Bloomberg Vows to Get Feds Out of the Way of Local Infrastructure Projects

January 23, 2020 by Dan McCue
Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg speaks at the Greenwood Cultural Center in Tulsa, Okla., Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

WASHINGTON — Speaking before the U.S. Conference of Mayors Wednesday, former New York City mayor and current Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg promised local leaders will always have “a seat at the table” if he is elected president.

Particularly when it comes to deciding how and where money is spent to dramatically upgrade the nation’s failing infrastructure.

“It’s no secret that I’m a big believer in the power of cities and communities to drive change,” Bloomberg said on the first day of the conference’s winter meeting at the Capitol Hilton.

“If I become president, I promise you the doors to the White House will be open to mayors, because the policies that the president designs are often implemented not at the state level, but at the local level,” he said.

“I want your ideas, I want your feedback on what’s happening on the ground, and I want you to have the authority and resources to drive change … mayors and local leaders [will] be part of my unofficial kitchen cabinet on all of the big issues facing our country,” he added.

Bloomberg then turned to his proposal to allocate $850 billion over ten years to fund capital investments in roads, bridges, freight and other infrastructure.

After taking a shot at President Donald Trump — “there seems to be only one construction project that he cares about, and it’s a border wall that is a political gimmick” – Bloomberg elaborated.

“We need to invest more money in infrastructure … but mayors understand that money is only part of the problem,” he said.

“The fact is, even relatively simple projects take much too long and mayors don’t have enough say in what gets funded. Most of the federal funding that local communities need is funneled through state governments who often tap into those funds to pay for other things – like their own budget deficits. That’s not right, and we will fix it,” Bloomberg vowed.

“In fact, I’ll work with Congress to make sure the next Transportation Authorization Bill requires states to distribute 100 percent of federal infrastructure funds intended for cities and towns to cities and towns,” he said.

Bloomberg also said he believes he and his advisors have come up with an approach to infrastructure improvements that will be “smarter, faster, safer, and greener … And that includes putting more power in the hands of mayors and local leaders.”

“I’ll also create a national capital budget dedicated to long-term local infrastructure projects,” he said. “That way, mayors and local leaders can begin important projects knowing that there will be money to finish them.

“We’ll also make it easier for communities to borrow to invest in the future. We’ll offer local governments federal loans for key infrastructure projects at 1 percent interest. And we’ll expand Rebuild America Bonds and other tools that will open up access to private funding,” he said.

Bloomberg’s infrastructure plan also calls for the creation of a new financing corporation with $100 billion in annual Treasury credit to promote projects that address climate change and help build community resilience.

The candidate said he will apply metrics to assess the needs of local communities, awarding federal support to those dedicated to making the most progress.

“Right now, states can apply for federal funding for new projects, without having to show that they are taking care of their existing infrastructure,” Bloomberg said. “I’ll require states to set benchmarks for maintenance and repair, and submit report cards on their progress. We did that for schools in New York City – and it helped increase graduation rates by 43 percent. We’ll allocate funding for new projects based on how well states are maintaining what they already have.

“In other words, we’ll reward based on performance, just like any business does,” he said.

Reflecting on his years as mayor of New York City, Bloomberg recalled how his administration created a long-term plan to prepare the city for the future.

“We called it PlaNYC,” he said.

“We invested $2.7 billion in a new water tunnel to ensure safe, clean water for the future. We built the city’s first bus rapid transit lanes, and more than 400 miles of bike lanes. And we led the first city-funded extension of America’s largest urban train system in more than 50 years,” he said, explaining some of its particulars.

“When we left office, our carbon footprint had shrunk by 13 percent, far outpacing the national average. The number of jobs was at a record high. The air was cleaner than it had been in more than 50 years. And New Yorkers were living three years longer than they were when we entered office,” he said,

“We can make that kind of progress across this whole country,” Bloomberg concluded.

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