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These 2 cities illustrate the shutdown’s profound national impact

While lawmakers in Washington, D.C., battle over whether to reopen the government, the ripple effects of the shutdown are extending far beyond the Beltway. Two mayors, Republican David Holt from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Democrat Michael Passero of New London, Connecticut, tell Judy Woodruff how the stalemate is affecting their cities' federal workers and even their populations as a whole.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    While Democrats and Republicans in Washington battle over the ongoing government shutdown, the ripple effects are being felt far outside the nation's capital.

    Of the 800,000 federal workers wondering when they will get their next paycheck, 80 percent live beyond the D.C. Beltway, including in many urban areas.

    I'm joined now by two mayors, from Oklahoma City, Republican Mayor David Holt, and, from New London, Connecticut, Democratic Mayor Michael Passero.

    Gentlemen, thank you both for being with us.

    Mayor Holt, I'm going to turn to you first.

    Oklahoma City, population of, what, about 645,000, how is it being affected by this shutdown?

  • David Holt:

    Yes, I mean, we have got 650,000 in our city proper. We have got 1.3 million in the metro.

    And so, yes, we have got a lot of federal employees. Of course, everybody knows we have a federal building in Oklahoma City because of what happened in 1995. So, yes, they are affected.

    We're also — we, as a city government, are affected. We have transit grants that are not getting paid. But we care most, I think, about our citizens that are not getting paid. And we're also, you know, worried, just like every city with an airport is, about what's going to happen with TSA in the weeks ahead and whether that's going to impact travel plans.

    And then we have a unique thing here in Oklahoma City. We're the home of the FAA training center. So, we have — all the traffic controllers in the United States are trained and educated right here in Oklahoma City. And they have shut that school down.

    And so we have got students that were here for a temporary amount of time to train. We have had generous apartment owners and landlords who are trying to work with those students to float them while this goes on. But it affects the nation because we're already behind.

    We already have an air traffic controller shortage in this country. We were hoping to graduate 1,500 out of Oklahoma City this year. And, right now, we're not graduating or training anybody. So that's a unique thing that we have got here in Oklahoma City as an the impact of the shutdown.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And that's something people certainly are going to pay attention to.

    Mayor Passero, New London, a smaller population city, but how are you being affected?

  • Michael Passero:

    Yes, we're quite a bit smaller than Oklahoma City, at 27,000 people. But we are very densely populated into a five-and-a-half-square-mile area.

    And we're the urban hub for a much larger metro area in Southeastern Connecticut. And we host four major Coast Guard institutions. And the Coast Guard is being severely impacted by the shutdown, because they're not part of the DOD. They're part of Homeland Security.

    So their funding has been cut off. The Coast Guard Academy has over 1,000 cadets. They are continuing operations. But the 300 military personnel and the 250 civilian personnel are being affected.

    Many are furloughed. Some have to work without pay. We also host the Coast Guard R&D Center in New London. We host the International Ice Patrol. And we have a working Coast Guard station that patrols and protects the waters surrounding New London.

    So, fortunately, we have the governor. Governor Lamont has negotiated an arrangement with the private banking institutions to provide no-interest loans to cover the last paychecks.

  • Judy Woodruff:


  • Michael Passero:

    He has — of course, furloughed employees are eligible for unemployment. And there is a military — military fund, relief fun that's that's being made available from the state military office.

    And the community is really pitching in to help all these employees. There's pop-up food pantries and volunteer organizations..

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And I want to ask you both about that.

    It is an important thing for — I think, for all of us to be reminded of all these different jobs that federal employees do. It's almost as if this week we're being reminded again of just how many jobs are performed by federal workers.

    Mayor Holt, you mentioned in Oklahoma City how the community is stepping up. Give us a little more of a sense of that. What's being done to reach out, whether it's the training of air traffic controllers, or the other federal workers who are affected?

  • David Holt:


    I mean, as I mentioned, we have got landlords in town who are at this point generously working with their — with the people living in their — with their tenants, the people living in their apartments.

    But even in the coverage I have seen of those — of those generous offers, they say, we can only do this so long. And so there's certainly a point where generous landlords run out of funds and resources.

    And we at the city, we're working with our utility customers obviously who are affected. I even had a gentleman reach out to me this week. He's an IRS employee. He's still working, but he parks in one of our public parking garages downtown. And he didn't feel like he can cover the bill this month.

    And so we have got our transit department working with him to help him with that, and obviously delay some of those costs. We're all trying to pitch in. And we certainly are happy to do that.

    But, at some point, people's ability to do that will run out.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What about that, Mayor Passero?

    Are you beginning to get a sense that this just can't — these kinds of individual stories of help just can't go on indefinitely?

  • Michael Passero:

    Well, that certainly would be the case.

    But we are a very strong military community. We also host the Naval submarine base and electric boaters across the river and in Groton. It's just a very, very large military community. And the military takes care of their own.

    So, our community is ready to stand with the employees and the active-duty personnel that are really suffering under this — the shutdown.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I think what a lot of people don't realize is that the Coast Guard does not fall under the Department of Defense. It falls under, as you said, Department of Homeland Security, which is one of the agencies that is — that is not functioning. They're not paying employees right now.

    I want to finally ask both of you. You are leaders in your community. You are the leader of your city government.

    Mayor Holt, as you look at what's gone on in Washington between the president and the congressional leadership, what do you make of it?

  • David Holt:

    Well, Judy, as a mayor, if I told my citizens we were shutting the government down, it would not be acceptable.

    That — keeping the lights on is basically the bare minimum requirement for competency. And I don't think there's any good reason to shut down the government. I do not believe that should ever be a tool for leverage, no matter what the policy discussion is about.

    And so, as a mayor, we have to — and I'm sure I speak for my colleague also on this — on this segment. We have to keep our services out there for our citizens. That's what we're expected to do.

    And so, if I had any message to anybody in D.C. who has power to correct this situation, it would be, this is not an acceptable outcome. No matter what — what you feel about these different issues at play, we have got to get the government running again, and we have got to get these people back to work.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Mayor Passero, what about you? What do you make of this, and what should — what should happen?

  • Michael Passero:

    Well, I would — I would agree with all of that 100 percent.

    With some of the behaviors we're witnessing down in Washington right now, I certainly hope that the children are not watching. We're thankful in the 2nd Congressional District in Connecticut that we have a great human being and a wonderful representative in Congressman Courtney.

    And I think that it's really — I hear the mayor of Oklahoma City. I think he reflects the bipartisan attitude of most of our — of our representatives in Washington. So, they have to get the attention of the leadership. They have to get the leadership to get this done, and get the government running again.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Just very quickly, does either one of you want to suggest, in a sentence, what they should do to resolve this?

    Mayor Holt?

  • David Holt:

    It's the thing we do in every city in America. We compromise, and we get it done.

    We have no choice but to be effective. And that's what has to happen here.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Mayor Passero?

  • Michael Passero:

    Absolutely. Compromise. Neither side is going to get everything they want. They just simply have to compromise. They have to get it done now.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we hope they're listening. Maybe they are.

    Mayor David Holt of Oklahoma City, Mayor Michael Passero of New London, Connecticut, gentlemen, thank you.

  • Michael Passero:

    Thank you.

  • David Holt:

    Thank you.

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