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Washington • Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker introduced President Barack Obama to the National League of Cities conference here on Monday, and urged Congress to take a cue from cities across the country in taking action on challenging issues.

Becker, president of the League of Cities, urged long-term transportation funding to help rebuild crumbling roads and bridges, passage of an online sales tax and actions to help the environment as he addressed his counterparts gathering for their annual meeting.

"At the local level, we act to meet the needs of our community," Becker told the crowd of mayors and other city officials. "Congress needs to act to meet the needs of our nation."

Obama, the first president to address the National League of Cities conference since President Bill Clinton visited the group in 1995, echoed Becker's point, arguing that local governments can't punt on major issues.

"You don't have a lot of time for gridlock," Obama told the officials. "You have to get the job done. You don't have a lot of time for hot air. People are expecting you to deliver. And you're part of the reason America is coming back."

In introducing Obama, Becker said he first met the president during a meeting in Chicago after he was elected in 2008, and Obama has followed through on all the promises he made.

"You have more than delivered on those commitments," Becker said. "Again, thank you, Mr. President."

The Salt Lake City mayor said that despite what Congress does, local officials can and must take action on pressing issues.

"We cannot sit idle as our roads and bridges disintegrate, national disasters become more consequential, as our failed immigration system tears apart families and holds back economic growth," Becker said.

As part of his remarks, Obama announced a new effort to expand access to high tech jobs and singled out Salt Lake City for its focus on the high-tech sector as an economic engine. Salt Lake City will be one of 21 communities competing for $100 million in federal money to train and connect more workers in technology and other in-demand fields.

Under Obama's proposal, cities would compete for grant money by launching new programs to help low-skilled Americans with new training and employment who would otherwise be unable to learn such high-tech skills because of child-care responsibilities, limited English proficiency or other reasons. Obama said cities are already working to boost their economies with technology jobs and should be rewarded for trying to help their residents.

Becker, too, announced a new, national initiative to boost racial inclusiveness in communities across the country in the wake of police shootings and unrest in cities like Ferguson, Mo. The effort, starting with a town hall at this week's conference, aims to "build communities where racial and ethnic diversity are seen as social and economic assets."

"In just the past year, we witnessed several events in cities across our country that call upon each of us, as Americans, to examine more critically issues of race and equity and how it impacts so many facets of our society," Becker said. "Local elected officials have been called on, in ways we have not seen in recent times, to show leadership on these issues."