Several prominent mayors from around the country boycotted a meeting with President Donald Trump Wednesday because of a Justice Department crackdown on what's commonly referred to as "sanctuary cities." But many went.
One of those was Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. He said the benefits outweighed any controversy.
"Fortunately, the bulk of the discussion with the president was about infrastructure, which is why all of us were there," he said from Washington, D.C. "And something obviously critically important to America's cities."
Buckhorn said their discussion revolved around working to reducing regulations on federal infrastructure projects and increasing federal matching grants for cities to work on road, water and stormwater projects.
He said President Trump brought up the issue of sanctuary cities - which he called "a stick in the eye" to many of the mayors who did show up at the White House. But he said the meeting was worth it.
"We want what's in the best interest of our country, and he is our president, we're going to have to work with him for the next three years, and so we're trying hard to find common ground," Buckhorn said. "It's just sometimes very difficult.
"We're happy to find common ground with him on these issues," he said. "But we also are not shy about standing up in the face of bad public policy, as well."
Several prominent officials, including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, announced they would not attend a working group session with the president at the White House out of opposition to the Justice Department's latest action to crack down on sanctuary cities.
Trump, addressing local officials and reporters at the White House, slammed the decision.
"The mayors who choose to boycott this event have put the needs of criminal, illegal immigrants over law-abiding Americans," Trump said.
The president said "the vast majority of people showed up" to the event. It was not immediately clear how many mayors opted to skip the event. But roughly 100 people attended, according to a press pool report.
Here's a transcript of the President's comments to the mayors:
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much. What a group. Some great friends, great mayors. Please sit down.
We have really hardworking, brilliant people in this room. I know so much about being a mayor.
We have a very good friend of mine, Dane Maxwell. Where’s Dane? Dane. Stand up, Dane. We’ve been together a long time, Dane, a long time. And thank you very much for being here. It’s a great place — that Mississippi is special. We had a good time on November 8th in Mississippi, right?
And Betsy Price. Betsy? Thank you, Betsy. Thank you for being here, very much. Really, two fantastic friends of mine for a long time.
Toni Harp. Where’s Toni? Toni? Toni? Uh oh, can’t be a sanctuary city person, I know. (Laughter.) That’s not possible, is it?
Well, I want to just say — I mean, we’ll start by saying that, as you know, the Department of Justice, today, has announced a critical legal step to hold accountable sanctuary cities that violate federal law and free criminal aliens back into our communities.
We can’t have that. Can’t have it. It would be very easy to go the other way, but we can’t have it. We want a safe country, and it’s getting safer all the time.
Sanctuary cities are the best friend of gangs and cartels, like MS-13. You know that. The result in the death rate around sanctuary cities — in and around — for innocent Americans is unacceptable. Take a look at what happened in San Francisco and Kate Steinle, and countless others.
My administration is committed to protecting innocent Americans and the mayors who choose to boycott this event have put the needs of criminal illegal immigrants over law-abiding Americans. But let me tell you, the vast majority of people showed up. Okay? The vast majority. Because the vast majority believe in safety for your city. (Applause.)
I want to thank all of you for being here. I’m thrilled to welcome dozens of mayors from across the country to the White House. And I’ve worked with so many of you, some in the private sector. Who knew I was going to be here? (Laughter.)
But it happened. Right, Kellyanne? My star, Kellyanne. Stand up, Kellyanne. She’s more famous than I am. (Applause.) Good. Thanks, Kellyanne. Great.
You bring safety, prosperity, and hope to our citizens. My administration will always support local government and listen to leaders who know their communities best. And you know your community best.
We believe in local government. We believe in empowering each and every one of you. Together, we are achieving absolutely incredible results.
We have created nearly 2.4 million jobs since the election. Nobody thought that was going to be happening, right? (Applause.)
The unemployment rate is at, now, an 18-year low. African American unemployment — I’m very proud of this. Remember, I used to say, “What do you have to lose?” And people said, “I don’t know if that’s a nice thing to say.” I said, “Of course it is. For 100 years, the Democratic mayors have done a terrible — I mean, they’ve done some bad work.” I said, “What did you have to lose?” African American unemployment is at its lowest rate ever recorded. (Applause.) That’s not bad.
Unemployment for women is at its lowest rate in 17 years, and that’s going to be a very new standard very soon. (Applause.)
And Hispanic American unemployment, like African American unemployment, is at the lowest rate ever recorded. That’s a long time. (Applause.)
And here’s the good news: it’s getting better. It’s going to get better. We’ve cut more regulations than any administration in history, by far. And we’ve been really doing the cutting for about 10 months, even though we’ve been here now for 12. We started a little bit late. Although, the first day we did some pretty big cutting, I will say.
And as you know, just before Christmas, we passed massive tax cuts and reform so that more businesses will come back to your cities and towns, and working families will finally get the pay raises that they’ve been waiting for many, many years, in some cases. (Applause.)
Our tax plan also creates opportunities — and some of you are taking advantage of that — to encourage investment in distressed communities, create more jobs, and bring Main Street booming back to life.
More than two million American workers have already received tax cut bonuses from their employers all because of our incredible tax cut bill. And I must tell you, this has worked far greater — because nobody thought in terms of the companies coming out and paying $1,000; and $2,000; and $2,500 per employee. They have hundreds of thousands of employees in some cases.
And the ones that aren’t getting it are getting it because they’re going, “What about us?” Now they’re at a point, they’re saying, “What about us?” We know that feeling. So it’s really turned out — nobody thought that.
As much as we thought — and as much as we had a lot of brilliant minds around that tax bill, nobody really thought in terms of would a company step up. And it started — AT&T started it. And then a couple of others picked it up very quickly — Comcast and some others, they picked it up. And then it became an avalanche.
And Kellyanne, we never used to talk about that because it wasn’t really in the realm of thinking. And it’s turned out to be, really, an avalanche. And it’s been a beautiful thing to watch. People are walking away with $1,000 and $2,000, and much more.
We’re also working to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure by stimulating a $1 trillion investment, and that will actually, probably, end up being about $1.7 trillion. (Applause.)
Oh, you like that? I can tell we have mayors in the room. That’s good. That’s good. Only mayors could be that excited. Only the mayors and the workers — it’s about jobs, right — could be that excited.
No, and we’ll probably be putting that in a week or two, right after the State of the Union Address. We’ll be talking about it a little bit in the State of the Union; we’ll put that in.
One of the other things, I have to say — Apple — a $350 billion investment. And I spoke to Tim Cook. And you probably you heard me on the trail — I’ll say, “I will not consider this job complete and great, in terms of economics and the economy, unless Apple someday starts building some plants in our country.” And what happened is they said, $350 billion.
And when I first heard it — Tim Cook and I spoke. But when I first heard it, I said, “I guess they mean $350 million” — because that’s a big plant. You know, $350 million, you can build a lot of plant. But they said, “No, sir, $350 billion.” And much of that comes from overseas. They’re going to bring it back because of the tax bill because we made it possible for them to bring it back. (Applause.)
And they’re investing a lot of money over and above that. So it’s $350 billion and thousands and thousands of new jobs. They’re going to build an incredible campus. It’s going to be something special.
But we worked with Congress to cut down the approval and permitting process so that it takes no longer than 2 years, instead of, on average, 10 to 12 to 17 years to build a simple road. (Applause.)
A road in a certain location — I won’t mention the state, although I happen to like the state very much — it’s been under approval 17 years. They’ve been planning it for 17 years, and it was a straight — nothing — road. Now it’s got lots of curves because we have to miss the nests and everything else. And curves aren’t good on roads. You know, roads are, like, straight. And it was, 17 years ago, going to cost virtually nothing, and it ends up being hundreds of millions of dollars. And it was recently completed, and everyone goes, “You have to be kidding.”
So we’re going to bring that 10-year process — that’s an average. I think it’s actually much higher than that. We’re going to bring that down to, we say, less than two years, but I’d like to be able to average about one year.
And you’ll let them know. If we don’t want a highway, if we don’t want something built, you’re going to let them know quickly. But at least they won’t be waiting 17 — because a lot of times, you’ll wait 17 years and you’ll get rejected. That’s even worse. If you’re the builder, that’s not good. You devoted a good part of your life to doing something and get rejected. That’s really unfair.
So you may get rejected, but you’re going to get rejected quickly, okay? That’s not bad. (Laughter.)
But mostly, you’re going to get — you saw what we did with the pipelines — 48,000 jobs, immediately. As soon as I came to the office, we approved it — 48,000 jobs.
We’re partnering with the state and local governments, like yours, to find the most innovative ways to rebuild our roads, bridges, waterways, and airports. Very important words: on time and under budget. Have you heard those words before? (Applause.) You don’t hear them too much in government, right?
And a lot of that is the bidding process, and you’ll take care of your bidding processes. But the bidding process is a very big factor in that. Some of the way they bid in cities and states — and, I can tell you, in our military — I mean, the process — it’s not even bidding, really. You give somebody a contract to steal, and we don’t want to do that.
We’re supporting our local police beyond what we’ve ever done. (Applause.) Great. And fire departments. We’re also getting you a lot of our excess military equipment; you know all about that. Previous administrations — but in particular, “-on” — the previous administration, “-on” — they didn’t like to do that, and someday they’ll explain why. But we had a lot of excess military equipment; we’re sending it to your police as they need it. And it’s made a tremendous difference.
We believe every child deserves to live in a safe home, attend a great school, and look forward to an amazing and very, very safe future. (Applause.) So you’re getting a lot of equipment.
And together — just in summing up — we are restoring pride in the American worker and faith in the American Dream. People are dreaming again. It’s been a tremendous thing. They’re especially dreaming when they open up their 401(k)s, and they see that they’re up 44 percent, okay? (Applause.) And they feel very brilliant about their investment strategy.
I told you the story, but I’ve said it numerous times — I like to tell it — about people, they come to me all the time and they say, “Thank you so much. I’m up 42 percent. I’m up 48 percent. I’m up 37 percent. And my wife or my husband thinks I’m totally genius as an investor.” (Laughter.) I said, “Don’t worry about it, just keep it.”
And I will say this, if the wrong person came into this office, you wouldn’t only be even and you wouldn’t be up — I think it’s now 42.5 percent, and the markets up again, but 42.5 percent since election — you would be down 30 to 40 percent.
And that’s what was happening. You take a look at your GDP then and take a look at what’s happened now. We’ll have three quarters in a row over 3[percent]. We had 3.2, and a lot of people thought it would take two or three years to get there. And we’re going to be hitting 4 soon, and then we’re going to be hitting 5’s. And you’re going to see a big difference. (Applause.)
And each point, remember this — so you go up, people say, “Oh, what’s the big deal between 2.5 and 3.5?” Well, I’ll tell you. You were below 2 — you had the slowest recovery in history. Slowest recovery in history. And if you take a look at the average, I think it was 1.7 or 1.8 for eight years. The one point means $2.5 trillion. Think of that. One point — $2.5 trillion — and it means 10 million jobs. Other than that, it’s not a big deal, okay? (Laughter.)
But it’s — literally, it’s $2.5 trillion to the country. We’ve gained in market value, in the stock market, $8 trillion since Election Day. I mean, that’s something that’s pretty amazing — $8 trillion. And set every record in doing it. Most days, where we had new records — you know, our stock market, I think, since election, it was 82 or 84 times where we set a new record for the stock market.
And it’s going to continue, folks, because we have a long way to go. We have, actually, a lot of regulation-cutting to do. And we want regulation. You know better than anybody we need regulation. But you don’t need 17 different approvals from 17 different agencies on the same subject. And we’re doing that, and it’s really been beautiful to watch.
But we actually have a long way to go, believe it or not, because we’ve gotten great credit for regulations. I think the regulations may be almost as important as the tax cuts. And I have some businesses that have called me and they say, “We love the tax cuts. We’re going to spend a lot of money. But, sir, we think the regulation-cutting that you’ve done might even be more important.” And I’m sure you’re seeing that too, or you’re seeing something like that.
So I want to thank you all for joining us in this great national effort. Thank you for your leadership — you truly are great leaders and important leaders — friendship and partnership. And together, we will usher in a very bold, new era of peace and prosperity.
We’re doing great. I’m going Davos right now to get people to invest in the United States. I’m going to say, “Come into the United States, you have plenty of money.” But I don’t think I have to go, because they’re coming — they’re coming at a very fast clip.
So it’s going to be an interesting time. But they’re coming back to this country. You saw that we have Chrysler leaving Mexico — we like Mexico — and coming into Michigan. We like that? Nobody has seen in a long time. (Applause.)
And we other major car companies. You saw Toyota and so many others; they’re coming back into the United States, and they’re building big plants. And that — all it means to me is money for our people, lower taxes. And what it really means is jobs.
So, people have not seen this in decades. And I think, in the end, they will never have seen anything like what’s happening with our country.
So, again, I would like to thank you all. You’re very, very important to the future of this country. You’ve done a fantastic job. So many friends and so many great people. And I know you very well. And thank you very much. And you guys have been fantastic, and I appreciate it very much.
Thank you. Thank you all. Have a good time. (Applause.)