Obama meets with mayors about stimulus

February 20, 2009 5:50:09 PM PST
Mayors from San Francisco, Oakland and Newark are in Washington, D.C. to find out how much they'll get from President Barack Obama's $787 billion stimulus package. The president is warning all the nation's mayors that they had better spend the money wisely.SIGN-UP: Get breaking news sent to you

Eight in 10 cities are currently experiencing a budget shortfall, including San Francisco and Oakland. Eighty-five mayors met with the president on Friday. Among them were Gavin Newsom of San Francisco, Ron Dellums of Oakland and David Smith of Newark. All had the same question about the stimulus package: What's in it for me?

President Obama is using a carrot and stick approach with the nation's mayors.

"You shouldn't have to succeed despite Washington, you should succeed with a hand from Washington," said Obama.

That's the carrot -- a promise from Washington, backed by billions of dollars, that help is on the way. The president even singled out some mayors for praise, Newsom.

"Instead of just talking about health care, mayors like Gavin Newsom in San Francisco have made sure that those in need receive it," said Obama.

The president also waved a stick at the mayors, warning them that this precious taxpayer money they will be receiving must be spent in a way "free from politics and personal agendas."

The mayors, including Newsom, say they welcome the president's warning.

"It focuses people's attention, and in politics our attention sometimes wanders. So this is an opportunity in the next two or three months to get very serious because it can play a huge role in detemining the direction of a lot of American cities," said Newsom. "If a federal agency proposes a project that will waste that money, I will not hesitate to call them out on it and put a stop to it. I want everybody here to be on notice that if a local government does the same I will call them out on it," said Obama.

This gathering could be described as the gold rush in reverse, with mayors heading east to find treasure, and there's treasure to be had.

Last Tuesday the treasury secretary committed up to $1 trillion for the nation's banks. On Tuesday, Obama signed his nearly $800 billion stimulus plan. Then on Wednesday, the president unveiled his $275 billion mortgage rescue plan. It hasn't been enough, at least not for Wall Street investors.

"Investors are not convinced that these programs are going to work, that they're going to be enough. In the meantime, the news in the economy has been very bad and they just don't see the light at the end of the tunnel," said Alan Skrainka, chief investment strategist for Edward Jones.

As part of the president's goal of transparency on this stimulus money, you can find out where exactly that money is going to by visitingwww.recovery.gov/.

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