ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Donald Trump won the presidential election with the help of voters in the suburbs and rural areas. Now that Trump is president-elect, urban leaders are trying to get his attention. They're hoping Trump's administration will be sympathetic to big cities' needs. NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.
CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a former chief-of-staff to President Obama, met yesterday with President-elect Trump at his invitation. It gave Emanuel a chance to hand-deliver a letter from mayors of some of the country's largest cities. It asked Trump to continue the Obama administration policy preventing the deportation of so-called Dreamers, young immigrants who came to the United States before they were 16 years old.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
RAHM EMANUEL: We are clear as mayors that these are dreamers who are seeking the American dream, and we should embrace them, rather than do a bait-and-switch.
CORLEY: President-elect Trump campaigned saying he would reverse protections, but recently said he'd work to find a solution for Dreamers. He made another related promise, though, in a campaign speech on immigration that has many mayors concerned.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
DONALD TRUMP: Block funding for sanctuary cities - we block the funding. No more funding.
CORLEY: Hundreds of so-called sanctuary cities across the country limit their cooperation with federal authorities when it comes to undocumented residents. San Francisco says its policy will stay intact. City Attorney Dennis Herrera says San Francisco receives about $1 billion a year from the federal government, though he's quick to note that plenty of tax dollars flow from his city and state to Washington.
DENNIS HERRERA: There may be possible avenues that the federal government will take under President-elect Trump, but we're going to wait and see what happens. And I have every confidence that when you look at what we contribute and what we're legally entitled to, that we're going to be able to keep the vast majority of the dollars that we have been receiving.
CORLEY: During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump painted a dark picture of many of the country's cities. He called Chicago a gang-infested war zone. He blasted Democratic mayors, the leaders of a majority of the country's largest cities, and had harsh words about inner cities.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
TRUMP: Which are a disaster education-wise, job-wise, safety-wise - in every way possible.
MICK CORNETT: You know, as far as his comments on some urban areas during the campaign, I think that was part of the campaign.
CORLEY: Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett is a Republican who heads the U.S. Conference of Mayors. He says his 1,400 members consider cities the key to economic growth and innovation. Nearly two-thirds of Americans live in cities. And Cornett says going forward, he doesn't have any reason to believe that President-elect Trump won't stand up for cities.
CORNETT: He grew up in New York City. He's generally - or he's lived in cities. He's invested in cities.
CORLEY: Cornett says when it comes to an urban agenda under a Trump administration, the conference thinks priority should include rebuilding crumbling roads and water systems, affordable housing and public transit and safety. The president-elect has promised $1 trillion to rebuild the country's infrastructure, but provided few details. Critics call it a potential boondoggle that would benefit investors and could lead to higher fees and more toll roads. Meanwhile, some cities are making sure they have federal funds in hand before President Obama leaves office. Rolf Pendall, who heads a policy center at the Urban Institute, says cities are under constant pressure to do more with less and have to be creative as federal funds shrink. He says that could soon be a reality again.
ROLF PENDALL: But I think it's too early to say everybody should be panicking. Instead, the undefined nature of the urban agenda of the next administration leaves an opportunity to develop a clear picture.
CORLEY: Leaders with a U.S. Conference of Mayors invited Donald Trump to meet with them during the campaign without success. They're now hoping to make the case that investments in their cities benefit the entire country. Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.