Thursday, January 8, 2009

Congress: Support MainStreet Economic Recovery

President-elect Barack Obama issued a call to save or create 3 million jobs and to jumpstart our economy. The U.S. Conference of Mayors, which I preside, answered the President-elect’s call. We have released the MainStreet Economic Recovery plan, which would create over one million jobs during the next two years.
Mayors all over the country have sent their delegations in Congress letters urging them to support the USCM plan. Below please find the letter I sent to all Florida Representatives and Senators in Washington, D.C.

Florida Congressional Delegation
Washington, D.C.

Dear Representatives and Senators:

I write to you today to urge you to support in an economic recovery package that calls for investment in America’s Main Streets. America’s mayors strongly endorse President-Elect Obama’s call for a massive economic recovery package that creates/saves 3 million jobs over the next two years, and that invests in sustainable, energy-saving infrastructure. In today’s world, it is Mayors who lead the metro economies that drive the nation. These metro economies now account for 86 percent of national employment, 90 percent of labor income, and 90 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Therefore, if we are going to reverse the current economic situation and create jobs, the quickest, most efficient way to do so is to invest in these “Main Street” economies.

The United States Conference of Mayors, an organization that I preside, has worked over the last several months to craft a MainStreet Economic Recovery that will create jobs now, improve the infrastructure that the private sector needs to succeed, help the small businesses of Main Street America, and have lasting economic and environmental benefits. Our plan focuses on existing programs such as the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG), Surface Transportation Program (STP), water and wastewater grants.

On December 19, the Conference of Mayors released its 3rd “Ready to Go” survey of 643 cities of all sizes in all regions of the country ( These cities have identified over 15,000 infrastructure projects as “ready to go.” These projects represent an infrastructure investment of almost $97 billion, capable of producing over 1.2 jobs in 2009 and 2010.

As Congress works with the President-Elect to craft an economic recovery program, let me try to address what might be concerns of those who may not understand cities and their capacity as public works engines.

Get the shovels in the dirt quickly. Cities are public works organizations. We are always building and rebuilding our infrastructure and community assets: sidewalks, community centers, gymnasiums, water systems, schools, roads (usually complete streets), a multitude of municipal buildings serving a multitude of purposes, and much, much more. We have on staff people who oversee contracts put out for bid and supervise construction of the widest array of public works projects. We also know how to use the design/build approach, an acceptable and efficient way of getting projects done more quickly than normal.

A process involving cities could easily be managed. The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program already exists and every year the federal government directly allocates funds to cities over 50,000 people. That database is available. For the economic stimulus, immediate communication with cities would easily be established. The guidelines could be stipulated and cities could start planning and be ready to spend the money immediately-- “use it or lose it” would apply. Just as with the CDBG system, a percentage of the money could be allocated to the state or to the Metropolitan Planning Organizations to be used for smaller communities. They would likewise be challenged to begin their projects immediately.

The need for American cities. There is no city in America that does not have a long list of infrastructure improvements and capital projects needs. Most cities have had their capital budgets stressed and their repair and maintenance budgets overwhelmed. Most cities have always planned for the future and have a substantial list of desired and community-backed improvements. To make an unprecedented investment in public infrastructure and not use this vehicle would be a wasted opportunity.

The economic downturn, the likes of which our country has not faced since the Great Depression, has created a lack of confidence in the American people. We need to restore their sense of hope. One way to accomplish this is to show them that in their local communities, projects are underway, jobs are being created. They will be witness to our investment, they will be able to benefit from it, they will know that things have started to turn around. Basically, to have all these monies go to state highway departments for road rebuilding or resurfacing, most of which will be invisible to neighborhoods, certainly in our cities, will not give the sense of hope and encouragement that our citizens need.

I stand ready to work with you to make sure that a Main Street Economic Recovery package creates/saves 3 million jobs, promotes energy independence, and rebuilds our great Nation.


Manuel A. Diaz