tv Newsmakers CSPAN June 19, 2011 6:00pm-6:30pm EDT
freedom, that we stood where duty required for us to stand. and together, we have reaffirmed america. let us follow these words. as i look around the room, i rest assured that we as young americans truly understand the burdens and blessings of freedom, the historians will say where we store -- that we stood where duty required for us to stand, and that we've relied on the strength of our communities to form a better america. thank you very much. . .
[captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2011] [captioning performed by national captioning institute] >> and this is c-span's "newsmakers" program, with the u.s. conference of mayors meeting in baltimore, we thought thishis is the news makersgr program. we have twoam of america's leading mayors, michael nutter is the mayor ofd philadelphia,mi a democrat and nick cornett, mayor of s
oklahoma city. wsmake." also joining us is our press panel. lisa mascaro is a reporter with the "los angeles times." if the i could start with a general question. kind of building on what you were saying in the -- we had a taped press conference, mayor nutter, right fore we came onto this live program. how dependent are u.s. cities on congress and the federal government at this point? and we'll start with you, mayor nutter, and then -- >> the federal government plays a significant rolend affects cities and states all across america. the federal budget obviously is huge. many departments and agencies directly fund programs and services to states and in some instances directly to cities and so when the federal government makes cuts, or when they invest, you can see the difference right on the ground in cities and states all across america. >> well, we're at the bottom of
the funding stream. cities operate within the enabling legislation set up by the federal and the state governments. so we have to follow both sets of rules and so every city is different. that's why a lot of times it's ditch difficult to compare one city's situation with another city in a different state. in general also our citizens are taxed at the federal level and that taxatn is money that's not available in our cities because it's going to washington. part of our job is to make sure that that money is spent back in our respective cities for t benefit of our services. >> lisa, "los angeles times." >> hi, thanks. you know, we were interested in what's happening up at the mayor's conference this weekend in baltimore and the word out of there is that you are getting ready this resolution on the war. withdrawing fund from the afghanistan war and using that fo other purposes. i think is the way it's said. this is, as we understand it, e first time since the vietnam war that the mayor's conference has taken a position like this. why are you doing this and with all the problems happening in
cities, all the issues of funding, you know, is this the place to be puttingour efforts? the war? >> as you can imagine, with national organization, democrat and reblican mayors, although in many instances we don't know the party of some of our mayors because it's really not much of an issue at the local level, this is one of probably 100 or so resolutions. i think the general view is there's a lot of money going to pay for the rs, we should of course support our troops, but if some of those efforts were scaled back and certainly president obama has laid out a plan for withdrawing troops and lessening the impact, but the theory is of course if less money was being spent overseas there would be more domestic spending going on and that would positive effect cities and states. it's one of easily 100-plus resolutions that a national organization might consider taking up.
>> i just tend to think it's more complex than just pulling out of war and spending money in the united states. when you're in the executive branch, whether it's at the city, state or federal level, you have access to information and opinions that the rest of us are never going to have. i suspect it's not all that easy to end a war and pull it out and start putting money in other areas. however, if we're talking about rebuilding cities in eastern afghanistan or rebuilding american city i'm for rebuilding american cities. >> let's talk about what's >> let's talk about what's happening here in washington as well. congress is in the beginning of its appropriations seas, starting to look at funding for the federal government for the 2012 fiscal year. what we're seeing from that, the house of representatives, is a lot of spending cuts coming through the annual appropriations bills. across all the federal ageies, very similar to sort of what we saw in the 2011 sort of final budget that was put together, spending cut. what do both of you mayors see coming out of washington in these cuts? are these the kind of cuts that
will be impacting your cities or not? >> well, there's no question that they will. as you referenced, the final agreement between the congress and the president for f.y. 2011 was just in place a couple of months ago, it clearly had a direct impact on our cities, a 16% reduction in community development block grant funds, development block grant funds, what we always refer to as cdbg. that will result in less affordable housing being built, some amount of layoffs at the local level because some jobs are funded by that source. homes funds, another funding source from the federal government, so, you know, government, so, you know, sometimes the legislators in their efforts may not actually know the end result of their actions in washington and how they ripple out all across the united states of america. these programs create jobs and spur private investment. you take a dollar of cdbg and you can leverage that two, three, four times and really
enliven the area that is being affected. having fewer of those dollars at some level really doesn't make a whole lot of sense. >> one of the reasons we're so exrective of cdbg is it's money directly to cities. one of the biggest problems with the stimulus pacge was the money went to the states and it never made it to the cities. and we have so many transportation issues, so many infrastructure sthoose could have benefited from that stimulus money if the money had goneirectly to cities. so that's why cdbg fund something so important to us. mayors at our local level know best how to spend those dollars and put people back to work. >> weeved made that case consistently. >> whyo you think that cdbg has never been terribly politically popular across the board? >> well, it's been politically popular for mayors. popular for mayors. >> right, but --
>> because if you're elected to a federal position, yod like to get the credit for a federal program. if you're at the state position you'd like to get credit for a state position. at the city level, i can tell you, those cdbg dollars have gone directly to job creation and economic development in oklahoma city and i can give you handful of examples of how impactful they've been and how $1 can turn into $2 and $3 and $4 and $5. >> but i think it's also indicative of the fact that in many cases members of congress are so disconnectedrom what really goes on the ground. you know, this is apparently a bit of a bubble here. they all talk to each other and there are things going on back home that decisions that mick and i have to make are day to day. they really affect people on a regular basis. we have this conversation going on which is theoretical in washington. we deal with reality back home. so, you know, it's kind of interesting that sometimes members of congress actually go to groundbreakin and ribbon cuttings for program that were funded by the same programs that they'rnow talking about cutting. i mean, it really doesn't make
any sense and it is a disinvestment in america, the clip you were talking about was what i said the other day about in the aftermath of the great recession we're now seeing a great retreat from cities and local governments and that's what the federal government in some instances is going. >> next question. >> for your viewers to understand on this, the mayor of oklahoma city has also been, you pretty much bucked your party on this, on the community grants. i think that's something that here in washington, it's been more of a bipartisan issue and you have stood up and said, this is something that needs to be done and in the broader context of the stimulus plan, one of the reasons it was so poorly distributed -- distributed, my memory is right, because a lot of the funds were distributed by the formula of the highway fund so they could get it out the door quickly and then it wasn't based on need,t was trying to be fair to everybody which in retrospect probably wasn't the smartest thing. you had mentioned taking money from the wars, reinvesting them. that moves it from one pile to
another pile. everybody is talking deficit reduction now, so, that really isn't going to happen, we're going to end up cutting at some point. what cuts worry you most? i think both of you benefit from defense contracting in your cities. what part of the cuts do you think they ought to be careful not to go too deep on? >> they need to be redirecting dollars to infrastructure. the deferred maintenance on the frath infrastructure is alarming. the nation that we're about to hand off to our children and grandchildren is not stainable. so any dollar that we can take on another spending program or another spending entity and spend it on infrastructure is going to be well spent. >> the other thing that i think many people y not realize, unlike our cities or even states, the federal government has no capital budt. so you wait until something bad happens and then rush to go fix it. you can't run a government without a capital budget, knowing what you're going to invest in over the course of the next five to six years. that's the way we do it at the local level and you really have
to take the longer term view. whether it's infrastructure, roads, bridges, helping with construction projects, buildings or schools and the like, again, the federal government can play a significant role in areas all across the country and when you're talking about cuts, you know, it's over on the side that affects cities where most of the cuts are being made. i had find it hard to believe, given the size of the federal government and what they do, that there aren't a couple of other areas that they certainly could be looking at that are legitimate. not, you know, you have people with this eerie, they have all this waste, fraud and abuse. ok, why don't we cut that? we won't find a waste, fraud and abuse line in the budget. but certainly there have to be some efficiencies that can be captured and let those dollars be spent locally. >> it's all about the jobs and i assume the infrastructure jobs have bigger multiplires but as i looked at both of your -- as much as i could find on your stimulus spending that's already happened, some of it in philadelphia, which may or may not have been directly under
your watch, was $17 million for bike paths. does that kind of thing really create jobs or is it a equality of life -- quality of life? >> it's really both. when you have more and more bike paths, i mean, we have more people who commute to work by bike than virtually any other city in the united states of america. one, you're helping to clean the air, in many instances you're cutting down on congestion wch is allowing folks to get around quicker. someone has to do that work to create that path and other infrastructure improvements that get made. so it's not just a nice thing t do. it's actually helping with the overall environment in the city of philadelphia. >> let's talk about the other side of the equation. cuts are certainly on the table here in washington and a big rt of the conversation in washington. the deficit is obviously unsustainable and lawmakers are very interested on cutting the budget but on the other side of the ledger is revenues and both of you have taken very interesting stands on taxes. in oklahoma city, again, sort of
bucking your party and going for a tax increase to do development in oklahoma city and in philadelphia, what you're going through right now, trying to fill a budget shorthole. what is the role of tax what is the role of tax increases in helping cities in this time and try to flip that back onto the federal government. there are deficit negotiations going on right now in washington, taking about -- talking about whether or not taxes should be on the table as part of deficit reduction. the republican party has said no taxes on the table. the democrats are looking at some ways to increase revenue. >> what we've done in oklahoma city is had voter referendums so our citizens can actually choose their level of taxation. so our property taxes are voted on, all of our sales taxes are voted on and the tax incase was replacing a retiring tax so it kept the capacity at the same. but we're rebuilding the entire inner city. we believe in investing in the
quality of life and indeed the -- >> you can do that without a tax base, without a new tax? >> well, the taxes have expired, when we put a sales tax in place, at least the ones in our generation, they have an expiration date on them and as they disappear, we gback to our voters with a new idea and if they like the idea they extend the tax and so our sales tax is at 8.375%. our property taxes are very, relow. but the renaissance is taking place in oklahoma city that's largely responsible for the nation's lowest unemployment rate, 4.5%. are the result of us investing in ourselves and creating a high quality of life that the young, highly educated 20 somethings of the world are gravitating toward. that's hawaii the entrepreneurs and job creaters are so successful because we're able to attract the human capital. we do it with tax initiatives but our citizens vote on them. they decide their level of taxation. >> ocourse the unique thing about america is everyone wants service but no one wants to pay for it. the only reason that we've had
recent tax increases which have been temporary in nature is cause of the great recession. i mean, when your revenues are dropping like a rock and people unfortunately losing their jobs, businesses going out of business, revenues go away, you still have to pick up the trash. you still have to fill pot holes, pus police officers on the street, firefighters, have rec centers and libraries open. i've been the low tax guy, my entire political career in philadelphia, but sometimes you just have to do what you have to do, explain it to the voters, know they won't like it, but they do want those services every day. those taxes will expire. i don't know when we'll get back. it will be a long time before we get back to revenue levels of, you know, pre-2008. but at moment the budget is stage in phillidelphia. our recent challenge has been over on the school side, making sure that the independent school district has the funds that it needs to provide a high quality education for our young people.
>> what's the biggest expense for your city? >> biggest exence? public safet >> and how big is philadelphia city budget? >> $3.8 billion. on the general fund side. we have a little over 20,000 employees, but the public safy sector, not just the police but police, fire, prisons, local prosecutor, district attorney, court system, clearly is the overall big leader in the city government budget. >> mayor cornett, oklahoma city? >> 2/3 of our general fund goes to public saty so it's police and fire. >> and the overall budget? >> $919 million. general fund is just under $400 million. >> this is c-span's "newsmakers" program. u.s. conference of mayors is meeting for their summer meeting in baltimore. so we brought to washington tw of america's leading mayors. michael nutter, a docrat, mayor of philadelphia, and mick cornett, republican, mayor of oklahoma city.
lisama -- lisa mascaro and kevin hall are our political reporters panel. kevin hall. >> back on this theory of the community block grants, one of paul ryan's path to prosperity republican plan on medicare talks about a block grant, you would give states medicaid money as a lump stomacher -- sum for them to distribute. mayors aren't governors so it's obviously not going to come directly to you, but i'm curious whether you think this approach wod take you right down the same path of what y've described absent community block grants, would it end up going to rural areas and cities not -- >> my experience is that if governors get money they take care of their inventory, whether that's tnsportation or social services and we might get something indirectly or later, but if you want money to go to cities, don't give it to governors. >> you would argue if you go down this path you have to line
it, not give them a blank check. >> it is a tremendous risk. both of our cities and many others across america, we have the infrastructure, we have the people, we have the knowledge base to get dollars o the door very, very quickly and it's not a theory anymore. we now know from the economic recovery act or a.r.a., any of the numerous acronyms, when the bulk of the dollars went to the state, you did not see an immediate economic impact on the ground the way that cities can do it. we now know this for a fact. >> i thought i'd turn back to another issue in congress which is the issue of earmarks which are the especially designated items in the budget, members of congress send typically to their home states for projects. republican house, democratic senate, president obama have all decided to do away with earmarks for this fiscal year and next fiscal year. i know both of your states have benefited from earmarks in the past.
i was looking it up, it was about average, it looked like you did about $25 a person which is about average for a state. i know it's not your cities. but what is the role of earmarks and do you agree with this ban, federal ban on earmarks right now? >> i think it really depends on what's going on. le one, whatever the federal government or state government or city government does should be open, transparent and you should be able to explain it. so as i often say back in phily, you know, every one of our bridges goes somewhere. if you put dollars into a project, it has to go through a public process, you know what it is, you can see the end result and we have more paperwork to fill out for federal funding than, you know, one of the asons we're planting a lot of trees so deal wh all the paperwork. when this bridge project, a bridge that was literally falling apart, that was paid for 80% by the federal government, 15% by the state, 5% by the
city. so $68 million project, we could have never done that as a city government by ourselves. and so i know that these -- that the ear mark, the word is a bad word and the program comes under great strutescruthny, i think it really is about what ar these dollars being used for, can you understand what this project is and that there's no nonsense going on with it? so you can call it whatever you want to call it but again, taxpayers pay federal income tax, they like to see some of their dollars coming right back in their community from the federal government. >> earmarks are getting rid of earmarks is politically popular. >> i don't think it's going to change a whole lot. if the decision making transfers from washington down to the department of transportation level, i don't know it's going to affect anybody one way or another. it's the amount of dollars and are they ing spent efficiently and wisely. >> there from your state, senator enwho have has been a long-time believer in the right of congress to have some direction over where the money
goes and that it shouldn't all be made, those decisions shouldn't all be made about the agencies. several members of congress feel like this is a very important role they play. so for your state, agn, these typically go to, well, sometimes they go to the cities as well. but, you know, do you see a role for these earmarks or do you think that they really need -- >> i think i might want some accountable where -- accountability about where they go. i can't tell you that i think they would have been spent differently had the decision making been at the department of transportation level. i don't think it would have been much different but i can appreciate his wanting to determine where those dollars go. it's his dollars that he's attributing. >> both of you had touched on a 4.5% unemployment rate which would be lower than the theoretical full unemployment rate nationally, 7.4% is the rate in philadelphia.
>> no, it's not. >> ok. but in both cases, you are cities that vin vested heavily in education, you've got something to show for it, you've got good institutions of higher learning, the administration has pushed this a lot. the importance of investing for the future. it seems not to be terribly well received here. i guess it falls further down the list of priorities. since you guys both went down that road, i'm going to ask you a little trick question. ifou can say one thing you think the administration has done poorly and one thing they've ne well. >> well, i like the efforts the adminiration has made on education in general. i think arne duncan had some good ideas, hs open minded, he's creative, i think that's good. i think michelle obama's efforts on obesity have been outstanding. one of my problems with the administration is their allegiance to the labor unions and to teachers unions. i think that's counterproductive to efficiency and i think that allegiance needs to go away if we're going to get to the efficiency level that we need to
get to. >> i would say on the flip side of that, when you look at the race to the top, it is very clear that significant changes were made all across the united states of america, specifically in philadelphia in terms of the teachers contract. the kinds of changes tt the teachers and the school district agreed to about a year or so ago were right in the context of race to the top, with much more flexibility and i think that the department is providing the kind of leadership that we maybe have not seen in recent timings from the federal government -- times from the federal government to local school systems in encouraging more accountability, flexibility as well as innovation at the school level. >> what does the administration do poorly? >> i'm a big administration supporter so i think any of us can always do beater job at jt out everything we do. think making sure that people
understand what the administration is trying to do and get that message out, there's a lot of noise out there, there's a lot of chatter and background activity and so it's a little tough at times i think to fight through all the stuff that's going on. the american public gets a little confused because they're getting cross messages about what the president has really done, what his administration is about. they're about jobs. and about supporting cities across america. >> mayor cornett, mayor nutter, how differently do you see each other approhing your jobs? democrat, republican. >> i don't think there's much difference. >> at the mayor level, is it as important -- >> there's really not. there's no democrat or republican pothole out there. we have to get things done. what i try to do in oklahoma city, we're a very conservative state. i'm considered a centrist. nationally i'm considered right of center and do i consider myself a conservative but if the mayor doesn't move to the certainty he's not going to get anything accomplished. i don't have any interest in being a mayor who's going to bang his head against the wall in frustration.
if i have to move to the center to do that, that's what i'm going to do. >> literally, until about a year ago, i didot know what party mick was a part of because it almost doesn't matter for what we do. and so people are surprised that he would be a big supporter of the cdbg program. i'm not surprised. getting dollars and making things happen on the ground. so it really is not much difference in our city which is heavily democratic, the issues deaf bait are really not about d's and r's. it's about policy, how do you make investments, how do you get things done? that's a driving theme for me. you eitherade the city safer or improve education, create jobs and ran the government with integrity or transparency or you didn't. so at localevel, we don't find ourselves in many esoteric democrat-republican debates. it really is about getting somebody a job and they don't care whether a democrat got them a job or a republican got them a job, if you get a job, you're
happy about it. >> next question. >> i would just back up to d's and r's. you've run for congress before as an r. any plans to do that again? what are your political thoughts for the future as well? >> i have no intentions of running for anything besides mayor. always leave your job open. i know never to say never. but mayor's the best job there is. and i intend to stick with it. >> i'm in the middle of an election so i'm focused on november, trying to get re-elected. that's the only election on my mind right now. >> i wanted to follow up. you did have this quote in the paper the other day about the federal retreat, the great feral retreat. i think that was the way, maybe u can reprize the quote for us. it was interesting. i was wondering where you put the blame for that? >> again, we know that the federal government has massive deficit, deficit reduction is incredibly important. on the other hand, every day when i get out of my carat city hall, someone i know is going to walk up to me and say, you know, mayor, i need a job.
i've never had anyone walk up to me and say, mayor, you know, they really need to do something about that deficit. at the federal level. that's not what's on a lot of people's minds but the federal government does have to get their fiscal house in order and it has an impact on us at the local level. my question is, just about anyone with pretty decent math skills can balance a budt. the question is the impact that the decisions you make, what is the impact on the federal government, wn to the states and down to the local level? that's really the question and so i want to in sum their zeal just cut, cut, cut, that may be politically popular but you're hurt yurg own public back home and i wish the congress would be a little more cognizant of that. >> in that direction,re you in therocess of trying to close a budget shortfall in your school system, pay for your adequate and top notch schools by raising some funds.
you proposed a soda tax, it was fought and apparently defeated by the beverage industry for lack of a better term. what does that say more broadly about as congress looks at ways to build support for tax cuts, right now everybody is talking about, we're going to lower the corporate tax rate at 5%, the top tax rate to 25% and then we're going to close tax expenditures, the mortgage interest deductions, these deductions we're accustomed to. it seems like in your experience shows that it's hard to get rid of a privileged position. >> i signed up two proposals. one was the sugar, sweet and beskradge tax and the other was property tax. after a lot of debate and after a lot of debate and discussion, 12 hours that day, ultimately chose to raise property taxes. the sugar, sweet and beverage did not come up for a vote. so that was not defeated, it just didn't get there.
but there are very powerful special interests working morning, noon and night, full page ads, intimidation, contributions, all kinds of stuff going on. this is the realm of everyone likes service, no one wants to pay for it. this was specifically for education. it was not for our city budget. so we either want to have a good education system or we don't and i don't think that the industry was going to fall apart becaused on this particular proposal. the city, the state and the country will fall apart if we don't invest in education. so tt's what i'm concerned about at this point in time. >> is there a lesson in that effort? i suspect once we start moving here in washington on closing the mortgage interest deduction, cadillac health plans, etc., you're going to see the same kind of thing on a bigger, broader scale. >> every program has an interest and every program has a special interest. people like change as long as it doesn't affect them. the moment you try to change something, the moment you try to close something, stop doing close something, stop doing something, that interest