Mayors Say They Want 'Build-Out,' Not Bailout'
Big city mayors visited Capitol Hill Monday to urge congressional leaders to pass a Main Street Recovery plan funding "shovel-ready" infrastructure projects during the first 100 days of President-elect Barack Obama's administration.
According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, there are 11,391 infrastructure projects ready to go in 427 cities across the United States. The conference estimates that these projects represent an infrastructure investment of $73 billion that would be capable of producing an estimated 847,641 jobs in 2009 and 2010.
"We are not here for a bailout. We're here to help build out America," Manny Diaz, the mayor of Miami and president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said at a press conference on Monday attended by a dozen U.S. mayors.
The mayoral press conference was hosted by Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
"We can't let President Obama down. We have to be ready to move," said Rangel.
Oberstar sought to address accountability concerns by promising to exclude earmarks from the plan and by calling for new reporting requirements.
"Earmarks will be specifically excluded from this process," said Oberstar. "We will have a 60-day reporting requirement that every 60 days each state authority, each city, must report on the amount of money invested in that period of time, the amount of jobs created, the amount of secondary jobs created."
Following the press conference, the mayors attended a closed press meeting with Rangel and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Later in the day, the mayors met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin.
In a Monday interview with ABC News, New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg said there is a limited amount that Obama can do before he is sworn into office.
He added, however, that the president-elect has to be ready to confront the nation's economic emergency Jan. 20.
"He does not have the luxury of just sitting back and inheriting something that's working well," said Bloomberg. "Clearly there is a problem, and he's going to have to address that right away."
To jump-start infrastructure projects around the country, Bloomberg called for direct assistance as well as indirect measures to restore confidence to the municipal bond market.
"You don't have to do it by sending checks," said Bloomberg. "It would be helpful if we got some money, but opening up the municipal bond market would probably do more than anything Washington could, and it is relatively cost-free. Municipalities will go out and on their own balance sheets, with their own taxpayer money, borrow money and start their own projects."
To help cities raise money, Bloomberg suggested that the federal government become the purchaser of last resort of municipal bonds. He also called for restoring the interest deduction incentive for commercial banks.
In addition to Diaz and Bloomberg, the press conference was attended by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Dallas Mayor Thomas Leppert; Trenton, N.J., Mayor Doug Palmer; Akron, Ohio Mayor Don Plusquellic; Charleston, S.C., Mayor Joe Riley; Stamford, Conn., Mayor Dan Malloy; Providence, R.I., Mayor David Cicilline; Bowling Green, Ky., Mayor Elaine Walker; and Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann.
ABC News' Arnab Datta contributed to this report.