Last year the President said to the nation’s mayors at their annual conference, "we need to promote strong cities as the backbone of regional growth….we also need to stop seeing our cities as the problem and start seeing them as the solution…strong cities are the building blocks of strong regions, and strong regions are essential for a strong America…" And earlier today in a speech in Indiana the President said, "The battle for America's future will be fought and won in places like Elkhart and Detroit, Goshen and Pittsburgh, South Bend, Youngstown –- in cities and towns across Indiana and across the Midwest and across the country that have been the backbone of America. It will be won by making places like Elkhart what they once were and can be again –- and that's centers of innovation and entrepreneurship and ingenuity and opportunity; the bustling, whirring, humming engines of American prosperity." In fact, President Obama, commonly referred to the Nation's first Mayor President (because he hails from Chicago) created the Office of Urban Affairs and this week, began a national conversation to engage cities and metropolitan areas with an eye towards what works, and a call for an interagency review of how federal policies are impacting local communities. The President has said, "Our job is to advance a new federal vision that recognizes cities and metropolitan areas as dynamic engines for our economy, and develop federal policy built on these strengths."

Yet, municipalities throughout the country have been plagued by cuts in revenue sharing, triggering layoffs, unfunded programs and projects, uncut parks, and reduced or eliminated services. Revenue sharing pays for police officers, fire fighters, road maintenance, water systems, parks and other essential local services. In the past eight years, the State of Michigan has reduced revenue sharing by $3 billion, causing the layoffs of thousands of police officers and fire fighters and cuts to other critical services. Last month, President Obama announced the next phase in developing a new urban agenda including a national conversation to engage cities and metropolitan areas with an eye towards what works, and a call for an interagency review of how federal policies are impacting local communities. Cities throughout the country have been receiving federal funds, through grants and earmarks, to help offset the lack of funding from their state. While a number of communities here in Michigan have retained lobbyists to fight for a limited amount of money from the state government, only a few have recognized that more money exists from Washington. For communities such as Charlevoix, Negaunee, Birmingham, Battle Creek, Detroit, Oakland County and Wayne County have each retained a lobbyist to help them secure funding in Washington. A number of chambers, including the Detroit Regional Chamber, Kalamazoo Chamber, Battle Creek Chamber and Ludington Chamber, have also retained federal lobbyists, as well as a number of DDAs and economic development agencies throughout the country.

While I realize that a majority of local governments do not have the resources to retain a lobbyist, nor is it the most politically correct thing to do, there are still creative ways to secure federal funding for local communities through partnerships with other organizations in the region.

For example, in FY 2009, the following communities will receive federal funding (as an example):

Negaunee, MI for the Croix Street Reconstruction and completion of Phase I. Park City, UT for a Feasibility Study that would bring water from Reclamation facilities to the Park City, Utah area -- Funding would provide additional non-construction support. Boise, ID, for design and construction of Boise's geothermal system expansion. Jackson, MS for a Transitional Job Project for job training and employment programs for the Homeless. Oakland, CA for a Green Jobs Initiative. Baltimore, MD, for construction for Healthcare for the Homeless center. Miami, FL for the Miami Green Initiative, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption in the city. Milwaukee, WI to improve access to and utilization of primary and preventive health care among low-income residents. The City of Beech Grove, IN, to enhance public safety with in-car cameras and at hot spots in the City to provide real-time feeds to the police command center. Holyoke, MA, to develop a full-service community school pilot project. The City of Shelbyville, IN, to complete the interoperable wireless public safety communications system for first responders. Medford, OR, to provide for the merging of two existing 9-1-1 dispatch centers for police officers. City of Sioux City, Sioux City, IA for meth related training. Moultrie, GA, for technology upgrades, including purchase of equipment and professional development 100k City of Haverhill, MA for various Downtown Streetscape Improvements. Stamford, CT, Waste-to-Energy Project, to convert dried sludge into clean, renewable energy. City of Yonkers, NY Police Department, to reduce non-emergency 9-1-1 calls through the creation of a new public hotline. Albuquerque, NM for their Transit Facility Rehabilitation. City of Ashland, MO Main Street Redevelopment Project. Crystal City, VA Bus Rapid Transit. City of Tuscaloosa, AL Downtown Revitalization Project University Blvd. and Greensboro Avenue. Trenton, NJ for a Renewable Energy Feasibility Study, to examine possible renewable energy sources. Quincy, IL for Hydroelectric Power Generation, and their city's efforts to install hydroelectric plants at locks and dams. Oklahoma City, OK, to continue replacement of Oklahoma's aging communication system. Cincinnati, OH for the complete property acquisition, demolition, and remediation of the Queen City Barrel area to create an urban industrial park. Craig, AK for the redevelopment of the abandoned cannery property. Milwaukee, WI for the development of supportive housing units for homeless. (Source Office of Management and Budget)

Federal funding is available for a wide-variety of projects, from putting more police officers on the street, fighting gang violence, reducing drug use, updating aging 911 systems, building intermodal facilities, rehabilitating properties or after school programs, the federal government has resources through grants and earmarks available for cities such as yours. As one Congressman once said, "I do not know why various organizations do not ask Congress for help and support of a number of programs." Where an entity has a program that meets a community need, the availability of federal funding is a strong possibility. But first you need to ask.