President Obama put the nation’s mayors "on notice" that if they spent stimulus money wastefully he would call them out publicly.
Speaking in the East Room of the White House to more than 70 mayors — four of whom were Republicans — the president said, "I want to be clear about this: we cannot tolerate business as usual, not in Washington, not in our State Capitols, not in America’s cities and towns. We will use the new tools that the Recovery Act gives us to watch the taxpayers’ money with more rigor and transparency than ever."
The mayors applauded.
"If a federal agency proposes a project that will waste that money, I will not hesitate to call them out on it, and put a stop to it," he said. "I want everyone here to be on notice that if a local government does the same – I will call them out on it as well, and use the full power of my office and our administration to stop it.
The mayors did not applaud.
"We have asked for the unprecedented trust of the American people to deal boldly with the greatest economic crisis we have seen in decades – and the privilege of investing unprecedented amounts of their hard-earned money to address this crisis," the president continued. "With that comes unprecedented obligations to spend that money wisely, free from politics and personal agendas. On this I will not compromise or tolerate any shortcuts. The American people are looking to us, each of you, as well as myself and Joe and others in our administration, for leadership, and it’s up to us to reward their faith."
Some of the 18,750 projects listed in the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ list of "shovel ready" projects — which the group says could create as many as 1.6 million new jobs — have been assailed as silly, wasteful, and no particularly stimulative.
Among the ones targeted for criticism are a $1.4 million children’s water park requested by Pine Bluff, Ark; or $33,725 for automatically flushing toilets in Sumter, SC; or as reported by the Wall Street Journal, a $886,000 Frisbee golf course in Austin, Texas; a $500,000 leashless dog park in Chula Vista, Calif., a $4.5 million ‘eco park’ in Boynton Beach, Fla., or $2 million for neon signs for Las Vegas.
Or, as reported by the Boston Globe, a combined $1 million for skateboard parks in Durham, NC, and Pacific, Wash.; $90 million for swimming pools across the country; $25 million for tennis courts; or $700,000 for planting trees along Providence, RI, sidewalks.
Introducing the president at the event, Vice President Joe Biden said that "in a long career in politics, there’s one overwhelming reason why I never ran for mayor, which is, it’s too hard."
The mayors laughed and applauded.
"They have got your phone number, and they know where you live, and they come and they use it. Well, President Obama and I are turning that around. We want you to know, you can have our phone number, and you know where we live, and we expect you to use it."
The vice president also told the mayors that government officials have to prove to the American people "that their dollars are making a difference in their communities. We’ve already set up a Web site, Recovery.com, which will show where and how the money is being spent."
The actual website is Recovery.gov.
The President gave the correct URL when he spoke.