He attended the Conference of Mayors, held from Jan. 17 to Jan. 19, and stuck around to watch as Barack Obama was inaugurated as the country's 44th president. During the conference, he met with Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Menlo Park, as well as an aide to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Califonia, to talk about issues concerning Menlo Park — and to ensure that the representatives keep the city's interests in mind.
"One of my take-aways was that we need to be a little more active in promoting issues for our city," Mr. Robinson said. "We need to make sure that our elected representatives are really aware of what our needs are, and that they know directly what we're asking for in the stimulus package."
Menlo Park has already submitted requests for funding for several projects through the Army Corps of Engineers, moving quickly because the federal government plans to release half the money for corps projects in the first 120 days, Mr. Robinson said.
He sounded optimistic that money would be available for a number of other causes, as well, including funds to "weatherize" homes across the city and make them more energy-efficient.
The city of Menlo Park paid Mr. Robinson's travel and hotel costs, as well as registration fees at the conference — a sum of $3,551, according to Mr. Robinson, who stayed with friends for several nights to save money. But the opportunity for face time with representatives and administration officials was well worth it, he said.
"The question is, 'How exactly does (the stimulus money) get from Washington to me?' How is this going to work?" Mr. Robinson said. "They're making it up as we speak. There was good reason to be there at this time — not everything is all set in stone right now."
The mayors urged government officials to direct the money straight to the cities, rather than through the state, Mr. Robinson said. He believes the state of California would likely "skim money off" to help reduce the state deficit if the funds pass through Sacramento first.
As for the inaugural?
"There was a feeling that this is a recommitment to service, that we're all in this together," he said. "There was a real buzz. Change was in the air."