Mayor factors tech into economy

The U.S. Conference of Mayors

With American cities losing nearly 650,000 jobs over the past year and having to slash spending — a situation affecting first responders and technology projects — Boston Mayor Thomas Menino called on President Bush to convene an economic summit in the next 60 days to develop a revitalization plan.

Menino, who also is the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, focused on economic recovery and homeland security during a speech April 30 at the National Press Club. He said the national economic summit should include mayors, governors, congressional and labor leaders, and university presidents.

He said the weak economy has prompted many state governments to slash spending — including in technology — slowing down the e-government effort and other related programs. Additionally, cities have complained for more than a year about getting little federal money to help them pay for overtime, training, equipment and upgrades.

Boston might have to cut nearly 1,700 workers — including teachers and first responders — next year, in addition to 500 personnel cuts already made this fiscal year, Menino said.

"This isn't economic recovery. It's economic misery for more and more American families," he said. "For all the pledges of support I've heard from Washington, they don't amount to much."

Although some items in the federal government's fiscal 2003 supplemental budget will help with homeland security funding, such as the $700 million earmarked for high-density urban areas, Menino said direct funding — which has become a battle cry among many mayors — continues to be an issue.

He said cities are willing to work with states, which will take a percentage of homeland security funding, but he also said money should be allocated for regional partnerships.

In suggesting ways to get the economy rolling, Menino called for more investment in housing production and transportation and noted that technology is an important element as well.

Menino cited a recent study that found 42 percent of Americans don't use the Internet, indicating there is great potential for expanding that market and stimulating the high-tech industry.

He described a program in Boston that teaches low-income families about computers, software programs and the Internet. Those who successfully complete the program earn a free computer and printer, among other incentives.

Menino called it the "best welfare reform program I've seen" and said it was a "great equalizer" between the haves and have-nots. He said families need tax incentives to help working families, not tax breaks to widen the income gap.


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