Whaley Leads Drive For Infrastructure Bill

Nan Whaley launched yet another campaign Tuesday in addition to the one she is waging to become Ohio’s next Governor.

She is the newly elected President of the US Conference of Mayors, a bipartisan movement of city leaders from across the country, and with the title comes the job of leading the fight for federal funding.

“This plan represents the most significant long term investment in America’s infrastructure in nearly a century. But it’s really important that we get this right,” Whaley said.

Speaking to a few hundred civic leaders meeting in Columbus, Whaley told them the organization has a history of taking on tough issues on a national level.

It was founded in the depths of the depression in 1932 and prompted the Congress to provide direct aid to cities to deal with the disastrous economy.

Jump ahead nearly 90 years later and the call for help is much the same. Cities asked Congress last year to provide financial aid during the COVID crisis and once again Washington came through.

Now, Whaley said, President Biden and a group of Republican Senators have agreed on a framework for the new infrastructure bill and the Conference of Mayors will be pushing hard for passage.

Dayton City Commissioner Chris Shaw is one of the local leaders attending Tuesday’s event.

Shaw said passage of the bill is very important for the nation and specifically for Dayton as well.

“This is critically important that we have this investment. This is a good opportunity for that if we can get something done in Washington,” Shaw said.

The sticking point on the infrastructure bill is where to draw the line on what should be included. Both Democrats and Republicans run down the initial list of features and apparently agree on what should make the cut.

Roads and bridges, check. Water and sewer, check. Expansion of broadband internet service, maybe. Additional childcare support for working families and more, that’s in play. 

Shelley Dickstein, Dayton’s City Manager, remains optimistic, telling WHIO-TV “I’m fifty-fifty right now, hoping that they broaden this infrastructure bill  enough to where the middle of the country  that has really suffered from blight and economic development loss has an opportunity to make up for some of that loss.”

Another item on the infrastructure bill list Whaley is pushing for is the return of passenger rail service to Ohio.

A plan from Amtrak would bring passenger rail back to the Miami Valley for the first time since the late 1970′s. Whaley supports it. “Passenger rail is a very big deal,” Whaley said. “We see this opportunity to really connect Ohio cities through the Amtrak plan but also connect the entire country.”

If Amtrak gets the green light to return service to Ohio rail upgrades would take years to complete and the first trains would not roll for another ten years or more.

While Whaley continues her run for Governor, she will also focus part of her time on her new role of leading the US Conference of Mayors and push for passage of the infrastructure bill.

The organization sent a letter to the White House Tuesday to voice their support for the plan, listing 369 mayors from all 50 states now backing the bill.

In response, President Biden said on Twitter, “Today, the U.S. Conference of Mayors-Republican and Democratic mayors from across the country-announced support for our bipartisan infrastructure deal. Mayors and governors know we need to get this done.``