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Mesa mayor has ‘honest dialogue’ on economy with Obama, Biden in White House visit

Mesa Mayor Scott Smith came away from a White House meeting Monday satisfied that he and other mayors had an “honest dialogue” with the president about the economy.

Smith was one of 14 mayors from around the country who met with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for about an hour in the White House to discuss the economic climate and its effect on their cities.

Smith, a Republican, said he felt the meeting was successful because of the frankness of the conversation.

“There was an honest dialogue between the mayors and the president,” he said. Smith said infrastructure was a key point in the discussion, along with talks on how to expand infrastructure under tough economic conditions.

“Mayors gave their ideas, their input and the real effect on their citizens,” Smith said.

Mayors from Los Angeles to Philadelphia and from Orlando to Burnsville, Minn., were invited to the meeting with Obama and Biden on jobs and deficit reduction, according to the White House. White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett were also there, according to a pool report from the meeting.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa expressed frustration on Congress’ lack of focus toward job creation, according to the report. The Democratic mayor pushed the White House for an emphasis on job training development and infrastructure.

“We cannot in these times allow some to debate on the head of a pin everything that makes us different, and not find the common ground . . . for resolving (deficit reduction/debt limit hike) in a way that’s smart,” Villaraigosa said.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter blasted Congress for its “lack of reality,” while making budget cuts that negatively affect the representatives’ districts.

“We recognize deficit reduction is important . . . but when I go back home, no one is going to walk up to me on the streets of Philadelphia and start having a conversation about the debt limit and deficit reduction,” said Nutter, a Democrat. “What they want to know is, mayor, I need a job.”

White House officials declined to comment on the meeting.

Smith, a first term mayor of Mesa, has been elected second vice president of the United States Conference of Mayors, putting him in line to become the group’s president in 2013. He would be the first Arizona mayor to hold the position, according to Smith’s website.

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