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Even with need greater than ever, HUD budget is straining.

Just like every place else, finances are tight at HUD, Secretary Henry Cisneros told NLC's Board and Advisory Council during a luncheon meeting last week.

The former NLC President was in Orlando for just a couple of hours, making a special trip from Washington, D.C. to address his former colleagues and inform them that the Administration hears their concerns, tell them about HUD's urban policy, its budget prospects and its plans to strengthen its relationship with cities.

Cisneros talked about the cities' "fundamentally new relationship with the federal government" that is emerging under the new Clinton administration.

An attainable national urban strategic effort is being formed, Cisneros said breaking the tradition of urban policy not having clear enough initiatives and objectives that are tangible.

In 1993, "We have a pretty impressive List of things that impact the levels of people who live in urban areas," he said.

Even so, the 1994 impact will be greater; Cisneros said, with a push for programs concerning homelessness, welfare reform, community development grants, school readiness and school-to-work- transition.

Cisneros talked about Clinton's Community Enterprise Board which will be spearheaded by Vice' President Al Gore. The mission of the new Board is to integrate between national economic policy and cities.

The Board was created in connection with reinventing government led by Gore. in addition to pushing for linking local and national economic efforts, the Board will channel public/private collaboration at the local level, and on the macro level, the Board will require federal agencies to "become more local government related."

In his first year as HUD secretary, Cisneros said he spent time handling issues of mismanagement at the organization. Under the reorganization, state directors have been instructed to-improve their relationships with state and local elected officials.

Cisneros, former mayor of San Antonio, spoke candidly about his purpose of being sensitive and open to the needs of cities and town, but that he also has a personal and professional obligation to President Clinton. He vowed to share information with local officials and to fight on a number of fronts for cities and towns, but he asked for understanding and patience on the part of local officials.

Although he currently has $100 million in discretionary funds for local homeless programs, in 1994, money will be tight. Cisneros said HUD has organized its efforts around several local priorities and he has readied himself for Congress' return in January.

"The budget is going to be very, very difficult because of very stringent caps. Accept for those programs marked investment (welfare reform and health care), there really isn't going to be any new money," he said. He intends to fight for a more judicial standard for housing that is fair and open and rids itself of the existing disincentives. Disincentives that discourage couples who are poor and welfare dependent from marrying and discourages those on public assistance from working.

Another expected battle is the increase and maintaining of funding under the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). He called CDBG "the last remaining program between the federal government and mayors."

Cisneros said he will fight to combat discrimination in banking and in the insurance industry. But, "In light of the tight budget, I will not be successful in defending every part of the budget," he said.

To increase the chances of success with Congress, Cisneros called on local elected officials to join forces. "I don't know what kind of bleed over and ripple effect there will be, but I do need your help in holding CDBG."

In reference to strengthening the HUD/City relationship, Cisneros said "I don't want there to be one sliver of daylight between us."

His initiation of weekly Wednesday meeting with city officials from around the country has proved successful in putting "ideas in our heads about things they are doing."

In the case of Knoxville, Tenn., Mayor Victor Ashe, after a Wednesday meeting with Cisneros, was invited to meet with Vice President Gore.

He asked local officials to broaden there scope and lessen dependence on CDBG programs. "I would argue.. that the definition of help in America's cities is beyond that one program."
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Title Annotation:Department of Housing and Urban Development
Author:Baker, Denise
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Dec 13, 1993
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