Meridian Star

February 1, 2014

Mayor seeks funding for city in D.C.

By Terri Ferguson Smith / tsmith@themeridianstar.com
The Meridian Star

—  Mayor Percy Bland is hoping his recent trip to the nation's capital will prove beneficial to the city.

Bland said on Monday that his trip to the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington D.C. gave him the opportunity to meet with four of President Barack Obama's cabinet members.

    Arne Duncan, Education secretary; Shaun Donovan, HUD secretary;  Thomas E. Perez, secretary of Labor; and Anthony Foxx, secretary of Transportation met with mayors, Bland said.

    "I was able to communicate a lot of things that are going on in Meridian with each one of them individually and hopefully those relationships will foster some good things to possibly happen in Meridian," Bland said.

    Specifically, Bland spoke with Donovan about the pending application for a HUD grant for $30 million that is being applied for by the Meridian Housing Authority. The highly competitive grant is being sought by MHA to fund a revitalization of Meridian's East End neighborhood.

    "I told him where we were and how it would basically transform the whole East End area. He was excited about that," Bland said.

    Bland also spoke with Perez about efforts to improve the labor force here.

    "A lot of the things we're trying to do here to build skills in the work force and career readiness for our people in this area," Bland said. "A lot more of the future is going to depend upon us providing people with the necessary skills and trades to be ready for the jobs of the future. A lot of the things we're doing here, that's exactly what Sec. Perez talked about."

    Bland said he spoke with the education secretary about progress in the city's school district.

    "We have improved the issues surrounding the system of the school to prison pipeline," Bland said. "We have changed the school district. Our police department already started changing policies and the way they do things. We want to continue to work with the Department of Justice and also his (Duncan's) office in bringing quality programs here to try to bridge some of the gaps on things that have happened in this community."

    Bland said spoke with Foxx about transportation funding.

    "I said, 'Don't forget about us as we apply for some of these grants going forward,'" Bland said.