WASHINGTON – Arizona mayors were among more than 100 who attended a White House meeting Wednesday at which President Donald Trump touted his infrastructure plan before letting the mayors network with federal officials.
Trump released few details on his long-promised $1 trillion infrastructure plan that he said would be released sometime after his first State of the Union address next Tuesday, but Mesa Mayor John Giles said after the meeting that the plan would be “a huge blessing” for cities.
The White House invited 120 of the more than 250 mayors who were in town for a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, including Giles, Jerry Weiers of Glendale and Doug Nicholls of Yuma. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell, who are in town for the conference, were among those not invited to the White House.
Other mayors boycotted Wednesday’s meeting after 23 cities that have identified themselves as sanctuary cities for undocumented immigrants received threatening letters from the Justice Department – a move that New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu called a “punch in the face.”
“The Trump administration’s decision to threaten mayors and demonize immigrants yet again – and use cities as political props in the process – has made this meeting untenable,” Landrieu, president of the Conference of Mayors, said in a statement.
Trump defended the Justice Department action and told those mayors who did attend the meeting that “the mayors who choose to boycott this event have put the needs of criminal illegal immigrants over law-abiding Americans.”
But for much of his speech to the mayors, the president bragged about what he called his administration’s success in cutting taxes, reducing regulations and streamlining the approval process for projects before reaffirming his campaign promise for an enormous investment in infrastructure.
“We’re also working to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure by stimulating a $1 trillion investment, and that will actually, probably, end up being about $1.7 trillion,” Trump said to applause from the mayors in attendance, according to a White House transcript of the meeting.
Giles said before the speech that he wanted to know “how are we going to fund what we all agree is a big problem in our country, which is the aging infrastructure, the bridges and the highways across our country that are no longer safe.” Despite the lack of details in the meeting, he said afterward that he was pleased the president is keeping his campaign promise on infrastructure.
Trump left the meeting to head to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where, he told the mayors, he would be working to “get people to invest in the United States.” Mayors spent close to an additional two hours at a White House reception, meeting with federal bureaucrats.
Weiers said he went into the meeting with an open mind and was “very encouraged” by the fact that the president gave the mayors “more access that we didn’t have before” when it comes to making federal contacts who can help with local problems.
“The president understands that mayors are closest to people and when we’re allowed to do our jobs, things get done faster,” Weiers said after the meeting. “This administration is cutting a lot of red tape.”