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Biden enlists mayors as allies on infrastructure and economy

Facing a bleak national picture, President Joe Biden is embracing the old adage about politics being local

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Mayor of Miami Francis Suarez, and president of U.S. Conference of Mayors, knocks knuckles with President Joe Biden after introducing him to speak at the U.S. Conference of Mayors' 90th Annual Winter Meeting at the Capitol Hilton in Washington, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022.
Mayor of Miami Francis Suarez, and president of U.S. Conference of Mayors, knocks knuckles with President Joe Biden after introducing him to speak at the U.S. Conference of Mayors' 90th Annual Winter Meeting at the Capitol Hilton in Washington, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Photo Gallery

WASHINGTON (AP) — Facing a bleak national picture, President Joe Biden on Friday embraced the old adage about politics being local — highlighting his plans from the $1 trillion infrastructure deal for the United States Conference of Mayors.

He credited the work of 360 mayors in helping to push the bipartisan deal into law in November. The president said he’s trying to operate as a mayor would with the construction plans and the continued implementation of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, which provided $350 billion to state and local budgets. He then enlisted the mayors to get his stalled tax and economic plans through the Senate.

“This isn’t partisan, it’s practical,” Biden told the gathered mayors. “You understand the cost if we fail to act. We need the voice of mayors telling the stories of what your community needs and the impact we’re making on people’s lives.”

The president’s popularity has suffered as inflation has climbed and the coronavirus continues to spread across the country. Biden’s efforts to jumpstart hiring and vaccinate the majority of the country have yet to generate much goodwill, prompting him to announce at a Wednesday news conference that he plans to travel outside Washington and take his case directly to voters. By working with mayors, the president is betting he can put more pressure on Congress to act.

The president also flicked at the pressure his administration and city leaders are facing after the FBI reported that homicides and non-negligent manslaughters climbed an estimated 29.4% in 2020.

“We shouldn’t be cutting funding for police departments,” the president said. “I proposed increasing funding.”

The Biden administration also announced Friday a joint effort with two states and more than 30 cities nationwide to develop standards to make buildings more energy-efficient and climate-friendly. The effort includes Colorado and Washington state and cities such as New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

The announcement builds on an Energy Department plan to upgrade 1 million homes and makes progress toward Biden’s goal to retrofit 4 million buildings and 2 million homes during his first term, the White House said.

Improving energy efficiency in multi-family buildings raises indoor air quality, eliminates drafts and protects residents from extreme heat, delivering health benefits and lower health care costs, the White House said. For businesses, high-performing buildings are likely to attract higher occupancy rates.

“As a coastal city that’s vulnerable to rising seas and extreme heat, Boston must be a national leader in driving a just transition to carbon neutrality,” said Boston Mayor Michelle Wu. The city’s building emissions reduction and disclosure ordinance “sets the standard for securing major emissions reductions from large buildings, with specific benchmarks on the path to becoming a net-zero city and clear mechanisms to ensure that environmental justice communities experience the benefits of net-zero buildings,” Wu said.

Major building trade groups and unions have volunteered to work with cities and states to train workers to retrofit buildings to meet stricter performance standards, the White House said, adding that unions recognize “that these policies stimulate economic growth and good-paying union jobs.”

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