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Mayors call for $10 billion infrastructure jobs program.

"Baltimore and other cities have held out along for over ten years against an onslaught of urban problems . . . We managed to do all this with reasonable success until the recession hit. But this painful recession, combined with sharp cutbacks in federal support, has thrown Baltimore and other cities into an economic crisis," began Mayor Kurt Schmoke in a day of eloquent calls for federal assistance to fund public works jobs and aid the anemic economy.

Three city colleagues - NLC Second Vice President Mayor Sharpe James of Newark; Transportation & Communications Vice Chair Mayor Sharon Priest of Little Rock and Mayor Peggy Rubach of Mesa, Ariz. - joined Mayor Schmoke to endorse HR 4175, a $10 billion infusion of federal dollars that would fund public works jobs throughout the nation.

Testifying on behalf of NLC and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the four mayors endorsed HR 4175 as an economic stimulus to help cities move beyond the recession and urged its adoption.

Schmoke described HR 4175 as "an economic development bill that will help cities recover, and a human development bill that will help me and other mayors keep our cities safer and more livable."

Highlighting a day of poignant testimony by four unemployed private citizens devastated by the economic downturn and the loss of jobs to cheaper overseas labor markets, the mayors told of unemployment in their cities and the need for Congressional leadership to put people back to work.

In Little Rock, Mesa, Baltimore, Newark, and communities throughout the nation, unemployment, defense cutbacks and structural changes in the economy demand drastic steps, the city officials told the House panel.

The emotionally charged stories of the four private citizens were enough to win support from at least one member of the committee. Rep. Helen Bentley (R-Md.), joined Committee Chair Robert Roe (D-N.J.) as a cosponsor of HR 4175 following their testimony. "I know the Republicans have been holding out on you," said Bentley, as she gave her endorsement of the bill.

"For those who have questioned [the expenditure of $10 billion] I would respond . . . that it is so much more expensive to do nothing at all," Mayor James testified.

Noting the difficulty in raising taxes "from citizens feeling the pinch of the economy," Mayor Priest said that often infrastructure projects are the first to get cut. All the mayors pointed out that without proper investment in the infrastructure, a community's entire quality of life deteriorates.

In addition, public investment in infrastructure leverages private investment. "When the public sector builds roads, the private sector builds homes, offices, and companies; hires workers; and pays taxes," said Mayor Schmoke.

Mayor Rubach, facing a potential loss of thousands of Mesa citizens from the closing of Williams Air Force base next year, noted that her city is fortunate to "have some resources to help us adjust to this major change - many other communities are not so lucky."

Rep. John Paul Hammerschmidt (R-Ark.), ranking Republican on the committee and cosponsor of the bill, noted his regret that the administration does not support HR 4175 and promised his efforts to win their support.
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Author:Wollack, Leslie
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Mar 23, 1992
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