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Mayors Praise Obama's Focus on Urban Issues


A national group representing more than 1,200 medium- to big-city mayors used the occasion of President Barack Obama's 100th day in office last week to praise the administration's efforts to make U.S. urban centers the springboard for the nation's economic recovery.

A statement issued by the U.S. Conference of Mayors says the organization is encouraged by the Obama administration's intense focus on urban issues during his first 100 days in office. It's a focus the city mayors say they haven't seen for a long time.

It has come in a quick succession of White House initiatives, from the newly created Office of Urban Affairs to affordable housing programs. The Conference of Mayors' chief executive, Tom Cochran, says the president has made rapid strides over the past three months.

"He has passed children's insurance legislation. We have a stimulus package, tax relief for middle income. We are talking about immigration reform. We are talking about health care. And it seems that we have done so much in these 100 days," Cochran says. "The fact of the matter is, the economic situation has come together with a new president who is thinking differently,and we look at the 100 days really as a beginning, not as an end."

Cochran praises what he calls the "excellent communications" mayors have enjoyed with the Obama White House, and he cites President Obama's willingness to listen to what mayors have had to say about the problems besetting many U.S. cities. Cochran says White House urban policies in these first 100 days have been very much in line with the goals of the nations' mayors.

"We have a common goal with the new president of creating and saving three million jobs by the year 2011, so we will be working very closely with the secretaries of labor and transportation and others to do what we can to put people back to work."

Cochran says the close cooperation between the White House and the U.S. Conference of Mayors is also helping to speed progress toward making cities more energy efficient - a major item on President Obama's agenda. Cochran says one example of that progress is that billions of dollars have already been slated for so-called block grants of federal aid to make cities more energy-efficient.

"The infusion of billions of dollars, for example, in energy block grants. There will be $2.8 billion of block grants going into cities. The purpose here is to retrofit homes and buildings and to change our traffic systems, all kinds of solar innovations for a city to do what it needs to do to provide efficient energy and also create jobs at the same time."

Cochran adds that America's big-city mayors also welcome the Obama administration's focus on climate change and its willingness to join international efforts under the 12-year-old Kyoto Protocol to reduce urban industrial emissions.

"The new president is very concerned about global warming and climate protection and energy conservation. And we have 950 cities that have signed on the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Center and it was created after Kyoto, and we will be working with the president as we move forward to do what we must do in this country on climate protection, but also to support him to engage the rest of the world to save our planet."

Cochran says the nation's mayors also are eager to respond to President Obama's recent call to modernize their public transportation systems, not only to conserve energy but also to help move urban and suburban workers more easily to and from their jobs - wherever they are.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors has a long tradition of helping American cities weather economic crises. During the Great Depression in 1932, when 14 million Americans were unemployed, many of the nation's biggest cities were close to bankruptcy. Responding to appeals by mayors, the U.S. Congress created a $300 million urban assistance program, marking the first time federal relief had ever flowed directly to cities.

A few months later, on the eve of the 1933 inauguration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the charter establishing the U.S. Conference of Mayors was written in the Mayflower Hotel - just a few blocks from the White House.

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