Mayors Want War Money Spent At Home

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Mayors of some the nation's largest cities have voted on a resolution that aims to end the U.S. spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — and instead send those funds to help cities in financial trouble.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

A new study from the U.S. Conference of Mayors says 75 metropolitan areas are expected to have double-digit unemployment by the end of the year. The mayors are holding their annual meeting in Baltimore, and today they urged Washington to take the money it's now spending on the battlefield and use it to help American cities rebound from the recession. NPR's Brian Naylor reports from Baltimore.

BRIAN NAYLOR: The resolution puts the mayors on record in support of efforts to, quote, "speed up the ending of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan." It notes some $126 billion is being spent annually on the conflicts. It calls on the president and Congress to bring these war dollars home to meet vital human needs, promote job creation and a number of other goals.

One of its sponsors, Hallandale, Florida mayor Joy Cooper, said the money could provide a much needed boost to cities across the nation.

Mayor JOY COOPER (Hallandale, Florida): We need to be redeveloping, yes, our infrastructure, our schools, our roadways. And I don't know how many times I've been approached to say why are we spending and spending overseas when our country is hurting here.

NAYLOR: Not since the war in Vietnam has the U.S. Conference of Mayors called for an end to a military engagement. And those opposed to the resolution said the mayors were wrong to inject themselves in a foreign policy issue.

Auburn, Washington mayor Peter Lewis said he served in Vietnam and has a nephew now in Iraq.

Mayor PETER LEWIS (Auburn, Washington): I understand the vital need to redirect resources, but making political statements in this forum about the war I do not believe is proper. We create no value here, but we can do harm there.

NAYLOR: Backers stressed that it was not an anti-war resolution or anti-troop. To make that clear, they added language to state the mayors' strong support of men and women in uniform. Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter said it wasn't a question of guns or butter.

Mayor MICHAEL NUTTER (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania): We have to at least recognize in this big, great country that we have to be able to do more than one thing at a time. We should not allow ourselves to get caught in a slightly false debate that we're either going to support military activities, or we're going to support cities. We can actually do both in the United States of America.

NAYLOR: But many mayors said support for cities has been lacking both on the part of Republican leaders in Congress and the Obama administration. The newly elected president of the conference, Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, said Washington was consumed with partisanship and vitriol.

Mayor ANTONIO VILLAIRAGOSA (Los Angeles, California): The bubble in the beltway is so completely encapsulated that they cannot hear our cries, our demands for investment in our cities at a time when so many of them just don't get it. It's important that they take the example of our mayors today.

NAYLOR: According to the mayors' economic report, it will take until December of 2014 for more than half of the nation's metropolitan areas to get back to their pre-recession employment levels, adding urgency to their call to bring U.S. investments back home.

Brian Naylor, NPR News, Baltimore.

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