Local governments pull up a chair to the table
As Congress was working on the nearly $1 trillion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, local governments were enjoying a closer relationship with the new administration that gave them a clear voice in the nation’s economic recovery efforts.
Several local government associations, including the Washington-based U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), have been pressing Obama to include funding for “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects in his economic stimulus plan. USCM representatives, including USCM President and Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, met with White House advisers on Feb. 4, as the Senate was considering its version of the bill, to discuss the legislation.
Obama also has appointed sitting and former local and state government officials to key roles in his administration. They include King County, Wash., Executive Ron Sims — tapped to be deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development — and Boulder, Colo., Mayor Shaun McGrath and David Agnew, a former deputy to Charleston, S.C., Mayor Joseph Riley, as deputy directors for the newly created Office of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs (OPL-IGA). Like the now-defunct Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, OPL-IGA aims to foster federal and local cooperation.
OPL-IGA Director Valerie Jarrett is a former deputy chief of staff for Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. At the USCM Winter Meeting in January, she asked the gathered officials for help in implementing ARRA. “We understand that cities are the economic engines of the country,” she said. “You are the experts. We want to be partners in the process.”