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L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa: Jobs Gridlock Igniting 'Collective Frustration' Among U.S. Mayors


First Posted: 09/19/11 09:00 AM ET Updated: 11/19/11 05:12 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D) is traveling to Washington, D.C., this week to meet with congressional leaders and let them know it's time to put aside party politics and start creating jobs.

"The reason why we're going to D.C. is because there is a collective frustration among our nation's mayors with the partisanship and the finger-pointing, the gridlock that has stifled any new ideas or any action coming from Washington, D.C.," said Villaraigosa in an interview with The Huffington Post.

Villaraigosa serves as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, a nonpartisan group representing cities with populations exceeding 30,000. This week he's leading a delegation of some 50 mayors to the nation's capital.

While in Washington, the mayors will be meeting on Tuesday with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and key members of the super committee. The scheduling did not work out for a meeting with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

Also on Tuesday, they're set to meet with Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, at 10 a.m. and with David Plouffe, senior adviser to the president, at 11 a.m.

"As our cities go, so goes the nation," said Villaraigosa when asked what message he would be bringing to Washington's leaders.

"Eighty-nine percent of the GDP of the nation is generated in American cities. ... So when you think about it in those terms, the message the mayors will be sending is job number one is to get the economy back on track by putting people back to work. Job number one for Congress is to do their job by working across party lines on initiatives to do that," he said.

A major focus of the mayors' discussions will be job creation through transportation infrastructure projects.

Villaraigosa has already been pushing Washington to give local workers preference in federal hiring for 166,000 planned jobs on about a dozen transportation projects in the Los Angeles region. Currently, rules prohibit local-hiring preferences.

He said that for the last few years he has been trying to bring attention to the fact that Los Angeles' "roads are crumbling [and] bridges are in need of repair." The need to both create jobs and repair the nation's infrastructure is one of the few areas where the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO find themselves in agreement.

The urgency of job creation was underscored on Friday by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who warned there could be riots in the streets if young people remain unemployed.

"We have a lot of kids graduating college [who] can't find jobs," Bloomberg said during his weekly radio appearance on WOR. "That's what happened in Cairo. That's what happened in Madrid. You don't want those kinds of riots here."

The U.S. Conference of Mayors has unveiled its own Common-Sense Jobs Agenda, which focuses heavily on investing in infrastructure, stimulating manufacturing, expanding unemployment benefits and extending the payroll tax cuts.

Villaraigosa has praised President Barack Obama's jobs plan, calling it "a forward-thinking, balanced economic plan that reduces the deficit while protecting middle-class Americans." He sat in the first lady's box during the president's speech unveiling the plan.

But this past Thursday, speaking at the Economic Club of Washington, Boehner criticized the president's plan as a "poor substitute" for policies proposed by the GOP.

The president has offered "proposals that have been supported by every Republican and Democratic president since the Eisenhower administration," said Villaraigosa when asked about Boehner's remarks.

"Whether it's investing in our nation's infrastructure, cutting the payroll taxes, expanding unemployment benefits, extending the gas tax and the surface transportation reauthorization bill -- all of those things have been supported in the past by Republicans and Democrats. So I think it's time for House leaders -- and the leaders in the Senate -- to put the country before their party, and the people before politics," he added.

Obama on Monday is expected to lay out for the super committee some deficit-reduction measures to pay for his jobs agenda. Some Democrats have already said they do not want to see any chances to the so-called entitlement programs.

Villaraigosa said that everything needs to be on the table at this point.

"Just like you can't say that taxes are off the table, I don't think you can say entitlement programs are off the table either," he said. "We know what they're all against. The question is, what are they for? If we're going to address the deficit and the debt -- which we have to -- we have to do it in a way that spreads and balances out the sacrifices across the board, that sets us on a sound financial footing by making sure that entitlement programs be funded going into the future, and then acknowledge that we can't do things so fast that you set the economy backward and increase the unemployment rate."

Highlights of meetings planned in D.C.:

11:30 a.m. SENATOR PATTY MURRAY (WA) – Mayor Marilyn Strickland of Tacoma, WA; Others Co-Chair, Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction Chair, Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Senate Committee on Appropriations 448 Russell Senate Office Building 11:30 a.m. SENATOR PAT TOOMEY (PA) – Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, PA and Mayor Ed Pawlowski of Allentown, PA Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction 502 Hart Senate Office Building 2:00 p.m. REPRESENTATIVE JEB HENSARLING (TX) – Mayor Stephanie Rawlings of Baltimore, MD; USCM Officers Co-Chair, Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction 202-A Cannon House Office Building 3:30 p.m. SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (KY) – Mayor Greg Fischer of Louisville, KY; Mayor Jim Gray of Lexington, KY and USCM officers S-230 Capitol Building 3:30 p.m. REPRESENTATIVE TOM LATHAM (IA) – Mayor Frank Cownie of Des Moines, IA; Other Chairman, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee House Appropriations Committee 2217 Rayburn House Office Building 5:00 p.m. SENATOR HARRY REID (NV) – USCM Officers Majority Leader S-221 Capitol Building 5:30 p.m. REPRESENTATIVE FRANK PALLONE, JR. (NJ) – Mayor Brian C. Wahler of Piscataway, NJ 237 Cannon House Office Building 6:00 p.m. REPRESENTATIVE JOHN KLINE (MN) – Mayor Elizabeth Kautz of Burnsville, MN; Others Chairman, House Education and the Workforce Committee 2439 Rayburn House Office Building

This story was updated with the schedule of meetings.

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