(AP) - Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak challenged the nation to "have the guts to do what we need to" to pay for bridge and infrastructure repairs.
"There's something deeply wrong with a country that spends billions to destroy infrastructure halfway around the globe and billions to try to repair it and doesn't stop a war that's sucking cities dry across this country," he said Friday, six weeks after an interstate highway bridge collapse in his city killed 13 people.
Miami Mayor Manuel Diaz bemoaned the ease in which guns can be had.
"Regrettably, they're all over this country," Diaz said a day after a Miami-Dade County police officer was killed in a gun battle. "They're in the streets of our cities, and they're cheaper today than buying a Playstation, and that does not speak well for this country."
Recent tragedies helped highlight problems facing the nation when 38 mayors and three governors gathered for a U.S Conference of Mayors meeting on Friday, focusing attention on rebuilding infrastructure and gun control, among other issues.
"The question we have to answer for ourselves is whether we want to be the first generation of Americans to pass on the power of the built infrastructure of this country to our children in a weaker condition that we received it ourselves," said Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley. "I don't think that's what the people of our country want."
But Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell noted it will cost an estimated $1.6 trillion to repair aging bridges, roads and other infrastructure, and that no one has pinpointed where that money will be found. He suggested creating a federal capital budget. States and cities have long had such budgets, funded mostly by borrowing.
Rybak endorsed a federal gas tax increase matched by increased local spending.
"Because we will never get this done unless we do that," Ryback said. "You have just seen a politician advocate more spending. That has to be done."
As Diaz called on Congress to reauthorize the federal assault weapons ban, New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine recalled how three college students were recently shot and killed execution-style in a Newark schoolyard.
"We have a challenge in our communities, an incredible challenge," Corzine said.
Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer, the conference president, said the mayors would press Congress and the presidential candidates to support their agenda.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)