In Washington, U.S. Mayors Slam Budget Cuts

By Kristina

Feb 24, 2011 2:13pm

ABC News' Tahman Bradley Reports: More than two dozen U.S. mayors voiced outrage at the proposed budged cuts outlined in the House Representatives' 2011 continuing resolution at a press conference today in Washington. 

The mayors said they are most concerned with the proposed 62.5 percent cut to the Community Development Block Grant. The grant, known as CDBG, provides billions of dollars to cities — mostly with little federal oversight — for affordable housing, anti-poverty and infrastructure development.

"These drastic cuts are unacceptable to the mayors of America, and today as nonpartisan mayors we have raised our voices," said Burnsville, Minnesota Mayor Elizabeth Kautz. "There are other programs that are critical to cities that are also on the cut list, but we take great exception to the Community Development Block Grant," Kautz added.  

The mayors vowed to do everything they can to educated members of Congress about how the federal dollars help residents of their communities.  Mostly Democrats, the assembled group called House Republicans' proposed cuts "an attack" on Americans. 

"This is literally un-American," Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said.

"H.R.1. is un-American. It attacks senior citizens. It attacks children. It attacks working people.  It stops jobs and economic development in cities all across the United States of America," he said.  

Arguing that CDBG funds help leverage additional private sector money to create jobs, the mayor of Newton, Massachusetts, Setti Warren, described CDBG as "the lifeblood of citizens and towns." 

"Ladies and gentlemen, we have to engage our members in the House, our members in the Senate, governors, private sector, public sector, not only to say this is irresponsible and can’t stand, but to turn it around," he said.

Although they did not lay out their specific strategy to fight the cuts, the mayors said their hope rests in the Democratic-controlled Senate. The mayors also sidestepped a question about whether they'd like to see a government shutdown over House Republicans' deep cuts. 

But, one Republican mayor, without naming names, said elected officials in Washington just don't get it. 

"To me this is about hypocrisy. It is hypocritical for elected officials in Washington to say they value cities, they value the economy and they value jobs and then create a stimulus package and send it to the states where it never reach the cities," said Mick Cornett, the mayor of Oklahoma City. 

He added, "It’s a little bit lame for us to hear that they’ve got tough choices to make. Let me tell you, you be a mayor for a day and I’ll tell you about tough choices.  This is about priorities and the priorities need to be about the economy and if they start cutting the Community Development Block Grant then they have lost their priorities."

Asked if they are just as upset with President Obama's proposed cuts in his 2012 budget, the mayors said they only want to focus right now on the continuing resolution. 

This is not the first time since President Ford signed the Community Development Block Grant into law that the program has faced dramatic cuts or elimination.  In 2006, President Bush sought to drastically cut the community branch of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  But the mayors said the cuts proposed in this year's H.R.1. would put their ability to create jobs and provide important services to the citizens at risk.  They called CDBG a program that gets results.

"This has been a program that all of us — all of us — can take you and put your hands right on the results of this programs. So we stand together on this," said Southfield, Michigan Mayor Brenda Lawrence.

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