Newsom “Aggressive” to Get Stimulus $$$ from Obama

Mayor says he "didn't realize" it would be so competitive

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said Monday that federal officials will be weighing shortly the disbursement of billions in stimulus money to states and local governments, and that his administration was working quickly to get a foot in the door.

"We have to be very, very aggressive in the next few weeks," Newsom said at a news conference at the Presidio, following a meeting there with all of the city's department heads.

Newsom said that while some of the federal money is already allocated, the majority of it is open to competitive bidding.

"I didn't realize, candidly ... how much of the money is competitive," he said.

Newsom and several other mayors met with President Obama last week in Washington, D.C., and today Newsom said he's sending many of his department heads back to the nation's capitol to meet with Obama's cabinet secretaries and their staff to "make sure that we're front and center" for the recently approved federal stimulus money.

"Now we have real clarity as to exactly where the pots of money are," he said, adding that most of the funds "will be spoken for" within the next few weeks.

In addition to hoped-for money to support the high-speed rail project linking Northern and Southern California, with its terminus in San Francisco, as well as for the rebuild of the seismically deficient Doyle Drive approach to the Golden Gate Bridge, Newsom said money could be made available for local public housing and public school improvements, energy efficiency upgrades, port and airport infrastructure projects, and making hospital medical records electronic.

Newsom said San Francisco is "uniquely positioned" to garner a significant amount of federal dollars.

"If this is truly competitive on the merits, we're going to do as well or better than any city in the United States," said Newsom.

Newsom said he expected San Francisco to secure money at least "in the tens of millions of dollars," but that number could end up higher.

Newsom said, however, the money would not eliminate the city's budget woes.

"This is not insignificant," he said of the federal money. "Does this solve our budget crisis? No. But it does substantially alleviate some of our stress, particularly from the state budget cuts," he said.

Final federal approval for the money could take several months, Newsom said.

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