SAN FRANCISCO (CBM) — On Friday, President Obama and Representative Nancy Pelosi had a message for the nation’s mayors — economic recovery will come at the city level, and mayors must be the ones leading the charge.
“It’s about paychecks,” said Representative Pelosi, speaking to over 250 of the country’s mayors at the U.S. Conference of Mayors at the San Francisco Hilton. “Our recovery will not be complete until we recognize that middle-income families are the source of economic recovery … The middle class is the most important engine of economic growth, and mayors know that bigger paychecks come from building better infrastructure.”
Following Pelosi, President Obama continued her line of thought: “We can keep paying the costs of patching over our existing infrastructure — more expensive, less efficient, leading to higher commute times, more waste — that’s an option. Or, we can create tens of thousands of jobs right now building a 21st century infrastructure that makes us competitive.”
Pelosi brought the conversation around to technology infrastructure and inequality in the education system. “It’s not just [about] bridges,” she said. “It’s about broadband … If we are going to solve the opportunity gap in our country, we must address the education gap, and one way to do that is with technology.”
And, she says, it’s up to mayors to get the job done.
“In order to get the broadband, municipalities must be in the lead,” she said. “It has to happen at the municipality level, not the state level.”
Pelosi noted that as of 2012, only 37 percent of the nation’s schools had enough broadband to enable digital learning, putting 40 million children “on the wrong side of the digital divide.”
“This is immoral. It has an obscenity about it, because the opportunity gap and the education gap are only going to widen,” she said.
Pelosi and Obama shared the stage at the opening of the annual conference, which brings together the mayors of larger U.S. cities to discuss issues ranging from jobs and the economy to climate change and urban policing.
The President spoke about mayors’ role in nationwide discussions about policing, saying that it’s mayors who must continue to show leadership in “making sure police have the resources they need to do their job, and making sure that every police officer who has an incredibly tough job is trained in making the kind of connections with community that engender trust and ensure that everybody is treated equally under the law.”
He echoed Bay Area-based rapper MC Hammer, who’d spoken earlier in the program. “You don’t want your kids abused, you don’t want [people] to be snatched out of cars,” he said to the group of mayors. “These are things that make people feel less than human.”
Both President Obama and Representative Pelosi noted that Charleston mayor Joe Riley was not present, remaining in South Carolina after the shootings at a historic African American church in Charleston left nine dead on Wednesday night.
President Obama said that the roots of the tragedy lie in racial hatred, enabled by a continued lack of gun safety reform.
“The apparent motivations of the shooter remind us that racism remains a blight that we have to combat together,” he said. “We have made great progress but we have to be vigilant because it still lingers.”
Noting that more than 11,000 Americans died due to gun violence in 2013, he said, “If Congress had passed some commonsense gun safety reforms after Newtown, after a group of children had been gunned down in their own classroom … We wouldn’t have prevented every act of violence or even most. We don’t know that it would have prevented what happened in Charleston. No reform can guarantee the elimination of violence, but we might still have more Americans with us.”
While saying that “today’s politics makes it less likely that we see any serious gun safety legislation,” he added that he is “not resigned”: “Every country has violent, hateful, or mentally unstable people. What’s different is not every county is awash with easily accessible guns … I refuse to act as if this the new normal, or to pretend that it’s simply sufficient to grieve and that any mention of doing something to stop it is somehow politicizing the problem.”
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