White House with doctors dressed in their hospital whites standing beside him in the White House demanding action now, saying everything that needs to be said about healthcare has been said, and he wants action now.
There is strong feeling here that President Obama will use the reconciliation process, which will require a majority vote, and then end this discussion with an up or down vote. President George W. Bush used the process to get his tax cut legislation. So itís doable. We are all waiting for the posturing to end and for an up or down vote. Again, itís hard to follow; itís unpleasant to follow, and people throughout America want it to end soon.
Meantime, mayors will keep pushing Congress on legislation for jobs. We will keep coming back to Washington until Washington acts. As we go forward on the Miller bill and the Senate bills, we will need your help. Pay close attention to our e-mails and action requests. Mayors are united more than ever, and together we can make it better for our cities and for so many people throughout America who are out of work and all they are asking for is a job Ė now.