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Oklahoma mayor stands up for investing in infrastructure

Oklahoma City mayor voices his support for the President’s efforts to bring the condition of U.S. infrastructure into the spotlight.

John Robert Smith, our T4 America co-chair and former Mayor of Meridian, Miss., is fond of saying that there are no Republican or Democrat potholes or bridges or roads. Fixing and updating our country’s transportation system is something that should have broad support, no matter what party is listed after a name. With nearly 12 percent of all U.S. bridges requiring replacement or repair, there’s plenty of work to be done in districts of all parties.

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, one of Mayor Smith’s former compatriots leading an American city, was in Washington, D.C. this week for a gathering of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and as it turned out, the lone Republican in the group. Perhaps this made him an obvious interview subject since the President’s American Jobs Act, which would invest billions in infrastructure, has been largely panned by Republicans for the most part in Congress.

Despite that, Mayor Cornett is supportive of the President’s efforts to raise the profile of infrastructure investment and the fact that the American Jobs Act would invest billions in our transportation system. He gave an enlightening interview on NPR’s Morning Edition this week.

GREENE: You’re going to face some heat when you go home after a visit like this to the White House?

CORNETT: Always do. And, you know, and some of it gets misconstrued. You know, some people will hear what I said at the steps of the White House and say that I endorsed the president’s plan, which I didn’t do. I think there are some elements of it that are good. And I probably disagree greatly on how we’re going to pay for it. I don’t necessarily think we ought to be raising taxes to do it. But if the president’s going to draw some attention to infrastructure, then I want to be there for him, because that voice doesn’t get spoken loudly enough. And although Oklahoma City doesn’t have the infrastructure needs of a lot of cities, if I can be a voice for these large eastern cities that have this deferred maintenance, then I’m going to do so because I think the future of our country relies on it.

For all the political posturing over the President’s $47 billion plan or the House draft transportation bill that would cut transportation spending by 35 percent, when you get down on the ground in our cities and communities, people know that spending money on our infrastructure and transportation system is a good idea. It creates jobs, boosts local economies, and makes us safer as deficient bridges are repaired or replaced.

As an aside, the mayor does suggest that he’s standing up for “large eastern cities,” but crumbling bridges unfortunately aren’t a problem limited to one region of the country or one type of city. Oklahoma is actually third worst in our ranking of states by percentage of deficient bridges and in fact, there are more midwestern states in the top 10 than there are states east of the Mississippi River.