Mayor Nutter woke up yesterday morning, knew he was headed to a big meeting with President-elect Barack Obama's transition team, and realized that a stimulus package for struggling cities, like every federal program, must include a clever moniker.
So Nutter arrived in Chicago with 16 other mayors and his own acronym for his proposals on housing, infrastructure, revenue and energy: HIRE.
Nutter said HIRE neatly encapsulates the vast needs cities have, including affordable housing; highways, sewers, bridges and other infrastructure; access to affordable bonds; and incentives for environmentally friendly initiatives. And they all involved job creation, he said.
Nutter and mayors from cities including Trenton, Seattle and Minneapolis met for about two hours with Valerie Jarrett, cochairwoman of the Obama transition team. At the end, Obama made a 15-minute appearance.
"That was a great opportunity for us as mayors to talk to him," Nutter said.
Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor said Jarrett and the mayors "brainstormed on priorities in cities, housing, jobs and public transit. They also discussed ways of making the federal government better serve the citizens, cut red tape, and get funding to cities faster."
Obama "pledged to work closely with the mayors" in his brief meeting with them, Vietor said.
The meeting was organized by Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The organization offered Obama a survey last week in which cities, including Philadelphia, provided extensive lists of their capital needs.
Among Philadelphia's $2.6 billion in listed needs were $150 million for new and renovated school facilities and $500,000 for bookmobiles that will be needed with the closing of 11 libraries Jan. 1.
Nutter said Jarrett was direct about accomplishing Obama's goals for his stimulus plans and interested in delivering money as directly as possible. Nutter said his proposals all involved job creation.
Under the category of revenue, Nutter said, he seeks federal backing to allow cities to take out bonds at an affordable rate - such as the $3.5 billion pension bond Nutter has proposed to shore up the city's beleaguered pension fund.
Obama plans to hold a larger meeting with mayors in coming weeks, Nutter said.