Thursday, January 08, 2009
Chávez To Meet With Obama Transition Team
By Dan McKay
Journal Staff Writer
Barack Obama's transition team has called Mayor Martin Chávez and 15 other mayors to appear in Washington today as the president-elect announces plans for an economic stimulus package.
The package could ultimately provide billions of dollars for projects in New Mexico, but Chávez said he doesn't expect specifics to be revealed today.
Still, today's appearance will give the mayor access to Obama's team as it works on the stimulus package. Obama is scheduled to deliver a speech at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., on his economic-recovery plan.
"I want to get to know senior members of the administration and advocate for Albuquerque," Chávez said Wednesday.
The city is seeking about $2 billion for solar-power plants, a wind farm, a streetcar down Central Avenue and a Downtown events center, among other things. It might not be clear until February what projects will make the federal list.
"It's impressive how close they hold things to the vest," Chávez said of the Obama transition team.
He said he and other mayors will meet with Obama's senior economic advisers this morning, then head over to an announcement on the stimulus package. The mayors might also be involved in briefing Congress, he said.
Chávez said he hopes the Obama meeting will be a sign of a close relationship in the future. Chávez has been close to former President Bill and Hillary Clinton he played golf with Bill and he hopes to have similar access to Obama's team.
Cities will play an important role in helping the federal government launch road, energy and other infrastructure projects, Chávez said. That's because municipalities can spend money quickly and efficiently, he said.
The president-elect, in a previous meeting, told Chávez and other mayors to "get your ducks in a row" to spend stimulus money now, Chávez said. Similar funding won't be available in future years, he said.
On Wednesday, Chávez again dismissed speculation that he might be tapped for a federal appointment. A national association wants Obama to appoint a prominent Hispanic official to the Cabinet and has suggested Chávez, among others.
"I'm not going anywhere," Chávez said. "I'm the mayor of Albuquerque."
Mayors from Seattle and Miami are also expected to be present at Obama's announcement today. Chávez was selected for his work in the U.S. Conference of Mayors.