March 3, 2011
March 3, 2011
On February 24, at our Winter Leadership Meeting in Washington, Conference President Kautz stood with the leadership of The Conference of Mayors in what I consider to be the strongest press conference of The United States Conference of Mayors in recent history.
Mayors faced 13 cameras and 30 reporters. Some reporters tried to bait the mayors and get them off track of what they were there for – to fight those in Congress who want to gut our most successful federal initiative ever – the Community Development Block Grant program.
When asked if there were Republicans present after four mayors had spoken, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, glared at the cameras and said, "I am Mick Cornett, Chair of the Republican Mayors. What is your question?"
Reporters were reminded that three out of the four previous mayors speaking were Republican. With that, he buried the question of partisanship in the ground.
Every time the reporters tried to get President Elizabeth Kautz off message, she threw a hard ball right down their throat. She was tough, focused and a joy to watch.
Philadelphia Mayor Mike Nutter called the cuts in H.R.1, including the 62.5 percent cut in CDBG, "un-American," and said that those in Congress are attacking our own people. For a moment it sounded like he was talking about what’s going on in Libya.
The barnstormer was the mayor of Davenport, Iowa, Bill Gluba. Mayor Gluba said that we are The United States Conference of Mayors, the fathers and mothers of our cities. He shouted loud and clear that this cut will not stand.
Across the board mayors from every region were about as good as it gets. They come to Washington once again to vividly demonstrate that the mayors of this nation, more united than ever, are the last bastion of hope for bipartisan political activity left in America.
They came with energy; they gave each other energy; and this organization with mayors throughout our nation are more energized than ever.
We started with a Senate head count in our meeting and we have continued to contact mayors via phone, emails, and all forms of communication.
President Kautz brought consensus in conference calls before the mayors came to Washington that our strategy is to devote our force and power to the Senate. There are 100 Senators and there are thousands of mayors, city council members, county execs, and county commissioners.
We have been to town twice already this year, January and February. This week Mayor Kautz is back in town with mayors up on the Senate side walking the halls and confronting Senators. Next week Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa leads another team of mayors to the Senate. On March 16, we will stand on the Capitol grounds in a united event with the National League of Cities and the National Association of Counties. Thousands of elected officials will be there to express our outrage over the irrational cuts that have been made in the House, devoid of hearings and bereft of any opportunity of citizen discussion. As Mayor Nutter said to the press assembled here last week, this process is "un-American."
As U.S.Mayor goes to press, the President and Congress have agreed on a two-week continuing resolution that will keep the government going and provide time for negotiation. The fear is that the deals will not be cut in the light of day and our only choice is to take our concern and political force into the face of the Senate. We must not stop until every Senator on both sides of the aisle, Republican and Democrat, has been told in a most direct way, as Davenport Mayor said to the press last week, "this cut must not stand."
We must remind them as Mayor Nutter said, "the damage of H.R.1 would be an attack on our people." We also must remind the Senate that their duty is to correct this injustice.
With individual profiles of courage, they must act to stop the devastation to our people and our cities that will be inflicted if there is silence, indifference, and inaction at this critical time in this nation where we are living through the worst troubled economic times since the ‘30s. Without a doubt, it is the worst time to gut the twelve percent discretionary portion of the federal budget. They are afraid to touch Medicare, Medicaid, defense, and social security. And so in the name of reducing the deficit, they come after us slashing away, cutting the lifeline to our cities and our people. Every study shows that gutting discretionary programs will have little effect on reducing the deficit.
We are asking Senators to stand with us. Keep the pressure strong. We must not give in or give up. We have no choice. And with your help we will prevail with our friends in the Senate to prevent further economic distress to our people and our country.