America’s big-city mayors are steaming over what they view as “a very dangerous precedent” set by the Obama administration in its decision to shun the U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting in Providence, R.I., this week.
In its attempt to honor the picket line of a local firefighters union involved in a labor dispute with the city, the administration has inadvertently angered some of its staunchest supporters in urban America, who argue that by declining to send an official contingent to the three-day mayors’ conference, the administration is caving in to labor and snubbing local governments at a time of economic strife.
“It was a horrible decision,” said Mayor Michael Pizzi, an independent from Miami Lakes, Fla. “No matter where Obama goes, no matter what city you go to in the United States, you’re going to have some union that’s having problems.”
In his speech to the conference Saturday, Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, president of the USCM, suggested the administration was unwilling to make the kind of tough political choices that mayors must make every day.
“We have no choice. None of us in this room are insulated from the economic challenges faced by the city of Providence. This will not be the last time this administration will be asked to make a similar choice,” said Diaz, a former Democrat turned independent who endorsed Obama in 2008. “This is why the administration is setting a very dangerous precedent. Our president has called on all Americans to sacrifice. Mayors have sacrificed before, and we will do it again. But we must not be asked to bear this burden alone. Sacrifice often means doing things that we don’t want to do; doing things we don’t like to do; doing things that keep us all up at night.”
“This is no longer a campaign, where slogans and sound bites dominate the day. This is the time to govern, and all of us know this because this is what mayors do 24 hours a day.”