Bloomberg to Obama: Stimulus Aid Should Go Directly to Cities

obama_bloomberg.jpgA face-to-face back in April. Photo: Scoop08.

Yesterday the President-elect unveiled the broad strokes of his economic recovery plan at a DC press event, and Mayor Bloomberg was there to give his response. Bloomberg’s message is critical for the prospects of green transportation in the upcoming stimulus package. Here’s the abbreviated version via Liz Benjamin at the Daily Politics:

I have made the case to his incoming administration that a lot of the resources have to go directly to the cities, which is where these projects will get managed and built.

We’ve said it before and it definitely bears repeating: This is a big opportunity and Obama can’t afford to blow it. If his team is serious about its sustainability goals — and by most accounts the energy portion of the plan is legit — they’ll heed Bloomberg. Directing transportation funds to cities is one of the most effective ways to support transit, bike, and pedestrian infrastructure. The bigger the share cities get, the better. But that’s not what one of the key players, House Appropriations Chair David Obey, has in mind:

Yesterday, Congressman David Obey (D-WI), chairman of the House
Appropriations Committee, stated on National Public Radio that stimulus
funding directed towards transportation infrastructure will be
allocated directly to states to determine how best to use the American
tax dollars.

That’s a recipe for disaster — funneling tens of billions of dollars to highway-builders while starving the agencies that do the most to give people better transportation choices and more livable neighborhoods. On the campaign trail, candidate Obama promised he would talk about cities once in office. Now the inauguration is less than two weeks away. I don’t think it’s too early to say: "Let’s hear it."

  • Jeremy

    Yes, we need to send this money to cities, where sustainable transit projects require serious investment.

    However, what does this mean for a state like NJ, with vast, dense communities with serious transit projects that need funding (ARC, Portal Bridge)?

  • I’m not 100% convinced that there has to be a divide city/state. I think it’s clear there needs to be oversight. I think what we need is a lot more suburban rail almost more than we need new infrastructure in cities. So, the goals should be prop up MTA and other transit agencies in trouble. Repair already built roads and bridges and sidewalks and public transit projects that are crumbling. Then, invest in both new downtown public transit but also Suburban rail that goes right into the center of communities helping further transit oriented development. States do have a role to play in bringing cities and surrounding counties together, they just need limits placed on what they can do with the funds given them.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    How would this work? Feeding the MPOs? What makes a city? Is a Metropolitan area a city? Are suburbs that sit next to each other, yet have vastly different population densities and land-use rules part of the same city because they are contiguous?

  • Are suburbs that sit next to each other, yet have vastly different population densities and land-use rules part of the same city because they are contiguous?

    It’s a good question. Shouldn’t we consider Port Chester part of the same system as Greenwich, since it houses the nannies, maids and dishwashers for Greenwich, and schools their children?

  • Lee Watkins

    montana for example would spend their stimulus paving the logging roads so that all those mountain forests that will become subdivisions for log-cabin mega-mansions.

    So this is the reality that such alternatives as these are being framed in contrast to.

  • gecko

    Great low-cost mobility will be a boon to both cities and non-urban areas as well. Places of wonderful natural beauty, many of the depressed areas of New York State would benefit terrifically from easy inexpensive travel which would be a boon to local state-wide tourism already growing as a result of the current difficult economic times.

  • JK

    It’s far fetched that the congress will agree on sensible criteria for distributing transportation stimulus money within the next month. Therefore, how about a simple formula based on population, with the 250 (500?) largest cities — as defined by the census — getting money directly via an expanded Urban Partnership block grant process. In most places, the MPOs are little more than forums for a fight between center city and suburban interests and are powerless.

    Judging from the 19 state wish lists submitted so far, cities are doing quite poorly. The very conservative State DOTs compiling the lists are trying to revisit the 1950’s. Generally it appears that transit agencies are seen as a surrogate for urban streets initiatives. As a result, bike/ped is being left out. Here in NY, the state’s wish list provides nearly nothing for NYC streets, or basic street and bridge maintenance. There are zero city agency projects. Lastly, the feds should be willing to spend a pile on transit operating assistance. Nationally that will translate directly and rapidly into more bus service and lower fares.

  • Angela

    I think that if Mayor Bloomberg is talking about “cities” meaning him I really do not think it should . Instead the president elect should give the city the money with a condition that a majority of it go toward people struggling and not just in the hands of our esteemed city council to play political game with the money.

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