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NLC president's priorities address.

Good Morning.

I wish each of you could stand up here at this podium and see what I am seeing. A group of elected leaders from cities and towns all over America--leaders who represent constituencies as diverse as the nation itself.

All the energy, excitement, and your "can do" attitude shows a readiness to go to Capitol Hill, do our representatives here in Washington to tell them our story.

We are bringing the hopes and dreams of our communities for an economically secure America to Washington. It is Washington's turn to listen.

Right now the federal government is working on major tax and budget bills that will have long term consequences for our people back home. Within the next 48 hours, the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on legislation, HR 3732, to change the 1990 budget agreement. This vote is critical to all of us because it will determine whether defense savings will be reinvested in America.

Let us make this point absolutely clear. This is a vote to determine whether Washington will disinvest or reinvest in our communities.

This is one of the greatest challenges this organization has faced this decade. As your President, I gladly accept that challenge.

Without question, we have our work cut out for us during our short time together.

There are two major tasks we have to accomplish.

First, we need to learn all we can about what steps Congress and the Administration might take on tax and budget issues and we need to know specifically what effect these actions will have on your people back home.

Second, we need to make sure the President and Congress clearly understand the most fundamental concerns of our communities--that we have no domestic agenda to meet the hopes we have for our own children.

I know this is a tall order. But the strength and commitment of the people in this room give me great confidence that we will succeed.

We simply have to!

Let me tell you a story about one of my friends--a story that I think is appropriate for today.

My friend went out and spent a great deal of money for a new car. She had it for two days and the red warning light went on in the dash. Fearing the worst, my friend drove the car back to the dealer to have the problem checked.

When she picked up the car the next day and took it for a test drive, my friend was all excited because the red light was out. "So what was the problem?" She asked the mechanic.

"Well, this is a new car," said the mechanic, "and there shouldn't be any problems. So I just disconnected the red light."

I don't think there is any question. The trouble light for this nation is on. You know it, I know it and the people living in our cities and towns know it. Today we are sending a message to Washington so it knows it.

In city after city, our citizens confront rising fears--fear of losing a job, of not having access to health care for a sick child or parent, of violent crime, of a failing education system.

Part of my task this morning, besides reporting to you on the priorities your Board of Directors adopted yesterday, is to ak you to join me in reshaping and rebuilding a new way.

The President and the Congress need to know that our cities, our communities are expected real solutions. We do not need someone to disconnect the trouble light and pretend problems do not exist.

Our nation faces a quiet, but pervasive crisis in its cities and towns which is erocing our revenue bases and imposing unsustainable demands on public services. The most serious threat is to our youngest citizens--those most vulnerable, but most central to the nation's economic future.

We need fresh approaches to the problems the people in my city and yours are living with every day.

We have provided some materials to help you deliver our message. I will go through them briefly so that you can understand and share in our national municipal priorities for the year.

First, you will find a white sheet enmtitled "Priorities of the Nation's Cities and Towns 1992." It describes our priorities and marching orders for the year.

Your Board of Directors adopted these yesterday based on the contributions and views from hundreds of you. The priorities are a compilation of the "Nation's Cities Weekly" survey, comments from state municipal leagues, the Small Cities' Council and your policy committees.

Second, you will find a pink Congressional contact sheet. It is actually a report card so you can grade the response of your Congressional delegation when you report back to us tomorrow. This will help us know where they stand on our priorities and where we need to work harder. It will force some accountability, too. Please use it and return it to NLC.

Third, you'll find a booklet entitled "Reinvest in America." This will give you additional insight into just how the federal government shapes the destinies of our local communities. Please use this, too--in community gatherings, with the media, in your speeches. We must let people know what's really going on in our country.

Our federal government remains locked in obsolete spending and budget priorities that provide neither the vision, the commitment, nor the resources to make our country competitive in the global economy.

1992 is an election year. It is time to send a message to the nation's capitol--an unequivocal message: we can no longer afford the old way; we have to reshape and rebuild a new way, starting from the city up. Good ideas need to bubble up from our cities and towns, and unfolded federal mandates need to stop trickling down from Washington.

It is time to put our cities and towns at the top of America's priorities list.

Our world is very different from what it was one year ago. The Soviet Union is gone and the Cold War is over. Our threats are economic not military. Our future will now be shaped by how we address economic and social issues on the homefront. And we are the ones on the front line--the ones most able to get the job done.

The investment in technology, materials, and human beings that made the United States military unmatched in history, must be redirected into rebuilding our communities. We must turn the weapons of war into the plowshares of prosperity.

The priorities we set one year ago here made a difference--and we need continued commitment to ensure their success:

[section] landmark surface transportation legislation;

[section] funding of the new HOME housing block grant program and CDBG;

[section] deferal of the federal stormwater mandates;

[section] revisions of federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations; and

[section] landmark civil rights legislation

These were hard won victories. They demonstrated we can send a message. We won battles. But we must persevere in each and every case if we are to prevail.

In 1992, the measure of success for our nation's cities' leaders at the White House and on Capitol Hill will be to shape a new domestic agenda.

So what is our plan? What are our 1992 legislative priorities? And how can we unite to make a difference? To deliver the message, not just tomorrow, but relentlessly until it is hears--until it is felt and until it is acted upon.

When you visit your Representative tomorrow, when you walk into your Senator's office--don't make it a courtesy call, a chance to make a social call and take that photo--make them hear and understand our important message.

Share your frustration!

Tell them what you are facing in your city or town!

Let them know what the people at home are feeling!

And, hand them this card. Ask them to "bring home the vote."

First, and most importantly, we must work to shape the federal budget agreement to reinvest in America. We must use the savings from defense spending to reduce the national debt and invest in human and public infrastructure.

This week the House of Representatives will vote on a bill to do just that. We asked the House leadership to delay the vote from last week to this in order to give us a chance to make a difference. It would have lost last week. It can win this week--if you make it happen.

This bill is the end result of the bipartisan testimony that I end you other NLC leaders gave one year ago.

We have provided each of your state league directors with a report card on your delegation--who is with us and who is not. Between now and the vote--and we know it will be a close vote--we have to mount a renewed campaign that leaves no stone unturned. On this vote rides the federal government's commitment to the future of communities.

If they reject any changes, it will automatically trigger a cut of $6.4 billion in our communities. It will pit each of us against the other. And, you will have to deal with the consequences for your community and taxpayers.

The federal budget will determine the nation's priorities for our cities and towns--exactly what resources will be available to pay for federal mandates, to help fight drugs and crime, to meet community and economic development priorities, to provide acces to health care.

And what Congress decides will affect every citizen and taxpayer in your city or town. It will affect water and sewer fees. It will affect local taxes. It will affect local services. It will affect your city's ability to issue bonds.

The highest single priority of the nation's cities and towns is to change the 1990 federal budget agreement to reinvest in America's future economic security. We obtained a chance to deliver--now it's up to us.

Second--we must make Washington serious about the War on Drugs.

We see an increase in the use of the cocaine and in emergency hospital admissions related to drugs. We see crime in the streets expanded to crime in the neighborhoods and violence in our schools. Let's make sure they stop playing politics with drugs and get dead serious by sending anti-drug funds directly to us in the front lines.

Third--We must halt federal mandates. The President and a growing number of members of Congress recognize the impact of unfunded federal mandates. Recognition is not enough. They have to stop.

Fourth--Let us urge Congress and the President to reauthorize the nation's expiring housing and community development laws, but reject proposals to condition any federal assistance upon HUD's preemption of municipal land use, planning, and zoning ordinances.

Fifth--We urge Congress to extend expiring municipal tax exempt programs, including the municipal mortgage revenue and small issue idb bond programs, and the low income housing and targeted jobs tax credit programs. And we must tell Congress to reduce the restrictions that increase our public finance costs.

Sixth--It is time to enact a new human investment trust to provide direct federal block grant assistance for us to intervene to help the lives of children under the age of six in our communities. The President recognized the importance of families and children in our cities in his State of the Union address. Now we need a federal commitment to invest in future generations.

Seventh--We must urge Congress to act swiftly on urgent environmental legislation--especially Clean Water, Solid Waste, Superfund, and Safe Drinking Water--in order to help our communities meet and be able tp afford federally mandated health and safety requirements.

Our nation has emerged as the leader from what history will call a significant turning point in the evolution of civilization. But as we leave the old problems behind, we face a new crisis--one of confidence, direction and spirit of our national government. We can help rebuild the values. It is time to take strong and swift action to secure a better future for our nation's communities and the people who live in them.

I need your greatest and most sustained effort if we are to succeed. I need your message to be one of hope and unlimited confidence in the people who granted us this opportunity, the people back home.

The American people have put their faith in use to responsibly manage their public institutions. We cannot let them down. We must reinvest in America's economic security, we must bring home the vote!

Thank you.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes related information on priorities' status; National League of Cities' president Glenda Hood
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Article Type:Transcript
Date:Mar 16, 1992
Previous Article:Sen. Bradley sees urban diversity as strength.
Next Article:Skill building workshops draw big crowds.

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