Frustrated mayors hope Rahm Emanuel will have Obama's ear

The Chicago mayoral election results Tuesday weren’t just a triumph for Rahm Emanuel; they were also a victory for mayors across the country.

Many mayors have been critical of cuts in President Obama's proposed budget, and some of them are hoping his former chief of staff will lobby the White House on the needs of local communities.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors, which consists of mayors of cities with populations of 30,000 or more, is eager to work with Emanuel as soon as he is sworn in as Chicago mayor on May 16. With budget battles looming, the group hopes that Emanuel’s influence on the White House and Capitol Hill will significantly advance its agenda.
"After years in Congress and especially after getting to know the president on a personal level as his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel will, no question, be an invaluable member of our conference,” Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter told The Hill.

"He definitely understands the issues that we face, particularly improving infrastructure in cities, which is where all of the jobs are,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said. “Many people in cities are out of work because there isn't enough funding for construction projects anymore. So if we can get more funding for that sector, it will boost the national economy."
The mayors held a news conference in Washington Thursday to criticize the House Republican spending bill that would slash $4 billion of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. The mayors say that would be a reduction of more than 60 percent.

Obama also proposed to cut the program, but only by 7.5 percent. The mayors argue that CDBG is imperative for maintaining cities’ infrastructures and social development.

"This is the worst possible time to cut direct funding to cities. ... In fact, by the end of this year, more than 100 metropolitan areas are projected to still have double-digit unemployment,” USCM President and Burnsville, Minn., Mayor Elizabeth Kautz said in a statement earlier this month.

While the mayors on Thursday focused on the House Republican bill, some of them have publicly ripped Obama's budget. Critics have noted that Obama was a community organizer in Chicago, and pointed out his previous plans have been far more supportive of funding for cities.

Obama has said some of the cuts in his budget were difficult to endorse. 

In an interview with Governing magazine after Obama issued his budget plan, Akron Mayor Donald Plusquellic expressed disappointment: “I think it’s not fair, it’s not right, and these problems we address with the money are not going to go away."

The National League of Cities and other groups also lambasted the president's blueprint.

Although the mayors have not consulted with Emanuel on any particular issues yet, they are eager to begin soon.
“I haven’t had a chance to speak with him about our agenda yet — I’m still tracking down a number to call him personally so that I can congratulate him,” Nutter said. “But I did send him a congratulatory tweet to let him know that we are very excited about working with him.”