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Cisneros plans increased role for cities.

The new Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), former NLC President Henry Cisneros, last week. told leaders of the nation's cities that President Clinton would give cities a key role in his economic recovery plan. He said the plan would include both short term direct assistance plus aggressive action to remove regulatory blockades and free up billions in housing assistance to communities.

The announcement came as Cisneros hosted the leaders of 38 cities last week for a meeting in his offices and later for a special meeting with President Bill Clinton and senior members of the President's economic team at the White House. The meetings were focused on the role of cities in implementing the administration's economic stimulus plan, scheduled to be announced this week in the President's State of the Union address. Secretary Cisneros briefed the leadership of NLC, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and mayors of the nation's largest cities in preparation for the series of White House meetings. He made clear that the administration was focused on ensuring that cities play a key role in any national economic recovery plan.

According to Cisneros, that means not only will there be direct funding te cities to provide immediate jobs and' economic benefits, but also that the administration will expect cities and towns to use any additional funds quickly and effectively to provide jobs and longer term economic benefits. He said the White House was seriously considering a significant increase in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding for cities as an emergency supplement to current year spending, but that there was concern in both the administration and the Congress that any such increased funding might not get out quickly or might not benefit those most in need.

NLC President Don Fraser thanked Cisneros for the opportunity for city leaders te work with the new administration, to be at the table, and to be consulted. He urged maximum flexibility in any additional federal assistance to make sure cities could put the funds to work as quickly as possible.

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley urged Cisneros not to forget his roots:

"You have been the receiver. Now you are the sender. What we need is flexibility...we need not be dictated to."

In response, Cisneros, referring to the new Clinton administration and its relationship to cities, said:

"We'll move heaven and earth to get the Department (HUD) to see the world as it is from your communities."

Charlesten, S.C. Mayor Joe Riley congratulated Cisneros for his leadership, especially on the CDBG initiative:

"CDBG is the best program to address poverty and economic development needs in our cities. Your leadership marks a bright step towards setting a national urban policy. It begins the process of putting the 'UD' back in HUD."

Denver Mayor Wellington Webb echoed Fraser's appreciation of Cisneros' leadership and reaching out. He urged careful attention to the FHA housing insurance programs at HUD and that the administration include extensions of the expired municipal mortgage revenue bond and low income housing tax credit programs in the final economic stimulus proposal.

Dallas Mayor Steve Bartlett urged Cisneros to take the lead in encouraging the President to incorporate enterprise zone legislation in his economic recovery plan--a proposal which the President later told the city leaders he was seriously considering.

Bartlett also raised the concern that pushing for any additional or supplemental CDBG funds to be spent fight away by cities, it could shift these funds away from economic development and infrastructure projects into shorter term pothole repairs.

Cisneros agreed that Bartlett's concern was one he shared and that he hoped the municipal leaders would help him convince Congress not to impose unreasonable spending deadlines on cities. But, he also said he knew from his experience as a mayor that there were any number of longer term infrastructure and economic development projects ready to go in most cities.

Cisneros closed the meeting by describing briefly the Presidential initiatives to free up more than $10 billion in HOME state and local housing block grant and public housing modernization funds. He made clear that one area where he anticipates a budget increase and priority will be public housing security--to help cities deal with high levels of violent crime.
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Title Annotation:includes related article on on the community development block grant program; Henry Cisneros
Author:Shafroth, Frank; Barreto, Julio
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Feb 15, 1993
Previous Article:Clinton welcomes local officials to White House; president pledges more funds for cities.
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