LOS ANGELES—Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, newly elected president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said recently, “Our government needs to do what families across America have done … start living within its means.” Yet his peers hope for more federal money.
With the debt ceiling stubbornly stuck, all eyes are watching night and day to see whether the federal, and thereafter the states, would be operating after Aug. 2. During the Conference of Mayors Leadership Meeting, presided over by Villaraigosa from July 21–23, mayors demanded the release of federal funds to put people to work.
Federal and local officials and experts from the private sector presented various important national and municipal issues and solutions in several panels.
California, for example, is ranked 49th among the 50 states for its road surfaces. Improvements need to be made. Maintenance is generally paid from fuel taxes and general fund contributions from federal and state governments. However, funding has not kept up with demands for more public transit, the deterioration of highways, and rising maintenance costs nationwide.
States are lobbying the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to release funds to maintain and rebuild their transportation and interstate highway systems. This is critical for creating jobs, potentially 300,000 of them. Though the jobs are short-term, they could still stimulate the economy and improve critical transportation systems.
The conference brought in specialists who told success stories of cities increasing their exports to other countries and developing jobs as a result. One panelist stood out: Dominic Ng, born in Hong Kong, is the chairman and president of East West Bancorp Inc.
“Find some good consultants,” said Ng, seeming excited to share his international experiences. He asked, “Are there areas where there are high concentrations of Koreans, Chinese, Taiwanese, or Viets in your city?” He said these “local businessmen are importing products for consumption into these submarkets in your city.” He said they can be excellent partners to the city and business community to help develop contacts in other countries for exports.
According to Ng, it is very important that government and business officials understand the business culture, practices, etc., of other nations, and what opportunities there may be to provide goods or services from your city’s businesses to other countries.
Ng said that in the 1980s Japan was buying commercial and other real estate assets across the United States. He said, “It did not have adverse affects on our economy.” It’s no different with what we are seeing with the Chinese and other foreign purchasers currently, according to him.
Ng said that a foreign businessman in one transaction bought a large commercial property and was very pleased with the results. A solid business relationship was developed and it became a very successful venture for everyone involved.
He said there are many positive stories, but it’s necessary to follow up and develop contacts to make things happen.
Mayor Vincent Gray of Washington, D.C., talked to The Epoch Times. He digressed from the conference agenda and said, “We still don’t have democracy (representation) in Congress.”
The mayor’s contention is that Congress is micromanaging the district’s budget and setting city policy, which Gray said “violated the rights of his city.”Gray and his city council wanted to make a statement, and were arrested and jailed by federal police for going to Congress on April 11 to represent the city and have Congress reverse several policies. According to the group, the congressional policies mandated how DC could spend its budget, which could not happen to any other city. They were released that evening.
Washington, D.C., is unique in the nation because it is not in a state, and therefore does not have a voting congressional representative. Many mayors and city or district officials have tried to win greater representation for their constituents.