I strongly believe, based upon my conversations with him and with his staff, that our next President has an understanding of what cities need and is committed to advancing the progress of America’s cities.
The economic recovery package now being discussed by President-elect Barack Obama and Congress will kick-start our economy by putting people to work immediately on projects that we need-projects that will have long-term benefit as we rebuild our national economy and our cities-projects that will provide lots of jobs.
For this effort to have immediate impact, funding needs to go directly to the entities that are prepared to spend it quickly-on projects that have been on our drawing boards for a while but have languished because we do not have the money.
I have been working closely with the Conference of Mayors to make the case that cities are “ready to go” and to list the projects that we could begin quickly if funding becomes available.
I have also been working with the City’s aldermen on issues of concern in their neighborhoods, and with agencies like the Great Rivers Greenway District and the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission to identify important projects within the City that are not technically “municipal” projects.
Working together, we have submitted a list to the Conference of Mayors that includes nearly two and a half billion dollars for nearly 150 projects in the City limits that are “ready to go”.
Here are some of them:
- Expanding the Metro system.
- Improving our major streetscapes with new sidewalks, new traffic signals and new energy- efficient lighting to make them safer for pedestrians, people with disabilities, and vehicular traffic.
- Eliminating lead hazards in our public schools.
- Expanding our network of bicycle and pedestrian “greenways” to improve access to recreation and healthy living opportunities and to attract more visitors.
- Making our convention center a model for energy efficiency.
- Preparing sites and infrastructure for the development of new businesses on the north riverfront and in the CORTEX life sciences business park.
- Converting the City’s fleet to energy-efficient fuel systems.
- Addressing MSD’s combined sewer overflow problems with a project that paves the way for more development in north St. Louis and starting to make our alleys “green”.
- Replacing the rest of the City’s obsolete and dangerous bridges with new structures that are safe and attractive for pedestrians and cyclists as well as cars and trucks.
And lots of other important projects.
We are not talking about a bailout. Cities and states are going to have to deal with the revenue shortfalls caused by the recession.
Instead, we are talking about federal investments in infrastructure, transportation, green technologies, education, and public safety that will create good jobs, improve the quality of life in our communities, and start to reverse the current economic decline.
These are investments that we need to make anyway. Let’s make them now to jump-start the economy.
Washington has bailed out Wall Street to the tune of $700 billion (and counting upward towards a number that starts with a “t”) and hopes its investment will eventually be returned to the taxpayer. Ready-to-go infrastructure projects, like the ones I am proposing, will immediately employ people here in St. Louis and support hundreds of small and not-so-small businesses throughout the City.
If you have President Obama’s ear - or the cell phone number of your member of Congress - speak up.