Federal budget cuts proposed by Republicans would devastate local education, housing, job training, public safety and other programs, a House member and four mayors said Thursday.
"We're doing everything we can do to turn this around, but we're going to need everyone in my district and across the country to raise their voices about the impact of these draconian cuts," Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said during a conference call with media members.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, Albany Mayor Farid Javandel, Emeryville Mayor Nora Davis and Piedmont Mayor Dean Barbieri also took part in the call. All predicted dire consequences for their communities should the cuts -- already passed by the Republican-dominated House, and awaiting action in the Democrat-majority Senate -- be implemented.
Quan said that Oakland would lose about of a fifth of its Head Start early childhood positions, which means putting program staff out of their jobs, leaving working families without the child care they need to keep their own jobs, and depriving children of a program proven to give them a leg up on primary education.
She also said that her city's programs for seniors and the homeless would be decimated, and a cut in Community Development Block Grants would effect everything from school crossing guards to foreclosure counseling.
Javandel said education cuts would be particularly hurtful to Albany, where -- despite the work of PTAs and the Albany Education Foundation -- city schools still see funding disparities.
"It's really tough for us to solve these problems; we need a systematic funding program that works, that makes sense," he said. "We're already suffering. Cutting those programs further is a bad idea, and this is the worst time to do it."
Davis said that job creation, housing and education are Emeryville's top priorities, and she pressed Lee to keep fighting for earmarked federal spending on local programs in these areas. "Get in there and fight, Barbara!"
Barbieri said that although Piedmont does not directly face the same challenges as its more populous neighbors, public safety cuts -- from the Justice Department's Community Oriented Policing Services program and others that bankroll police salaries -- are a regional concern that do not stop at city boundaries. He also said he's concerned that Environmental Protection Agency support for replacement of aging sewer infrastructure could leave residents and the environment at risk.
Lee said cuts proposed by the GOP would mean 700,000 to 800,000 jobs lost nationwide. "Republicans came to Washington this January ... promising to create and save jobs, but in the two months that we've been in session, all that has happened is anti-jobs legislation."
In response to how she would address the nation's deficit, she said the country has spent far too much on tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. She also said military spending must be cut, starting with a cessation of spending on Afghanistan and Iraq and then following through with $100 billion in already identified cuts that she said wouldn't diminish national security or strategic interests.