These are not easy times, but I can guarantee they would be a lot tougher if Barack Obama had not been elected President. When you look at all the challenges we face–stagnant economy, foreclosures, the list goes on— it means a lot to have partners in the new Administration.
In the past couple months I have been in a series of meetings with officials in the Administration and Congress, and can already see a dramatic improvement in how we can partner with Washington to get help to Minneapolis.
One of the most interesting was a meeting with several other Mayors and the new Sec. of Transportation, Ray LaHood. Also there was the Adolfo Carrion. the new White House director of urban affairs. They wanted our thoughts on how to pass a new transportation bill that reflects and helps fund the transportation innovations already underway in cities. I was really struck by how they weren’t just thinking about these issues in a silo….much of the conversation was about how new transit can spur the economy, help focus growth so we have less sprawl, impact the climate.
The points I made focused in a couple areas: getting metro areas to work together and using transit to impact land use. I used the example of the Urban Partnership, the grant our region applied for and won because we found ways for the city and the suburbs to work together. (This is the $133 million being used to start bus rapid transit from Lakeville into downtown, and is paying for remaking Marquette and Second Avs. into transit corridors.) My suggestion was that they continue funding projects like this—wouldn’t it be great to do this along I-94 to Woodbury, across the new 35W bridge into Roseville and Forest Lake–but not just stop at transit. Include resources to help communities site new housing at the transit stops.
They met with us for more than two hours, which was pretty remarkable considering what’s on their plate. Even better, they invited us to come back later this month and I’ll keep talking about ways we can bring these dollars back home.
I also had two meetings yesterday that showed even more how much better our partnership is with Washington. The first was with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and the second was with Melody Barnes, who heads the White House Domestic Policy Council. I was there in my role as Vice-chair of the Democratic Mayors Association, and used the meetings to talk about how in Minneapolis we are pioneering programs that could be models for their national work—the Green Jobs Institute, the Youth Violence Prevention program, the Minneapolis Promise, etc. They showed real interest in these and my hope is they will partner with us as we try to keep growing this work in tough times.
It was also good to hear the Speaker, whose father was the Mayor of Balitmore, speak with so much depth about cities. And it has been great to hear people at all levels of the new Administration, know so much about the issues we face, and spend so much time trying to find how to help. Believe me: This is a REAL difference
Talking is nice but the best part is they are putting their money where their mouth is. In the past few months we have been able to bring in more than $14 million from the federal government to work on foreclosure alone…and we are working fast to make sure we get resources for public safety, energy and job creation.
These may be tough times but there is a world of improvement in our partnership with those in D.C.
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