Sixteen months after the Sept. 11 attacks,300 mayors nationwide say wartime budget cuts plus zero federal aid has left cities with climbing unemployment problems and lacking funds for emergency first-responders.
The city officials met Wednesday through Friday to brainstorm solutions to the nation's problems with homeland security and the economy at the 71st Winter Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Sen. Hillary Clinton said “undue” burdens have been placed on cities since Sept. 11 and each deserves homeland security money that was promised.
Clinton,D-NY,told an applauding crowd that she no longer cared to be recognized for pioneering the homeland security bill,she only wanted to see the cities get the money.
“We gave money to soldiers so they could have better equipment,so they would know that we're behind him or her,” Clinton said. “Yet our police and fire first-responders are on the frontline here at home and have not been funded.”
Terrorists struck New York and Washington because American cities represent opportunity,Clinton said.
AFL-CIO Treasurer Richard Trumka said if working families are the country's heart and backbone,then “cities are this country's economic and cultural soul.”
Trumka pledged help from the federation of America's unions to the mayors to push for creation of a “real” stimulus package that will create jobs and help citizens in need,not the wealthy.
“It seems that the only thing that trickles down from Washington these days is human misery,” Trumka said.
In 2002,metro areas lost 646,000 jobs,according to a report released by the mayors. Hardest hit were New York,Chicago,Atlanta,Boston,San Jose and Seattle,which all lost more than 40,000 jobs.
A job-growth slowdown will generate 3.3 million fewer jobs over 2001-2004 than the rate just three years prior,the report stated.
President of the conference,Boston Mayor Thomas Menino,said the federal government must recognize the people who work for “hometown security” with proper funding.
“When you call 911,the phone doesn't ring at the White House or at the State House,it rings at City Hall,” said Menino,mayor of Boston.
Cities have put billions of dollars and now the federal money that was promised needs to be there,Menino said. “We've waited long enough.”
Corpus Christi,Texas,Mayor Loyd Neal said costs have been paid using the city's general budget money,not the federal money promised to the states.
Donald Plusquellic,chair of the mayor's advisory board and mayor of Akron,Ohio,echoed Menino,adding that cities have been “cutting the fat” around their budgets and now are to the bone.
“This is reality – whether citizens can depend on having a police officer or firefighter there when they need one,” Plusquellic said. “We need to prioritize.”
Rep. Nancy Pelosi said she was excited the mayors had come to “storm the Hill” to get their message of need across to Congress and the crowd accepted her challenge with a standing ovation.
The mayors rallied behind their own stimulus plan released Wednesday to “spur long-term economic growth” and create jobs,which they will take to President Bush and Washington officials before a vote is taken on Bush's economic stimulus plan.