WASHINGTON, DC, January 21, 2010 (ENS) – Some 240 mayors from across the country gave President Barack Obama a standing ovation at the White House today with many interrupting their applause to take cell-phone photos of their host.

When he took the podium, President Obama recognized the new president of the Conference of Mayors, Elizabeth Kautz, mayor of Burnsville, Minnesota.

Obama noted the presence of Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, “because he was such a great host for me and my family when we were there in Honolulu” during Christmas vacation.

He also recognized “my own mayor, Mayor Richard Daley, for the outstanding work he’s done in Chicago.”

The audience included Mayors Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, Gavin Newsom of San Francisco, Kevin Johnson of Sacramento, Thomas Leppert of Dallas, Dave Bing of Detroit, Michael McGinn of Seattle, Raul Salinas of Laredo, Texas, John Hickenlooper of Denver, Bill Finch of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Adrian Fenty of Washington, DC.

President Obama got laughs and applause when he told the group, “It was President [Lyndon] Johnson who once said, ‘When the burdens of the presidency seem unusually heavy, I always remind myself it could be worse. I could be a mayor.'”

At the opening of the 2010 Winter Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors on Wednesday, the mayors said that in the coming year they will work towards energy independence and climate protection through green, sustainable jobs and the mayors’ Energy Efficiency Block Grant.

While listing the funding his administration has given cities – tax cuts for workers and small businesses, extended unemployment and health benefits, aid to keep essential services running and keep cops, firefighters and teachers on payrolls – President Obama acknowledged “while Wall Street may be recovering, you and I know your Main Streets have a long way to go.”

“Unemployment in your cities is still far too high. And because our metropolitan areas account for 90 percent of our economic output, they are the engines that we need to get started again,” he said.

“You’ve got a vision for your city,” said Obama. “And no matter what party you belong to or where you’ve traveled here from, that vision is one I share – of vibrant communities that provide our children with every chance to learn and to grow; that allow our businesses and workers the best opportunity to innovate and succeed; that let our older Americans live out their best years in the midst of all that metropolitan life has to offer.

“All of us have an obligation to make sure that even as we work to rescue and rebuild our economy, we don’t lose sight of that.”

The President gave the mayors a hint of what will be in his budget for the next fiscal year, saying, “The budget that I’ll present next month will begin to back up this urban vision by putting an end to throwing money after what doesn’t work – and by investing responsibly in what does.”

Mayor Kautz said, “All levels of government must work closer together to build a bold vision for what cities and metropolitan areas will look like in the coming decades.”

Over the three-day session of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which concludes on Friday, mayors also meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Cabinet members and Congressional representatives to advocate for a national bipartisan agenda that confronts the persistent unemployment, often in double-digit numbers, that still exists on Main Street America.

Unemployment stands at 13.9 percent in Long Beach, California; 13.4 percent in Las Vegas, Nevada; 14.9 percent in Providence, Rhode Island and 11.9 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

At their opening news conference on Wednesday, the mayors unveiled The 2010 Metro Agenda for America, which focuses on five key policy areas:

  1. job creation through direct funding to cities
  2. a more balanced transportation bill next year that recognizes the necessity to modernize the current transportation system in order to daily move goods and people in our metro areas of the nation
  3. energy independence and climate protection through green, sustainable jobs and the mayors’ Energy Efficiency Block Grant
  4. improved airport security
  5. continued funding for proven, working programs like Community Development Block Grants, Community Oriented Policing Services grants, and Summer Youth Jobs

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