Last Monday night, Aug. 21, I was fortunate to attend a town hall hosted by CNN featuring House Speaker Paul Ryan, held in Racine, and hear from him about a few of the important issues facing our country. Although I didn’t have the opportunity to raise my question during the event, it was a privilege to represent my hometown.
I want to thank CNN for bringing this important event to Racine and to the speaker for this opportunity to raise our concerns about the state of our nation.
As council president for the City of Racine, I would like to ask Speaker Ryan about an issue important to every resident of Racine: infrastructure. Investment in our infrastructure is essential to driving economic growth in our nation’s cities. Improvements in transportation, water and broadband draw new businesses and jobs to cities and their regions, while creating a better climate for current businesses to expand.
Every day city leaders are in charge of maintaining and building local infrastructure, and addressing the needs of residents, regardless of party politics in Washington. As we like to say, there is no Republican or Democrat way to fill a pot hole. Our residents expect and deserve safe streets to get them to work and school, clean drinking water and safe communities to build their lives.
It’s not always an easy job, but no local leader would underestimate the role a strong federal-local partnership plays in our mutual success. Cities across the nation use federal programs and funding to help build healthier, stronger and more vibrant communities.
Federal programs, like the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, help cities attract an additional $4 of private investment for every dollar of federal investment in our future. Last year alone, the City of Racine received $1,757,084 in CDBG funding. We’ve used this federal investment to fund public services like workforce development, economic development initiatives for small business, road improvements, blight mediation and even housing rehabilitation for our most vulnerable residents.
In other words, the CDBG program works — and it works very well.
A $100 million cut to a $3 billion program like CDBG may seem like a modest cut in Washington, but in Wisconsin that would potentially mean millions less for local workforce development, restorations of small town main streets and repairs to local infrastructure.
And, according to the National League of Cities, CDBG is just one of the many federal programs for cities that still face a threat by austere budget caps and a Congress seemingly determined to make cuts.
As a city leader, I fully understand the need for scrutinizing every expense and for living by a budget. But, Mr. Speaker, if you are trying to balance the budget by cutting wasteful spending, why target the programs that work?
As the Leader of the House of Representatives, what are you doing to reassure cities, particularly smaller ones like Racine, that they will continue to have a partner when it comes to maintaining our declining infrastructure?
We can’t afford to go backward in communities like ours. It’s up to Congress to develop a budget that invests in cities and focuses on building prosperity, expanding opportunity and investing in America’s cities.