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HUD nominee Cisneros receives bipartisan praise at confirmation hearing.

Pledging to devote "maximum energy" to HUD, Henry Cisneros, former San Antonio mayor and past NLC President appeared before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, chaired by Sen. Don Riegle, Jr. (D-Mich.), last week regarding his nomination as Secretary of the Housing and Urban Development.

Cisneros said he came before the Committee as "an advocate for cities" and "a believer in experimentation". He promised, if confirmed, to develop an urban policy, define the "mission" of housing, and overhaul HUD's management system. Cisneros stressed the need for partnership and cooperation between agencies and between different levels of government. "The cities cannot revamp the system alone, but neither can the federal government."

Committee members questioned Cisneros on a number of items including: his vision for HUD (including streamlining the department), homelessness, enterprise zones, higher appropriations for Community Development Block Grants, and removal of restrictive Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regulations that prevent HOME funds from being released. Cisneros said he would make sure that urban and rural development proposals would play a large role in the economic recovery plan the new administration is drafting.

The most memorable statement came from the outgoing HUD Secretary, Jack Kemp. In a rare endorsement from a departing Cabinet member of an opposing party, Kemp asked the Committee to "put aside partisanship and come together under a cause that spans all walks of life."

Kemp commended Cisneros as an outstanding mayor, and praised his economic development work in this country, as well as in Latin'and Central America. 'The war on poverty cannot be won in traditional ways--be they Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative... not right or left, but in a radical way--independent of the government 'plantation'," said Kemp.

During the direct question portion of the hearing, Riegle said he would like to see a stimulus package that contained accelerated movement of HOME funds, a greater CDBG appropriation, and the permanent extension of revenue bonds. Cisneros replied that he would add two more items te the package: a mechanism whereby CDBG funds could be infused in communities more rapidly, and funds for public housing modernization. When questioned about $2.5 million in HOME funds that were being held up by OMB regulations, Cisneros said that, if confirmed, that issue would begin to be addressed in "the first day on the job".

Cisneros also said that he would like te "re-energize" the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) as the principal housing force in the nation, and that enterprise zones (EZ) are included on the level of highest priority for the new administration. Cisneros said that in addition to EZ's he would push for better coordination between agencies such as Health and Human Services, Education, and OMB, so that the "cycle of homelessness" may be broken. Riegle said the Committee would 'be writing to President-elect Clinton to suggest that the leader of such a coordinated effort be the Secretary of HUD.

Cisneros began his' career as an administrative assistant in the San Antonio City Manager's office and became part of NLC's staff in 1970. He later was selected for a White House Fellowship, and served as an assistant to the Secretary of Health Education and .Welfare. The 45-year-old Cisneros was elected mayor of San Antonio in 1981, after serving six years as a city council member.

Cisneros' bipartisan support was clearly evident throughout the Senate hearing. Opening statements were made on his behalf by Treasury Secretary-nominee Lloyd Bentsen, Senator Phil Gramm (R-Tex.), Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) and outgoing HUD Secretary Jack Kemp.

Bentsen cited Cisneros' major achievements in San Antonio, including: increased senior citizen and family housing, the development of innovatire loan and grant programs, and the encouragement of area private funding to the tune of $37 million. Cisneros has earned the respect of both parties said Bentsen, "and has never forgotten his roots in the Mexican-American community...Henry is fully capable of carrying the message from the barrios te the beardrooms, and we will all be better off for it."

Senator Phil Gramm, another Texan, said he has known Cisneros since he (Gramm) was a professor at Texas A&M University. "Henry brings a wealth of experience to the job as a former mayor of a large city and as (past) president of the National league of Cities." Gramm said he would work toward a unanimous vote for confirmation in the Senate.

Cisneros closed by saying he had "no illusions" about the job, but that he would devote "maximum energy" to HUD on a daily basis, and would do his best "to bequeath a more prosperous future for our children." The Committee is scheduled to vote on Cisneros' confirmation on the 19th. It will then be sent te the full Senate.
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Title Annotation:Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary-designate Henry Cisneros
Author:Ferrera, Anna Pulido
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Jan 18, 1993
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