WASHINGTON — Three weeks before she takes over the reins of Minneapolis government, incoming mayor Betsy Hodges joined fifteen of her fellow mayors-elect for a round of meetings at the White House on Friday.
Hodges met with President Obama, Vice President Biden and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx during her visit. Afterward, she said she plugged a handful of Minneapolis and Twin Cities transportation projects, including the proposed streetcar lines in Minneapolis and potential new light-rail transit lines.
Hodges said she talked to Foxx about the streetcar project, even though it doesn’t require federal funding (Foxx himself pursued extending a streetcar line while he was mayor of Charlotte). Other projects, like the Southwest light-rail line, do need federal support, but Hodges said, “I think there’s value placed on rail” by the Obama administration, “as job growth, as an economic development generator.”
Obama officials also asked the soon-to-be mayors to help encourage citizens to sign up for health insurance plans. Hodges said they also discussed education and neighborhood development programs.
She acknowledged that cities have had a harder time receiving federal support in recent years — Minneapolis has seen its share of community development grants fall dramatically — but she said cities are “finding ways to advance an agenda even in times of declining or stagnating resources.”
Friday was the first time Hodges has met Obama, though she said she’s come to Washington to advocate for Minneapolis interests several times a year while working for the city. Her predecessor, R.T. Rybak, is a close Obama ally, often travelling to D.C. for both political and city-centric purposes.
Hodges said she plans to continue Minneapolis’ outreach in Washington, and she said the Obama administration is billing itself as a partner.
“It’s a genuine mission of the administration to partner with cities and I think there’s a lot of opportunity there,” she said. “I think now, more than ever, when the national level is more challenging, if you want to get something done, I say go to cities. I offered Minneapolis as one of those cities.”
Devin Henry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @dhenry