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Biden pledges seat at the table for city governments

Biden pledges seat at the table for city governments
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President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Biden transition adds new members to coronavirus task force MORE told city leaders Friday that the doors of his White House would be open to them as they struggle through the coronavirus pandemic that has so deeply impacted both their communities and their fiscal stability.

In brief, prerecorded remarks to a virtual meeting of the National League of Cities annual conference, Biden said he recognized the strain the pandemic has placed on local governments and local health systems.

“American cities are on the front lines of all of these crises,” Biden said. “You’re not getting the support you need to be able to keep paying your teachers, your fire fighters, your first responders.”

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Earlier this week, Biden name Julie Chavez Rodriguez, the deputy manager of his presidential campaign, as the incoming administration’s director of intergovernmental affairs, a job that usually serves as the go-between connecting the federal government with local and state leaders. He pledged Friday to work with cities across the country, regardless of how they voted in the 2020 presidential election.

“There are no red cities, there are no blue cities, there are only American cities, American states. Period. I mean that,” Biden said. “You have a seat at my table in the White House when I’m sworn in. I genuinely mean it.”

Cities say they are running short of funds during the pandemic, and Congressional Republicans have balked at new payments to state and local governments as part of a new round of coronavirus relief legislation.

“The need for immediate relief has never been more apparent. I think you’re going to see a combination of short-term requests like financial stability going alongside longer-term projects like infrastructure investments,” said Andy Berke, the Democratic mayor of Chattanooga, Tenn. “If our country is to succeed, then we need our municipalities to have the resources and the tools that are necessary.”

Some city leaders said they had not gotten the same treatment from the outgoing Trump administration.

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“It’s pretty important to have an administration that wants to work with cities. That in and of itself is very significant, even if it’s at this stage nonspecific,” said David Holt, the Republican mayor of Oklahoma City. “Mayors and cities were the rhetorical whipping boys for this administration over the last four years. And that was deeply unfortunate. That was an unfortunate choice and it probably cost [President TrumpDonald John TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge MORE] the election.”

Stephanie Piko, the Republican mayor of Centennial, Colo., said she had been pleased with the amount of access she had in Trump’s White House, and that she hoped that would continue during the Biden years.

“I would hope that the door would be just as open as it was in the previous administration. The current Trump administration was very available to us as elected officials,” Piko said.

Cities will likely push Biden and Congress to come up with an infrastructure package in the coming months, after promises of a focus on infrastructure went unfulfilled in recent years.

“We would love to see movement on an infrastructure package,” Holt said. “We are in the longest infrastructure week in human history.”

Biden, speaking on his 78th birthday, addressed city leaders just two weeks after the 50th anniversary of his own time in local government. Biden was sworn into his first elected office, a seat on the New Castle County Commission, on Nov. 4, 1970.