DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – President Barack Obama told Detroit Mayor-elect Mike Duggan and 15 other mayors and soon-to-be mayors Friday that he hopes to set up partnerships with their administrations.
The newly elected city leaders met with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden at the White House.
In addition to Duggan, the group included mayors and mayors-elect from Los Angeles, New York and Boston.
“My hope and goal out of this meeting is we immediately set up a strong partnership with all the mayors here and all the mayors who aren’t here where we get a clear sense of what their vision is and how they’re trying to deliver services,” Obama said.
The President said there are some basic things they can do to create a better economic environment for the mayors.
“There are some areas, for example, raising the minimum wage,” he said, “that could have a tremendous boost in a lot of the cities where there are a lot of service workers who get up, you know, and do some of the critical work for all of us every single day. But oftentimes still find themselves barely above poverty or , in some cases, below poverty.”
Obama said he’s concerned that unemployment insurance is not in the budget and that it could run out for 1.3 million Americans. He said that’s bad for the economy and our cities.
Detroit voters elected Duggan in November. The former medical center chief executive takes office in January and succeeds Mayor Dave Bing, who didn’t seek re-election.
Detroit already is benefiting from the federal government’s generosity.
In September, members of Obama’s administration announced more than $100 million in grants was coming to help Detroit tear down vacant buildings and spur job growth.
The funding had been earmarked for Detroit but had not yet reached the city or been directed toward its top priorities. It is expected to fill in the gaps to help improve city services as Detroit goes through the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.
“And there’s no doubt that the Obama administration is deeply interested in Detroit’s success,” Duggan told WWJ in an interview Thursday, “but Washington can’t solve our problems for us.”
“It’s not about giving us money,” he said. “It’s about a partnership to develop programs that work.”
A judge approved Detroit’s eligibility for bankruptcy on Dec. 3. State-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr says the city’s debt is at least $18 billion.
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