Posts tagged with "Donald Trump":

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Donald Trump disbands infrastructure advisory panel

Donald Trump has disbanded the Advisory Council on Infrastructure—a panel which was still in the process of being formed. The council was due to inform the President about how to spend up to $1 trillion on improving infrastructure, including public projects such as bridges and roads. The news comes after Trump dissolved two other panels: The American Manufacturing Council and the Strategic and Policy Forum, making it three panels disbanded within the space of a week. However, as Bloomberg reported, corporate chief executive officers had already begun to quit after Trump's reaction to the Charlottesville riots. It was during an event surrounding Trump's  executive order to streamline infrastructure projects that the President answered questions on the riot and failed to denounce white supremacists. New York developers Richard LeFrak and Steven Roth—of the LeFrak Organization and Vornado Realty Trust, respectively—were in line to head the $1 trillion plan. The pair is supposedly good friends with the President, or at least they were, when they were touted for their roles in January this year. Fifteen other advisors, representing the finance, real estate, consultancy, and other industries, were also meant to advise Trump on how to deliver his infrastructure goals, something which was a major part of his election mandate.
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Growing private detention industry threatens immigrants’ rights on the U.S.-Mexico border

The collision of private law enforcement and privately managed immigration enforcement at sites of detention is dramatically altering the landscape of migrant processing and justice—largely to the disadvantage of the detainee.

On Jan 25, President Trump issued an executive order, which, in addition to mandating the well-known “border wall,” directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to “immediately construct […] facilities to detain aliens at or near the land border with Mexico,” to support increased deportations of undocumented migrants. An internal memo circulated by the administration in April called for nearly double the existing detention capacity to accommodate 80,000 detainees on any given day. Twenty-seven new locations had been scouted; 21,000 beds had already been found. With such rapid growth, decisions privilege expediency and cost over the quality of services and care for detainees.

It is highly likely that the new federal detention capacity will be met in partnership with private prison companies. Currently, 65 percent of detainees in the U.S. migrant detention system stay in private facilities run by companies (commonly for-profit) that contract with the federal government. Both commercial contractors and government vendors contributed to the search for detention spaces outlined in the April memo.

The same criticisms that apply to the private prison industry, and which led the Department of Justice (DOJ) to mandate an end to its use in August of 2016, apply to the burgeoning private detention industry. A 2009 report from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) noted that a majority of migrant detention facilities were initially built for use as prisons, and that these structures impose more restrictions than necessary for the detainees. The shared typological features between prisons and detention centers flatten the important differences between criminal sentencing and migrant detention. Where the two intermingle, the distinction between legal and extralegal, private and federal, detention and incarceration is dangerously elusive.

One of the largest private detention facilities in the U.S. is the Otero County Processing Center (OCPC) in Chaparral, New Mexico. The center is part of a 15-acre site that includes the Otero County Prison Facility, which first partnered with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold detainees awaiting rulings in 2003. Residents of Otero County reportedly “liked the business [of migrant detention at the prison facility]—a half dollar a day per immigrant” and agreed to expand the practice, supporting the construction of a dedicated ICE detention facility, the OCPC, right next door, in 2008. Both the prison and the detention facility are operated by Management and Training Corporation (MTC), one of the nation’s largest private corrections companies.

In its early years, the OCPC was known in immigration advocacy circles as “The Hub,” due to the number of detainees who were transferred to the secluded site for processing from out-of-state. This transfer practice reportedly limits detainees’ access to community support and legal assistance otherwise available at the location of their arrest, and places them in jurisdictions known to hand down less favorable rulings.

The architecture of the OCPC clouds important distinctions between immigrant detainee and convicted prisoner to preemptively deny justice and erode the humanity of migrants.

When we visited the OCPC in June 2016, MTC employees emphasized that the center’s architecture is designed to maximize processing efficiency and prevent escape, not unlike a prison. In their language, spaces of intake manage “bodies”—not people. Walls that once ended in drop ceilings have been extended to seal completely to the roof, after speculation that a detainee could access the ceiling cavity.

Much of the staff’s experience is in criminal justice; many have spent time as correctional officers or administrators in jails and prisons before stints at the center. The distinction between civil and criminal immigration violations does not register in our discussions; staff mistakenly refers to detainees as “inmates.” The boundary between incarceration and detention on-site is fluid. The prison next door is used as a failsafe overflow center during overcrowding and operational malfunctions. When beds fill at OCPC, or the kitchen power fails, detainees are sent for up to 72 hours to the federal prison.

Other flattening abstractions permeate the space. Detainees wear color-coded uniforms, which provide a glimpse into their histories with the detention complex. Blue suits are for first-time non-violent immigration law offenders, mostly those picked up after walking across the U.S.-Mexico land border. Repeat offenders wear orange; those with violent or extensive criminal histories wear red. The center staff tells us they prefer dealing with the red population. Ironically, they are easier to manage; their criminal history is seen as an asset. Having spent time in jail, the regulated routine in the center is familiar territory, and they are more likely to comply with orders. To the detainees, as to the guards, it is all part of the same system.

Detention facilities like OCPC are specializing, taking on new roles. Our visit to the OCPC was just after a major transformation: Instead of providing long-term housing for detainees awaiting decisions on their cases, the processing center was converted into a last stop for detainees before deportation. Why? In 2015, DHS issued a report criticizing ICE transfer and deportation practices for presumed inefficiencies. ICE Air Operations (IAO), a shadow network of commercial and chartered flights that shuttles detainees domestically, had not been filling its seats. This report is likely the impetus for shifting strategy in Otero, which has become an overblown departure gate for deportation flights out of El Paso, Texas. When we visited, the typical stay at the OCPC is a mere two weeks, the daily operations consumed by the logistics of travel arrangements, rather than providing legal services and care for those detained. A chart in the offices maps out which detainees have been assigned seats on the three scheduled flights for the week, each filled to their 136-seat capacity.

Sites like Otero continue to contort themselves under changing directives, becoming autonomous islands, one-stop-shops for migrant processing and deportation. A DOJ directive began temporarily relocating federal judges to borderland detention facilities in March in an effort to speed deportation, further exacerbating questions of whether due process is respected in such off-grid locales with limited oversight. Existing teleconferencing rooms have since been repurposed to makeshift courts, while new courtroom space has been added to the OCPC. The wholesale restructuring of the space of migrant justice is just beginning. The construction of pop-up “port courts” is now proposed at ports of entry.

As the OCPC settles into its next-generation of use, it is consolidating even more security functions. Plans are underway to build a shooting range on site to support training for the detention center and prison staff. Guards will no longer need to go off-site to nearby Fort Bliss, thanks to a “bullet catcher” berm encircling the range. In December, DHS reported that private detention facilities—despite continued “documented occurrences of deficiencies and abuse”—will continue to be necessary for the foreseeable future. As a stopgap, the agency suggested positioning ICE wardens at private centers to provide federal oversight and accountability.

As the sites accelerate their transformations from isolated anomalies to quasi-urban, self-sufficient nuclei of privatized federal detention, we call for immigrant advocates and legal service providers to co-opt the logic of their shadow system of airfields, courts, and fly-in judges, grafting a parallel network supporting migrant advocacy on this nascent infrastructure.

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Trump will revoke an Obama-era order on flood risk regulations

President Donald Trump is all for building mega-infrastructure projects—that was one of his campaign’s trademark promises. He wants to build big and fast. But Trump's latest rescission of an Obama-era executive order, which stipulated all government-funded projects follow strict building standards to reduce exposure to flooding, may end up costing taxpayers a lot more.

Trump will revoke the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard with the goal of streamlining the environmental review of infrastructure projects, as first reported by Reuters. This move is part of his new executive order that aims to establish "discipline and accountability in the environmental review and permitting process for infrastructure projects," according to a statement the White House released yesterday.

The current standard for these government projects requires that designers factor in projections for climate change and flooding as a consequence of rising sea levels and increasingly intense downpours. In effect, it meant that buildings would be built to a higher vertical elevation to address all flood risks and ensure taxpayer dollars would be preserved for as long as possible. This standard, introduced by former president Barack Obama as one his many measures tackling climate change, was required for all infrastructure projects, from public housing to highways.

But speaking today at Trump Tower, Trump denounced the current permitting process as "over regulated" and "a disgrace." He claimed that instead of taking twenty years to build a highway, under his new executive order a highway will be built in under two years. "We’re going to get infrastructure built quickly and inexpensively,” he said. 

Demonstrating a similar lack of concern for climate change when he pulled out of the Paris Climate Accords, Trump has already rolled back many of Obama’s regulations on climate change. The elimination of this requirement could ultimately do more harm in the long run—even with a faster timeline, without flood-safety measures, taxpayers could end up paying up to billions over time, flood policy expert Eli Lehrer told Reuters. And it’s not a matter of if it floods, but when. 

The U.S. has already suffered an estimated $260 billion in flood related damages between 1980 and 2013.

Trump’s decision is undoing “the most significant action taken in a generation” to safeguard infrastructure, Rafael Lemaitre, former director of public affairs at FEMA, said to Reuters. “We can either build smarter now, or put taxpayers on the hook to pay exponentially more when it floods,” he said. “And it will.”

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Donald Trump’s childhood home is for rent on Airbnb

The childhood home of Donald Trump childhood home is listed on Airbnb for a cool $725 per night.

The five-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath home in Jamaica Estates, Queens boasts seventeen beds—two sofa beds and many bunk beds, with a few regular ones thrown in. The host notes that, though the home is not in any way officially linked with the president or the White House, Trump's aura abounds.

"Not much has been changed since the Trumps lived here, the kitchen is original and the opulent furnishings represent the style and affluence in which the Trumps would have lived," the listing states. "This is a unique and special opportunity to stay in the home of a sitting president." [Ed. note: except for the gold-toned shower stall and Trump schlock, the house looks like literally any other middle class home in the tristate area.]

The host pumps the residence's extras, including a definitely not creepy cut-out of the Donald that looms over the living room. Per the listing, "he is a great companion for watching Fox News late into the night...." And really, could there be a more perfect setting for a Lay's potato chip binge and 5:00 a.m. tweetstorm?

Despite the capaciousness of the abode, there's no mention of a fallout shelter, which would make the rental a real bargain in the face of nuclear war with North Korea.

Last year, the house was purchased by real estate investor Michael Davis, who promptly flipped the $1.4 million property. In March, Davis sold the Tudor-style home for $2.14 million at auction to an anonymous buyer. For the curious and Google Maps–inclined, the house is at 85-15 Wareham Place, a short walk to the F train at 179th Street.

There are no reviews yet.

The TimesLedger first reported this story. 

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Trump sign flying pigs installation delayed

“We’ve hit a timeline point where it’s too late to fabricate, ship, and float the balloons within a reasonably predictable weather window,” said to Jeffrey Roberts, partner at New World Design, Ltd., designers of the lighter-than-air civic demonstration, Flying Pigs on Parade: A Chicago River Folly. This latest news pushes the launch of the installation to 2018, moved from the original plan of this September. Roberts cites the city’s refusal to grant the installation a docking permit and larger-than-expected municipal reimbursables, such as security and sanitation fees, as the reasons for the delay. The city noted the potential for the hindrance of commercial and recreational traffic on the river in its refusal to New World Design. The refusal also referenced concerns about setting a precedent with the event. The design team is still optimistic about the future and says it is continuing the campaign to realize the project. "Given the continuing irrational nature of the political environment, our team remains committed to the message and deployment of the art installation," said Roberts in a press release. "We greatly appreciate the support from those that have contributed and those that have helped us spread the message via social media channels and other media outlets." The proposed Flying Pigs on Parade: A Chicago River Folly consists of four golden replicas of the flying pig made famous by Pink Floyd’s 1977 album Animals. The installation has the blessing of Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters. The plan calls for the pigs to be attached to a construction barge and floated in front of the 20-foot-tall Trump sign on the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago. Donald Trump has not yet commented or tweeted about the project.
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House Republicans: Fund border wall and new tunnel under the Hudson River

Congressional House Republicans released two separate spending bills detailing proposals that would impact the Gateway Project and the US-Mexico border wall, on Monday and Tuesday respectively. The House Appropriations Committee unveiled its $56.5 billion Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development bill that budgets $900 million to the Gateway Program, a project many consider critical to the nation's transportation infrastructure. The Committee's $44.3 billion Homeland Security bill allocates $1.6 billion to construct the border wall. In a win for the $24 billion Gateway Program, the spending bill includes $328 million for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor tracks, grants for rail repairs, and direct funding for new Hudson River rail tunnels and the Portal Bridge. (More details on the multifaceted program can be found here.) President Donald Trump’s administration had pulled out of the Gateway Program Development Corporation a week ago, casting doubt on the administration's support. According to Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee Rodney Frelinghuysen, the Northeast Corridor from Washington to Boston provides $3 billion to the U.S. economy, making the Gateway Program a priority. "Safe and reliable passenger rail travel through New Jersey and New York City is essential to that economic productivity," he said in a statement reported by NJ.com. But one of Trump’s key promises during his presidential campaign—building the much debated and controversial border wall separating the U.S and Mexico—is also one step closer to fruition. The $1.6 billion earmarked for the wall fully meets the White House request for construction funds, according to the committee. “Globalization, cyber-security, and terrorism are changing our way of life and we need to change with it," Frelinghuysen said in a press release. “The bill also provides the necessary funding for critical technology and physical barriers to secure our borders.” The $1.6 billion earmark is also likely to set up a government shutdown when the bill makes it way to the Senate, where Democrats are sure to object to any kind of wall funding. Funding for both projects is not yet guaranteed. Both bills will have to pass the full House and get approval from the Senate, before getting signed into law by President Trump.
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Trump’s stake in largest federally subsidized housing complex raises questions for conflict of interest

President Donald Trump’s stake in the nation’s largest federally subsidized housing complex—Starrett City in Brooklyn, New York—has raised questions from two congressional Democrats about a potential conflict of interest, as first reported by the New York Times.   Trump has a four percent ownership in the housing complex, which offers 3,500 lower and middle-income apartments subsidized through a rental assistance program. The deteriorating complex has generated Trump at least $5 million of income between January 2016 and April 15, 2017, as reported in The Washington Post. The federal government has paid more than $490 million in the complex’s rent subsidies since May 2013, with nearly $38 million since Trump took office. In a letter sent on Friday by Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland and Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the lawmakers expressed their concern that Trump could increase his profits through his involvement with the complex, despite leading the federal government (which operates the subsidies through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, known as HUD). The letter was addressed to HUD Secretary Ben Carson and those managing Trump's trust of business assets (namely, Donald Trump Jr. and Allen H. Weisselberg of The Trump Organization); it was also sent to Representative Trey Gowdy of The House Oversight Committee. “Many real estate companies receive government subsidies to support affordable housing, but unique conflicts exist with regard to Starrett City because the president is on both sides of the negotiations,” the letter read in the Times. “He oversees the government entity providing taxpayer funds and he pockets some of that money himself.” The letter also raised issues with Trump’s proposed budget cut to federal housing programs. The administration has proposed reducing HUD's budget by $7 billion, however, the project-based rental assistance program—which Starrett City falls under—is one of the few programs that will be spared major cuts to funding. Trump’s recent nominee to lead the HUD’s New York region, Lynne Patton, an event planner with no experience in housing, has also been a source of controversy. Her appointment would mean that she would be directly involved in policies related to Starrett City. “We have serious concerns that her self-described loyalty to the president and his family could influence HUD’s discretion on issues related to Starrett City,” Cummings and Jeffries said in the letter.
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U.S Department of Transportation withdraws from $24 billion Gateway Program

Despite President Donald Trump’s repeated commitment to building new infrastructure, the U.S Department of Transportation (DOT) has withdrawn its cooperation from a massive $24 billion transportation project between New York and New Jersey, as reported by New York Daily News. The Gateway Program Development Corporation planned to bring a new rail bridge, Portal North, to Newark as well as a new tunnel under the Hudson River that was meant to replace the existing, crumbling tunnel that suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Sandy. The program also looked to expand Penn Station and build new bridges to better connect Newark, New Jersey, and New York City. However, the DOT notified the Gateway’s board of trustees of their withdrawal last Friday. "It is not DOT’s standard practice to serve in such a capacity on other local transportation projects," read the letter to the Gateway board of trustees, which also counts Amtrak and board members from the New York and New Jersey Port Authority as members. Plans to build the new tunnel have been in the works since the Obama administration, where a deal was struck so that New York and New Jersey officials would take on half of the costs while the federal government and Amtrak would undertake the other half. Trump had also included the Gateway program in his list of "Emergency & National Security Projects," a list of about 50 national infrastructure projects that was first published in January by the Kansas City Star. The Gateway project has been billed as one of the largest regional transit projects in the Northeast, one that would address the growing number of commuters from New Jersey as well as the region’s deteriorating infrastructure. The current two-tube tunnel linking New Jersey and Penn Station shuttle more than 200,000 riders daily. If one tube fails before new tunnels are built, capacity could be reduced by 75 percent, according to Amtrak. The DOT clarified their withdrawal, saying that “the decision underscores the department’s commitment to ensuring there is no appearance of prejudice or partiality in favor of these projects ahead of hundreds of other projects nationwide,” in a statement to the Wall Street Journal.
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Visit Comedy Central’s Trump Twitter Library this weekend in Midtown Manhattan!

For this weekend, from Friday to Sunday, June 16 to 18, 2017, the Trump Presidential Twitter Library will be open to the public at 3 W 57th St. in Midtown Manhattan. The pop-up space features a stage for comedians, as well as a series of curated installations that put on view the current president's, er, peculiar Twitter habit. The project comes from Comedy Central and the Daily Show with Trevor Noah. The installations feature tweets arranged by theme, including a section of Birther tweets about Obama being from Kenya, titled "Concern for the Integrity of the American Presidency," and "Trumpstradamus: Trump tweets predicting the future," where Trump's terrible predictions remind us how often he is wrong. Others include his contradictory tweets on topics such as golf outings, Syria, and post-election protests. https://www.instagram.com/p/BVYYfa4lYdw/ https://www.instagram.com/p/BVYcePujIhh/
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Artists protest funding cuts to the arts at Trump Tower

On President Donald Trump’s birthday, New York City artists held performances inside Trump Tower’s not-so-secret public gardens to issue a call-to-arms against the White House's proposed budget cuts to arts funding. The performances, which took place earlier today, are part of a rising trend where activists now use Trump Tower’s public gardens as spaces for political activism. The gardens and atriums inside Trump Tower were a part of Trump’s 1979 agreement with the city, which led to the creation of 15,000 square feet worth of public space in exchange for a zoning variance to build an additional 20 stories. The agreement also stipulated that these privately-owned public spaces (POPS) be accessible to the public from 8 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily. “Today in an act of resistance, we take back what is rightfully ours, the public space inside Trump Tower, and use the power of art to protest this administration,” said New York City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, who is also chair of the committee on cultural affairs. “There is an assault on the arts, culture, and thinking in this country right now.” Trump’s budget proposes eliminating federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. “We gather as artists and citizens to celebrate our country's commitment to the freedom of expression and the exchange of ideas between all people,” said Lucy Sexton, an artist at the event. Performers used art as a way to cover a wide range of subjects that have been topics of hot conversation in Trump’s administration, including climate change and Russia. Trump himself was also a topic of interest, in performances like Brick x Brick, where participants wore brick-patterned jumpsuits adorned with statements of misogynistic violence made by Trump. The performance was a way to “demonstrate disdain to Trump’s policies,” according to Caterina Bartha, the event’s curator, adding that it was “a gift to New Yorkers who attended the free performance and a call to people across the country to fight to save the arts from Trump’s axe.”
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President Trump renews calls for $1 trillion infrastructure plan

Speaking at the U.S. Department of Transportation, President Donald Trump has iterated his eagerness to swiftly implement a $1 trillion infrastructure plan. "One of the biggest obstacles to creating this new and desperately-needed infrastructure—and that is the painfully slow, costly and time-consuming process for getting permits and approvals to build," he said at the department last week. Trump wants the speed up the approval process of improving highways are other U.S. infrastructure. According to the World Economic Forum's Competitiveness Report for 2015-2016, the U.S. ranks 11th globally for infrastructure, yet is third overall for economic competitiveness. The report also stated that the of "most problematic factors for doing business" in the U.S., inadequate supply of infrastructure was the source of 5.2 percent of the problems. Over the course of a decade, The White House proposes spending $200 billion of federal money as part of the trillion-dollar public-private partnership. The President also said how the White House is pressing on with "massive permit reform," forming a new council that will supposedly streamline and eliminate red tape when dealing with infrastructure projects. "This Council will also improve transparency by creating a new online dashboard allowing everyone to easily track major projects through every stage of the approval process," Trump said, as reported by Reuters. He continued, adding that any federal agency that "consistently delays projects by missing deadlines will face tough, new penalties. We will hold the bureaucracy accountable." Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is also reaching out the public for comment and advice for other changes the Trump administration can make to reduce delays in infrastructure approval. On that note, Trump, according to Reuters, cited the infrastructure of old and reminded everyone of his taste for Keynesian-style economics. It took "four years to build the Golden Gate Bridge and five years to build the Hoover Dam—but today it can take 10 years just to get the approvals and permits needed to build a major infrastructure project," he lambasted. The President, meanwhile, displayed his distaste for the "16 different approvals involving ten different federal agencies being governed by 26 different statutes," needed when applying for infrastructure permits.
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Mayors come out against Trump’s Paris catastrophe

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has pledged 15 million dollars to the United Nations (UN) to combat climate change, filling the gap left by President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord. The funds will support the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Executive Secretariat, "including its work to help countries implement their commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change," Bloomberg Philanthropies said in a statement. "Americans are not walking away from the Paris Climate Agreement; just the opposite—we are forging ahead," Michael Bloomberg said. Bloomberg’s sentiment is echoed by The United States Conference of Mayors, who have vowed to continue their fight at the local level despite the shenanigans in Washington. The U.S. Conference of Mayors is a strong proponent of the need to address climate change and we support the Paris agreement, which positions the world's nations, including the United States, to be energy independent, self-reliant, and resilient,” stated Phoenix, Arizona Mayor Greg Stanton who is also Chair of the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) Environment Committee. “A thriving economy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions are compatible by focusing on new technology, investing in renewable fuel sources, and increasing our energy efficiency,” the group said in a statement. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio issued the following:  “President Trump can turn his back on the world, but the world cannot ignore the very real threat of climate change. This decision is an immoral assault on the public health, safety and security of everyone on this planet. New Yorkers are already experiencing hotter summers, more powerful storms and rising seas, which disproportionately affect already vulnerable communities. On behalf of the people of New York City, and alongside mayors across the country, I am committing to honor the goals of the Paris agreement with an Executive Order in the coming days, so our city can remain a home for generations to come.” USCM Energy Chair New Bedford (MA) Mayor Jon Mitchell added: "The solutions to climate change present economic opportunities in clean energy, efficient technology, and low-carbon products and services, all of which can create jobs in the United States. U.S. mayors have committed their cities to address climate change and will continue to do so."