President Donald Trump speaks to a group of mayors in the East Room of the White House on Jan. 24, 2018. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Georgia mayors flood White House as others bail over immigration

The mayors of 17 Georgia cities, including Atlanta, Sandy Springs and Loganville were on hand for various outreach events with Trump administration officials throughout the day.

It all culminated in a 15-minute speech from President Donald Trump in the East Wing. Trump previewed his administration’s upcoming infrastructure plan and said his wanted to empower local governments. 

“You bring safety, prosperity and hope to our citizens,” Trump said. “My administration will always support local government and listen to leaders who know their communities best, and you know your community best.”

Trump also touted the GOP’s tax overhaul and recent gains to the economy under his leadership, while taking a dig at the work of previous Democratic mayors.

"Remember, I used to say, 'What do you have to lose?'" he said. "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 a done a terrible — I mean, they've done some bad work.”

Georgia officials appeared to avoid much of the day’s drama after several prominent Democratic mayors, including Bill De Blasio of New York City and U.S. Conference of Mayors President Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans, announced they would skip the meeting.

De Blasio and Landrieu cited the administration’s latest crackdown on so-called sanctuary cities, jurisdictions that limit how local police can cooperate with the feds on immigration. Georgia has outlawed sanctuary cities since 2009, but current and former officials have slammed Trump’s policy towards those jurisdictions and framed Atlanta as a “welcoming community.”

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a Democrat who has been critical of Trump, participated in an urban renewal event at the White House earlier in the day but ultimately skipped Trump’s speech. A spokeswoman said Bottoms had a scheduling conflict. 

More than 100 mayors from across the country took part in the meetings, which corresponded with the bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors’ annual winter meeting here.  

Other Georgia mayors who attended the day’s events said they were pleased with what they heard from Trump and other administration officials. 

Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul, a Republican, said he discussed the regulatory environment with Transportation Department officials and was pleased with their plans to streamline the approval process for new projects.

“If they could get that done then we’ll make tremendous strides,” Paul said. 

Loganville Mayor Rey Martinez, who led Trump’s Georgia Latino coalition, said he was similarly encouraged by talk of the tax bill and new infrastructure spending. The Gwinnett County town he leads is looking to attract more businesses downtown, and he said such federal-level efforts would help.

Both Paul and Martinez said the mayors that skipped out on the Trump event missed an opportunity. 

“It doesn’t matter who’s president,” Martinez said. “When the commander-in-chief of the United States calls, you come.”

Metro Atlanta mayors who were slated to attend the day’s events included: Boyd Austin of Dallas; Michael Bodker of Johns Creek; Steven Edwards of Sugar Hill; Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta; Rey Martinez of Loganville; Rusty Paul of Sandy Springs; Vanessa Rogers-Fleisch of Peachtree City; and Vince Williams of Union City. 

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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman
Tamar Hallerman
Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that...