WASHINGTON – It’s been a year and a half since Jeffery Jones met Barack Obama before the break of dawn on an airport tarmac.
It was September 2011,and Paterson,N.J.,where Jones serves as the city’s mayor,had been badly damaged by hurricane Irene. Residents were displaced from their homes,businesses and roads were destroyed.
But Obama seemed totally collected,recalled Jones a Democrat elected to the nonpartisan mayor’s job in 2010.
“Mr. Mayor,” Obama greeted him causally just after stepping off the plane. Jones was surprised,he said,because Obama clearly recognized him without a formal introduction.
The two spent about four hours together,talking with residents as they took a walking tour through the waterlogged city.
Jones saw Obama’s inaugural ceremony from a standing room section on the Capitol lawn on Monday,flipping through photos of the two on his Blackberry while he waited about four hours to hear his inaugural address.
Although Jones still supports Obama’s agenda,Jones admitted he isn’t entirely happy with the way their first visit turned out.
The federal government has not handed over all of the hurricane relief money yet,although Jones could not give a specific dollar amount. Paterson’s rebuilding process was recently set back even further by Hurricane Sandy – Jones said its ability to rebuild is teetering on a Senate vote for the Sandy aid bill.
Although the bill was originally anticipated to pass Congress easily,House Speaker John Boehner,R-Ohio,was barely able to gather enough votes for its passage. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill this week.
Jones said he blames the “nature of bureaucracy” more than the president himself,as well as Congress for being uncooperative.
“I do think his biggest battle is the people he’s sent here to work with,” Jones said.
Reach Reporter Ian Kullgren at [email protected] or 202-326-2143. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.