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Mayor Of Dayton, Ohio, Speaks On How The Shutdown Is Affecting Her Community


The longest government shutdown in U.S. history is over. A short-term deal to reopen the government for three weeks was announced today, but federal workers across the country still haven't been paid, and government offices are still shuttered. That put mayors from communities across the country in a tough spot, including Dayton, Ohio, Mayor Nan Whaley. We're catching up with the mayor at the airport with more than 200 others for the annual gathering of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Welcome to the program.

NAN WHALEY: Thanks, Audie.

CORNISH: So you all have been meeting for the past couple of days. What were the impacts of the shutdown that you were all discussing, things that were affecting cities?

WHALEY: Well, I mean, typically they were affecting all of us in a really similar way. You know, first - I mean, I'm sitting at the airport and was super grateful for the TSA agents in Dayton and across the country who have been so kind and nice when you know they're not getting paid, keeping things moving. And that seemed to be tough. Also, you know, our food banks have seen shortages, so that - the communities have had to pick up on making sure our food banks stayed open. When we try to do deals for, like, development - have been slowed down because those places, like HUD, have nobody.

Finally, in Dayton, we worked really hard, and the state government did a great job to make sure that people got their SNAP benefits early. But we're worried because they got the checks two weeks early, and then they'll have to last six weeks. And so even with the government opening, we're going to have to do a lot of discussion to make sure that children have food by the end of February.

CORNISH: Right. I've read that local food banks around Ohio and in Dayton have been bracing for increased demand - right? - from furloughed federal workers. As mayor, how has the shutdown affected your city's ability to provide services for your residents?

WHALEY: Well, you know, we always say and the mayors across the country have said, you know, in local government, you keep on plowing the streets and picking up the trash. And one of our comments this week were, could you imagine if local governments shut down, especially when we had, you know, 9 or 10 inches of snow in Dayton? It just keeps on going. And, you know, really we just wanted the federal government to do what their baseline responsibility is, which is to be open. So we're really pleased with this news. And now we can all go back home now that it's opened back up (laughter).

CORNISH: Are you concerned that another shutdown is around the corner, given that this deal is temporary?

WHALEY: Well, I'm hopeful. Look; I mean, of course we're in a new era of the federal government being nearly unable to do the bare minimum. But I am hopeful. I mean, I think they can work on this issue while people are working. And let's hope we are at the better sides of people's humanity when they're thinking about the future and how tough this has been for the country this past 30-some days.

CORNISH: What do you have to say to President Trump or to leaders in Congress about how this shutdown has played out?

WHALEY: Look; I think, you know, what Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have said over the past month about, hey, let's just open it up and talk about border security as Democrats - like, I've never heard the Democrats say they were against border security, but having the discussion be more thoughtful and not just be about one specific point, like a physical wall, doesn't make much sense, especially as mayors I talked to talk about the vulnerabilities in ports and where most of, you know, illegal substances come through. We're most - you know, we're more concerned about those areas that need real border security, and that's something we're interested in.

CORNISH: That's Nan Whaley, mayor of Dayton, Ohio. Thank you for speaking with us.

WHALEY: Hey, great to be on. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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