The Ongoing Clash Between Trump And Big Cities Mayors of some of the cities the president targets say they aren't worried about jeopardizing federal funding and will continue fighting the rhetoric and policies they believe will harm urban areas.

The Ongoing Clash Between Trump And Big Cities

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Big-city mayors have made no secret of their tensions with President Trump; they hit back when he criticizes them, or they go after the president with lawsuits. But they also have to be careful because many of those same cities rely on federal aid. NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: President Trump has always painted a grim picture of urban life in America, and his recent comments about the homeless in California hurting the prestige of Los Angeles and San Francisco raised plenty of hackles. Darrell Steinberg is the chairman of the state's Commission on Homelessness. He called the president's comments hypocritical.

DARRELL STEINBERG: This is a president who is calling for the elimination of the Community Development Block Grant program, which is a primary source of funding for affordable housing.

CORLEY: Steinberg, who is also the mayor of Sacramento, signed a letter on behalf of California's big cities, along with California Governor Gavin Newsom, and asked the president to increase housing vouchers for low-income residents by the thousands. Steinberg says it's time for any adversarial relationship between cities and the Trump administration to end.

STEINBERG: When it comes to homelessness, there's only one thing that matters, and that is bringing as many people under a roof as possible and helping them reclaim their lives.

CORLEY: Homelessness, though, is just one issue where the president's been on the attack. He also disparaged big cities led by Democrats for a variety of other problems. He blasted Baltimore recently for its economic and crime problems. He's been particularly harsh in condemning so-called sanctuary cities for putting limits on cooperating with ICE, the country's immigration agency. Trump tried to block some of those cities from receiving Department of Justice funds used to hire police officers. He lost that battle in court.

LORI LIGHTFOOT: Obviously, we need help from the federal government.

CORLEY: Lori Lightfoot is the mayor of Chicago, one of the city's Trump has criticized and targeted.

LIGHTFOOT: But we're not going to compromise our values in pursuit of federal dollars.

CORLEY: And Lightfoot says the president loses nothing by attacking cities.

LIGHTFOOT: Because he's not going to getting votes of large urban centers like the city of Chicago - some, but nothing that's actually going to profit him.

CORLEY: In Albuquerque, N.M., federal money helped fund a bus expansion program. Mayor Tim Keller says the city has a nearly $1 billion budget, and while appreciative of federal funds, they make up a small percentage.

TIM KELLER: We're talking about less than 0.01% of our budget. So we're not worried about that funding.

CORLEY: Keller says the city can get those dollars elsewhere.

KELLER: But also, we believe in the rule of law, and that's why we've joined the lawsuits with the Conference of Mayors to resist against the president trying to leverage funding for things like equipment for our law enforcement folks in exchange for immigration policy.

CORLEY: While the relationship between the president and big cities remains, in some instances, adversarial, the head of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Bryan Barnett, mayor of Rochester Hills, Mich., says the goal is to actually be partners with the president.

BRYAN BARNETT: Our first posture is always to collaborate, work together and, you know, find a shared success. But, you know, if need be, we will make sure that our voices are heard and that we're representing the people that live in our cities.

CORLEY: No rapprochement is likely anytime soon. More than two dozen cities and states are joining California and suing the Trump administration over rolling back emissions standards.

Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.


Copyright © 2019 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. 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.