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Published: Friday, 2/20/2009

Finkbeiner skips Ohio mayors' D.C. trip

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The mayors of every big city in Ohio will be at the White House today to discuss the federal economic stimulus with President Barack Obama - except one.

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner will not be among the urban Buckeye mayors - from Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Akron, Dayton, and Youngstown - and 60 other mayors from across the nation for a meeting sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

"The city of Toledo is no longer a member [of the U.S. Conference of Mayors] because of our budget challenges," Mr. Finkbeiner said last night in a statement.

"All city of Toledo memberships, including National League of Cities, Northwest Ohio Mayors, and Managers Association, and others have been terminated in cost-cutting measures."

The mayor said the city of Toledo's stimulus package has been submitted to the state of Ohio as required.

"Mayor Finkbeiner believes the governor of Ohio now controls the economic stimulus money for the Buckeye State and communications with the governor's staff are taking place regularly," the statement also said.

Vice President Joe Biden, Cabinet members, and other senior Obama aides also will sit in on the 10:30 a.m. meeting in the East Room, according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The meeting comes three days after the President signed into law his $787 billion stimulus program that in part aims to create jobs by funding key development projects nationwide.

In Toledo, the submitted stimulus wish list totals $216,407,911.

Mr. Finkbeiner previously has said all of the projects most likely would not be granted but he has indicated that there are plenty of shovel-ready projects ready to go in 90 days or less that would help put unemployed and underemployed citizens back to work.

The mayor said the projects would generate hundreds of new jobs, advance the rebuilding of the city, and boost the national and local economies.

The city's proposed projects include $6.2 million for bridge work, $45.8 million for streets, $84.6 million for utilities, $39 million for renewable energy, and $40.7 million for development.

The shovel-ready projects include improvements to Secor Road between Monroe Street and Laskey Road ($4.5 million), Wheeling Avenue sewer separation ($4.48 million), a Collins Park wind turbine project ($2 million), and a Marina District amphitheater ($2 million).

Mr. Finkbeiner said the list of projects would take 10 years to complete without the federal money.

The forum in Washington will give mayors including Cleveland's Frank Jackson and Akron's Don Plusquellic precious face time with the new President.

Mr. Jackson, who left yesterday for Washington, "wants to make certain that the needs of Cleveland are clearly articulated and shared," said Andrea Taylor, the Cleveland mayor's press secretary.

Other Ohio mayors invited and who are expected to attend include Michael Coleman of Columbus, Mark Mallory of Cincinnati, and Rhine McLin of Dayton.

The group also will meet with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and officials from the Energy and Justice departments.

Mr. Jackson is seeking $730 million in stimulus money to address infrastructure issues, such as a new Inner Belt bridge and a parkway to connect I-490 to University Circle.

Mr. Plusquellic's requests include $900,000 to landscape I-77 and $15 million for a new Amtrak station.

Mr. Plusquellic was one of a dozen mayors who earlier visited the Capitol to lobby for a recovery plan for cities.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors has a list of more than 18,000 projects that could benefit from the stimulus.

Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams, who also will attend the meeting today, will deliver a keynote address, "Revitalizing Older Cities" on behalf of small and midsized industrial communities at a national conference in Washington.

Henry J. Gomez of The Plain Dealer contributed to this report.



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