Executive Director's Column
September 25, 2009
Conference President Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels led a very successful series of meetings with mayors and Senate leaders all focusing and discussing the Senate Climate Bill, now pending Senate action. President Nickels’ first meeting was with Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Senator Barbara Boxer, who continues to assure us that she will provide block grant language for cities in the Senate Climate Bill.
No doubt, the Health Reform Bill overshadows the Climate legislation at this time. The political turbulence of health care is affecting the timetable for climate bill action with the Senate. And as we push through September, the days left for Congressional action dwindle down after you subtract Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
President Nickels is urging all mayors not to get bogged down or confused due to press reports on schedules and calendars. We must keep our eye on the prize. At issue with us is a climate bill and within it, a fair share of funding for our city and county energy block grants to support ongoing and future activities in cities large and small.
Mayors continue to lead the way in this area. The energy block grants in the Obama stimulus program are finally reaching our cities. Soon, new green jobs will be created and climate protection activity will begin. That activity must continue once the stimulus funding evaporates.
With the Senate meetings last week, there was universal support for our energy block grants on both sides of the aisle. Let us hope that once the health care bill is finished, there will be a coming together on a climate bill that satisfies the concerns of some key Democratic and Republican Senators.
In our side meetings on the Senate side, mayors were hammering hard the increased unemployment and extreme joblessness in their cities last week. We have 14 states with ten percent unemployment in September 2009. And we all know that state unemployment statistics will be lower than cities with high density and diverse populations. A number of our mayors are supporting the climate bill because of an extreme need they have to create jobs, green jobs, now. And a second need is to do energy audits of homes with remedies to result in lower energy costs for individuals and families. We hear President Obama and Congressional leaders talk about green jobs, and we know and they know that the opportunity to create these new green jobs is with the energy block grant for our cities.
Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, a leader and author of one of the climate bills, praised our mayors profusely in our meetings. He indicated that in his meetings with officials of other nations, he points to the good work and incredible leadership coming from our USA mayors. When he made that point, I interjected noting that we couldn’t be where we are now without the leadership vision and hard work of our President Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels.
Thanks to Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard, we had an unforgettable meeting with one of the smartest Senators of all, Indiana Senator Richard Lugar. His mind is vast as it works globally to bring the international issues of China and India into his articulate words, bringing the international questions down to the street and neighborhood level. His experience in countries abroad, his term as mayor with experiences he never forgets, his experience as a walnut tree farmer, all come together for a session you don’t forget. He is a coal state Senator. There are issues with coal state Senators in this climate bill. But one thing you do know after you leave Senator Lugar. He supported the funding of our energy block grants. He helped to create the HUD Block Grants (CDBG) passed in 1974. And he will be there, one way or the other, to support funding for our energy block grants.
President Nickels and I had a most positive meeting also with Energy and Climate Czar Carol Browner. The purpose of the meeting was to brief her on our USCM Climate Protection Center activities, both nationally and internationally. In addition, we talked to her about our USCM Mayors Climate Protection agreement started in 2005 by Mayor Nickels with 141 cities – about to total 1,000 cities with mayors who have supported President Nickels over the four-year period. We remember Browner’s pioneer work with us on brownfield development when she served as EPA Administrator under President Clinton. I am pleased to inform all of you that she is well aware of our activities, and there is work to do in this partnership in support of President Obama’s vision and leadership of climate protection. Thanks to David Agnew, our liaison in the White House, for helping us arrange this most important briefing with Browner.
Leadership Meeting, Seattle, October 1-3
Over 60 mayors will be in Seattle as Conference President Greg Nickels hosts and presides over our 2009 Fall Leadership Meeting. We are pleased and thankful for the participation of Secretary Ray LaHood, U.S. Department of Transportation; Secretary Shaun Donovan, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Secretary Steven Chu, U.S. Department of Energy; Deputy Secretary Ron Sims, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Deputy Secretary Tony Miller, U.S. Department of Education; Director Cecilia Munoz, Office of Intergovernmental Affairs - The White House; Deputy Director David Agnew, Office of Intergovernmental Affairs - The White House; Director Adolfo Carrion, Jr., Office of Urban Affairs - The White House; Director R. Gil Kerlikowske, Office of National Drug Control Policy - The White House; Derek Douglas, Special Assistant to the President for Urban Affairs - The White House; Dr. Robert Groves, Director - U.S. Census Bureau; Nancy Sutley, Chair, Council on Environmental Quality - The White House.
We again thank David Agnew, who has been working very closely with Conference of Mayors Chief of Staff Ed Somers to make this meeting productive and meaningful. At issue, of course, is Washington action on national health care reform and climate protection/green jobs legislation.
There are other issues too – drugs and crime – affecting public safety. We are pleased to have the new Census Director Dr. Robert Groves with us in Seattle. 2010 is the year when data gathered affects your political representation in state and federal governmental bodies and, perhaps more important, increased or decreased federal funding to your cities.
Congratulations San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom
A special congratulations to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, on the occasion of the birth of a baby girl, Montana Tessa Newsom, on September 18.
And also a special thanks to him as he continues to be the face, voice and advocate for The U. S. Conference of Mayors during the health care reform national debate now before Congress. The accomplishments of Mayor Newsom and his leadership on health care in San Francisco puts him in a most credible position as he continued through the Summer and now in the Fall to move our position forward on the critical question and need for health care for all Americans.
Lina Garcia – Key Post with Obama Administration
Lina Garcia, Director of Communications and Grassroots Activity with our Climate Protection Center since its inception, is joining the U.S. Department of Labor working closely with Labor Secretary Hilda Solis as her new Special Assistant in the Office of Public Affairs.
Green jobs will be a big part of Lina’s portfolio and we look forward to a continued working relationship with her. We thank Lina for her great work and service to the U.S. Conference of Mayors as she has served us in her career at two separate stages – all in the area of grassroots and media relations. Congratulations to Lina! We wish her the best as she goes forward to offer her talents and service to President Obama and Secretary Solis in this post she now assumes at the Department of Labor.