Obama meets US mayors on ‘front lines’ of economc crisis

February 21st, 2009 - 1:49 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Feb 21 (DPA) US President Barack Obama met dozens of the country’s mayors at the White House Friday, promising closer cooperation but urging local authorities to spend a massive new infusion of government funds wisely.
US cities and states have faced huge budget shortfalls in the country’s year-long recession, forcing many to contemplate cutbacks in services just as demand for government benefits is rising.

A $787-billion recovery plan that became law this week includes hundreds of billions of dollars in aid to states as well as investments in infrastructure, education and health that will be up to local governments to implement.

“You’re on the front lines,” of the crisis, Obama told the mayors ahead of a private meeting with the group.

“What I will need from all of you is unprecedented responsibility and accountability,” Obama said, adding he would not hesitate to single out wasteful spending projects by federal or local authorities.

The mayors for their part urged Washington to disburse the funds as quickly as possible to prevent an arrest of government services and said they welcomed Obama’s call for greater accountability.

“We get called out every day at the local level,” Miami Mayor Manni Diaz, an independent, told reporters. “We’re all ready to go. We’ve been ready to go for some time.”

US cities and states have strict financial regulations that forbid deficit spending. They must make “impossible choices”, Obama noted, referring to the alternatives of raising taxes or cutting staff and services.

Obama Thursday created a new White House Office of Urban Affairs to improve coordination with local governments. Obama will meet the country’s governors Sunday.

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