President’s Budget Threatens Cities’ Ability to Act on Environmental & Infrastructure Issues

Cuts in the administration’s budget proposal threaten funds that cities rely on to invest in water management, clean energy and revitalization efforts across the country. Here’s how these cuts could impact your city.

Proposed cuts to regional water restoration programs would cost local governments $427 million in funds to help clean up waterways and natural environments like the Chesapeake Bay. (Getty Images)

This April recess, NLC is encouraging city leaders to engage with their members of Congress while they are at home in their districts for two weeks. Don’t let Congress leave America’s cities behind — join us this week and next as we #FightTheCuts proposed in the administration’s budget.

This post was co-authored by Mayor James Diossa, Peter Friedrichs and Will Downie. It is part of a series on the 2018 federal budget.

Proposed cuts to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) threaten the funds that cities of all sizes rely on to invest in water management, clean energy and revitalization efforts across the country, with many of the programs directly benefiting the most vulnerable members of society. Here’s how these cuts could impact your city.

Water

While President Donald Trump’s proposal increases funding for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund programs and calls for level funding for WIFIA — a loan and loan guarantee program for large water infrastructure projects — it eliminates the Rural Utilities Services’ Water and Waste Water Loan and Grant Program under the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This program provides critical funds for rural communities across the country to maintain water infrastructure and address their unique water needs. Together, these water infrastructure programs helped small cities like Garber, Oklahoma, (population 842) protect their community’s drinking water by replacing aged water pipes and large cities like Boston (population 645,966) complete a landfill closure and reduce rainwater infiltration.

Regional water restoration programs like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Chesapeake Bay Initiative are also slated for elimination — a move that would cost local governments $427 million in funds to help clean up waterways and natural environments. These funds allowed the village of Shorewood, Wisconsin, to reduce contamination at Atwater Beach by investing in improved sewer systems and the city of Port Huron, Michigan, to restore 5,000 square feet of fish habitat and provide recreation areas for residents. Even if funding is slashed, cities will still have to meet the federal requirements for pollution reduction, creating an unfunded mandate.

Land

Although not specifically mentioned in the proposal, two key programs that help local governments establish local parks and greenways and revitalize abandoned properties may face cuts: the Land Conservation Fund and the Brownfields Redevelopment Program. The DOI Land and Water Conservation Fund helped the city of Seattle develop its now famous Gasworks Park. Without the assistance, the city would not have been able to transform an old gasification plant and its surrounding area into one of Seattle’s landmark public spaces. Meanwhile, the city of Central Falls, Rhode Island, was able to use a $200,000 EPA Brownfields grant to restore an abandoned mill building into successful mixed-use retail and business space. Together, these programs grow local economies by creating jobs, increasing property values, and attracting businesses and private capital.

Energy

The DOE Weatherization Assistance Program and the State Energy Program — which together provide over $300 million in assistance to local governments to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, including assistance to low-income residents to help lower their energy bills — are proposed to be eliminated. These programs allowed the city of Philadelphia to invest in innovative weatherization ideas that led to an increase in the total number of weatherized homes in the city, a reduction to the weatherization cost per home, increased energy savings, and new weatherization jobs in Philadelphia.

Air and Climate

The president’s proposed budget also targets programs that help cities reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and meet their climate action goals. The EPA Diesel Emission Reduction Program encourages cities to switch to cleaner-burning diesel vehicles. Last year, the program provided $7.7 million to 90 different cities to provide safer and cleaner school buses through replacement and retrofitting rebates. In addition, the proposed budget would eliminate climate change research and partnership programs totaling $100 million that cities rely on for data and information on climate change impacts on their communities.

Personnel

Out of all the federal agencies, EPA faces the biggest hit overall with a proposal to cut funding by 31 percent and eliminate 3,200 jobs, or 20 percent of its employees. These staff cuts will have a negative effect on EPA’s role as a regulator and will impede the ability of local elected officials to do their jobs. EPA approves a variety of permits and facilities that local governments rely on, like wastewater treatment plants. A “slimmed down” EPA will still have to process permits and projects, but a smaller staff will lead to delays and reduced technical assistance and will hurt local governments’ ability to provide the safe and clean environment they are entrusted to maintain.

Cities across the country will suffer under the White House’s budget plan. The president’s proposal will see cities large and small working with fewer funds and a less responsive regulatory regime, crippling their ability to provide vital services and infrastructure to their citizens. These cuts are bad for every city in the country, and pose a threat to the environment, our economy and our future.

Learn more about NLC’s #FightTheCuts campaign here.

About the authors:

James Diossa is the mayor of Central Falls, Rhode Island.

 

Peter Friedrichs is the director of planning and economic development for the city of Central Falls, Rhode Island.

 

Will Downie is an intern with the National League of Cities’ Federal Advocacy team.

How the President’s Budget Proposal Could Stop the Transit Revolution in Its Tracks

Included in the administration’s first budget proposal is a $499 billion cut to one of the federal government’s most successful transportation funding programs: TIGER Grants.

TIGER Grants fund innovative transportation projects such as this light rail system in Seattle. (Getty Images)

This April recess, NLC is encouraging city leaders to engage with their members of Congress while they are at home in their districts for two weeks. Don’t let Congress leave America’s cities behind — join us this week and next as we #FightTheCuts proposed in the administration’s budget.

This post was co-authored by Michael Wallace and Sam Warlick. It is part of a series on the 2018 federal budget.

While on the campaign trail, President Donald Trump often spoke like a true champion of American infrastructure. “Our airports, bridges, water tunnels, power grids, rail systems — our nation’s entire infrastructure is crumbling,” he wrote in 2015, “and we aren’t doing anything to fix it.”

His first three months as president have told a different story. Included in the administration’s first budget proposal is a $499 billion cut to one of the federal government’s most successful programs: TIGER Grants.

Created in 2009, TIGER Grants fund innovative transportation projects like light rail, regional buses, bicycle networks and new freight systems. The process is competitive, transparent and application-based, meaning that the grant winners must demonstrate outstanding economic and community benefits.

Over the past eight years, TIGER grants have supplied $5.1 billion in new funding to some of America’s most innovative urban and rural transportation projects. They include:

  • The QLINE Streetcar in Detroit, which will link the city’s resurgent downtown to some of its most economically-challenged neighborhoods
  • The Texas Rural Transit Asset Replacement project, which upgraded facilities and buses serving low-income, elderly and disabled riders across the state
  • Montana’s Poplar Airport Regional Access Project, which improved bike/pedestrian access and economic development opportunities in rural and tribal communities
  • The nationally-renowned Atlanta Beltline Trail, a green pedestrian and bicycle corridor redeveloped on an abandoned rail corridor

Under the White House’s “skinny budget,” the TIGER Grant program would be crippled. It would cut off the flow of federal investment in innovative transportation infrastructure — a key investment that has helped drive our nation’s economic recovery.

The ball is now in Congress’s court. With two weeks left to present a full budget for adoption, the House of Representatives can keep their promise to reinvest in infrastructure and create prosperity for all communities.

On behalf of city leaders, we strongly encourage Congress to stand with cities across the country and stop cuts to successful, valuable federal programs — including TIGER grants.

About the authors:

mike_wallace_125x150Michael Wallace is the Program Director of Federal Advocacy at the National League of Cities. Follow him on Twitter @MikeWallaceII.

 

Sam Warlick is a Senior Communications Associate at the National League of Cities.

Is Your City at Risk of Losing Federal Funding?

There are three main questions that cities need to be aware of when dissecting the political rhetoric around sanctuary cities.

DepartmentOfJustice.jpg

The Trump administration has directed the Department of Justice (pictured above) and the Department of Homeland Security to withhold funding from sanctuary jurisdictions — an order that raises more questions than it answers for cities. (Getty)

This April recess, NLC is encouraging city leaders to engage with their members of Congress while they are at home in their districts for two weeks. Don’t let Congress leave America’s cities behind — join us this week and next as we #FightTheCuts proposed in the administration’s budget.

This post is part of a series on the 2018 federal budget.

Is your city at risk of losing federal funding following the Trump administration’s sanctuary cities executive order? Despite the rhetoric we are hearing, we think the short answer is no — at least, not anytime soon. Many legal issues would need to be resolved before the federal government could act to withhold grant funding from any so-called “sanctuary” jurisdiction.

The courts must first determine the constitutionality of enforcing President Donald Trump’s executive order directing the Department of Homeland Security and the attorney general to withhold funding from jurisdictions with sanctuary policies. Recently, nearly 300 legal scholars sent a letter to the president that argued the executive order violates the Fourth and Tenth Amendments of the Constitution. The cities of San Francisco and Seattle have already filed injunctions to stay the order, and a decision on the cases is expected shortly.

Let’s be clear. When dissecting the political rhetoric around sanctuary cities, there are three main questions that cities need to be aware of: What is a sanctuary jurisdiction? How do Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers affect a sanctuary jurisdiction? What does cooperation with ICE mean for cities?

First, there is no legal definition of a sanctuary city/jurisdiction. Last year, Congress tried to define a “sanctuary jurisdiction” as a local government that specifically prohibits its government officials from sharing information with federal immigration information officers, which would be a violation of U.S.C. 8 §1373. While the Department of Justice’s inspector general determined that some jurisdictions have policies that limit the types of information local officials collect on immigration status, that did not mean the jurisdictions were in violation of Sec. 1373.

Second, the immigration hawks that are promoting sanctions against sanctuary cities focus their arguments on compliance with voluntary ICE detainer requests. There is no requirement that a local jurisdiction comply with a detainer request. If a jurisdiction does not comply with a detainer request, that does not make them a sanctuary, regardless of what anti-immigration activists argue.

ICE has the authority to issue a detainer request to any law enforcement agency that has in their custody an immigrant charged or convicted of a crime. Compliance with the detainers is voluntary and at the discretion of the local jurisdiction or law enforcement agency. The courts have ruled that detainer requests violate a person’s rights under the Fourth Amendment because they lack probable cause to arrest and keep someone in jail after they have served their time.

The irony in this whole debate is that ICE has broad authority to issue a warrant for arrest for the same immigrant, which would not violate the Fourth Amendment. When asked why ICE continues to issue detainer requests instead of warrants for arrest, the simple answer is that, to do so, they would have to provide probable cause for the warrant. So, while every other local law enforcement officer must show probable cause before arresting someone, ICE seems to believe they are excluded from this constitutional requirement. The courts, however, disagree with ICE’s determination. Several federal courts have ruled in recent years that local jurisdictions can be held liable for violating immigrants’ civil rights if they detain them at the request of ICE without a court order.

Third, local law enforcement agencies cooperate routinely with ICE and other federal law enforcement agencies to arrest and remove the most dangerous immigrants that are part of drug cartels and gangs. Recent enforcement actions by ICE are increasingly focusing on undocumented immigrants who have been in the country for years and have become woven into the fabric of our communities. Their children attend schools with our children. They contribute to the local economy and support local programs.

Local law enforcement works closely with these communities by building trust to keep the public safe. Local governments consider the risk of tearing up immigrant families and communities, disrupting the local economy, and eroding the trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

It is the sole responsibility of the federal government to enforce immigration laws. The president, the attorney general and ICE have made it a top priority to enforce immigration deportation for anyone who is in this country illegally, but this does not mean it must be the top priority of local governments. While local governments should not prevent ICE from performing its duties, they are not responsible for enforcing federal immigration laws.

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of Congress to fix our broken immigration system. The National League of Cities (NLC) has a clear policy position on comprehensive immigration reform, and cities need to urge their Congressional delegation to stop the corrosive political rhetoric against cities and fix our broken immigration system.

City leaders are doing their jobs — and now it is time for Congress to do its job.

Learn more about NLC’s efforts to fight back against proposed budget cuts to city funding.

yucel_ors_125x150About the author: Yucel (“u-jel”) Ors is the Program Director of Public Safety and Crime Prevention at the National League of Cities. Follow Yucel on Twitter at @nlcpscp.

Don’t Cut Funding for Programs That Help Children Thrive in Cities Across the Country

Federally-funded programs like those slated for elimination in President Trump’s 2018 Budget Blueprint have a proven record of results for young children, and simply cannot survive without continued federal support.

Group of young children drawing with chalk on the sidewalk

Local leaders agree that early investment in a child’s development can make all the difference when it comes to the future success of their youngest residents. (Getty Images)

This April recess, NLC is encouraging city leaders to engage with their members of Congress while they are at home in their districts for two weeks. Don’t let Congress leave America’s cities behind — join us this week and next as we #FightTheCuts proposed in the administration’s budget.

This post is part of a series on the 2018 federal budget.

Ask any city leader and they will tell you that giving children a strong start in life is one of the most important investments we can make toward building vibrant and prosperous communities. This is not just anecdotal — research tells us that 90 percent of a child’s brain development has occurred by the age of five, with 700 neural connections per second being formed during the early years of a child’s brain development.

At the National League of Cities (NLC), we amplify the work local leaders are doing to increase early childhood opportunities for young children. Through partnerships with NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families, cities are aligning systems for young children to improve outcomes for children and their families.

City leaders can significantly advance local progress through programs, policies and the alignment of systems that impact young children, but this work exists within a federal and state context. From help paying the high costs of child care to seats in a Head Start classroom, federally-funded programs like those slated for elimination in President Trump’s 2018 Budget Blueprint have a proven record of results for young children, and simply cannot survive without continued federal support. This budget proposal will harm city leaders’ abilities to foster high-quality early childhood opportunities and support families.

While the blueprint is only a “skinny budget,” we can expect to see a larger plan in the near future that details the more than $54 billion in proposed cuts to domestic programs that help children and families in cities thrive. Cuts to key departments like Health and Human Services should alarm city leaders whose communities benefit from programs like Head Start, which serves over a million children each year.

Classrooms in every state in the country help young children develop cognitive and developmental skills and establish habits that shape their future health outcomes. Without Head Start, many more of our most vulnerable parents would be without an early education setting for their children. Long waiting lists mean that less than half of eligible three- and four-year-olds are able to participate in Head Start.

The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) is another example of a federal program investing in early childhood. Despite its lengthy name, its purpose is simple: to help parents afford child care. The cost of child care is out of reach for too many families. Center-based infant care is more expensive than one year of public university tuition in 30 states and Washington, D.C.

The experiences children have in child care lay the foundation for their cognitive development and allow their parents to work and pursue education. Every year, businesses lose approximately $4.4 billion due to employee absenteeism as a result of child care breakdowns. However, current levels of funding prevent five out of six eligible children from receiving CCDBG dollars to help their parents afford care.

These are just two examples of the federal programs that work to improve outcomes for young children in cities nationwide. A lack of funding for these critical programs already leaves many needs unmet, and further cuts to domestic programs would risk eliminating this support altogether. On behalf of city leaders, we strongly encourage Congress to stand with children, families and cities across the country and stop cuts to key early childhood programs that our cities’ children and families rely on.

Learn more about NLC’s #FightTheCuts campaign.

About the author: Alana Eichner is the Early Childhood Associate in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.

Five Ways to Fight the Cuts From Your Own City

This April recess, NLC is encouraging city leaders to engage with their members of Congress while they are at home in their districts for two weeks. Don’t let Congress leave America’s cities behind — join us this week and next as we #FightTheCuts proposed in the administration’s budget.

Members of Congress are on recess from April 10 – 21, but many will hold town hall meetings with their constituents during that time. (Getty Images)

This post is part of a series on the 2018 federal budget.

Now is the time to fight to protect critical funding to cities. Today, Congress starts a two-week period of recess, during which our federally-elected officials have the chance to return to their home districts, connect with constituents, and, in many cases, hold town hall meetings. This recess, one of the key issues on the minds of members of Congress traveling back home will be the long battle for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget waiting for them when they come back to Washington, D.C., on April 24.

President Donald Trump’s recently released budget proposal is a non-starter for cities. It slashes funding for crucial programs that cities and their residents rely on by cutting more than $54 billion in domestic spending across the board. Make no mistake — no city in America would be better off under the president’s budget proposal, and we must stand together to fight the cuts.

We need local elected officials to take this opportunity to send a clear message to Congress early on: this budget season, Congress must stand with cities. Here are five ways you can fight back against the proposed cuts and tell your representatives that when they get back to Washington, they need to work on a budget that puts cities first.

1) Visit Your Member of Congress’ District Office

Take advantage of the fact that your congressperson is at home in your city during the next two weeks. Learn about how proposed budget cuts may impact your city and how you can set up a meaningful meeting with your member of Congress.

2) Call or Write Your Member of Congress

In-person meetings are always best, but you can also use our template and write a letter to your member of Congress urging them to stand with, and invest in, America’s cities. You can also use our script to call your member of Congress’ district office and urge them to develop a budget that’s focused on building prosperity, expanding opportunity, and investing in America’s cities.

 3) Write an Op-Ed and Have It Locally Placed

Pen a letter to your editor or draft an op-ed highlighting your advocacy on behalf of your city, and ask your member of Congress to not cut vital sources of city funding. We’ve already created an easy-to-use template.

 4) Engage Through Social Media

Print our easy-to-use #FightTheCuts banner and Tweet your photo with it to @LeagueofCities. Let’s see how many local elected officials we can document standing up for cities.

5) Visit nlc.org/FightTheCuts

Our strength as an organization lies in our members. We need city leaders to fight back against the proposed budget cuts and tell Congress to approve a budget that works for cities. Find other creative ways you can take action on our #FightTheCuts campaign page.

About the author: Irma Esparza Diggs is the Senior Executive and Director of Federal Advocacy for the National League of Cities.

City Leaders Get Things Done. So Do National Service Programs.

In this guest post celebrating Mayor and County Recognition Day for National Service, Commissioner Gil Ziffer explains how the proposed federal budget cuts to service programs like AmeriCorps will have a significant impact on cities.

Americorps is a national program of civil service supported by the federal government, foundations, corporations and others with the goal of “helping others and meeting the needs in the community.” In this photo, Americorps members work with an Associate Director of Habitat for Humanity on a building used to house volunteers assisting with disaster recovery efforts in the Gulf Coast in 2006. (Wikimedia Commons)

This is a guest post by Commissioner Gil Ziffer. This is the first post in a series on the programs eliminated in the Trump Administration’s FY 2018 budget proposal.

Five years ago, the National League of Cities (NLC) joined city leaders across the nation to participate in the first-ever Mayor’s Day of Recognition for National Service. What began as a collection of just a few hundred mayors to highlight the impact of national service in their cities has grown to include more than 3,500 local leaders – mayors, councilmembers, county officials and tribal leaders – and is a true testament to the power of citizen service.

But the connections between city leaders and national service don’t stop there.

Local leaders are all about getting things done. They’re focused on solving problems for their communities. That’s a mission shared with the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency in charge of the nation’s national service programs like AmeriCorps, Senior Corps and other volunteer initiatives. Before they are able to begin their service, each AmeriCorps and Senior Corps member must raise their hand and recite a pledge committing to ‘get things done’ for America.

That’s exactly what they’re doing in more than 50,000 locations across the nation – in our biggest cities and smallest towns. Dedicated Americans, young, old and in-between, tackling the tough challenges facing our communities. Bringing forgotten neighborhoods back to life. Restoring city parks. Ending veteran homelessness. Strengthening schools and boosting graduation rates. Preparing youth and adults for 21st century jobs.

We don’t have to look far to find powerful examples of national service members getting things done. In my own city of Tallahassee, Florida, AmeriCorps members are tutoring and mentoring students in low-performing schools, helping to improve student performance and attendance and reduce disciplinary actions. Our homeless receive job training, resource connections, financial literacy and housing assistance. And our Alzheimer’s Project provides families respite care, allowing caregivers a much needed break. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, Senior Corps volunteers are ensuring that more than 150 home-bound seniors every year are able to live independently. And from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Richwood, West Virginia, national service members are helping communities impacted by devastating disasters recover and rebuild.

In every challenge, there is an opportunity. Programs like AmeriCorps and Senior Corps build upon that opportunity to make communities a better place to live, work and raise a family. National service is a solution for cities that need to do more with less by harnessing the ingenuity and “can-do” American spirit of the citizens within their community.

In his proposed budget, President Donald Trump eliminates funding for various independent agencies, including CNCS – and this will have a direct impact on the Americans working with us and showing that it does, in fact, take cities to move America forward. I hope you will join me in fighting to ensure that CNCS remains an agency dedicated to service by sharing with our members of Congress how this funding is critical to communities across the nation.

City leaders can also celebrate the impact of national service in our communities by participating in this year’s Mayor and County Recognition Day for National Service on April 4, 2017. Signing up is easy! Click here to learn more.

About the author: Gil Ziffer is the commissioner of Tallahassee, Florida, and the chair of the HD Committee.