President Clinton Hosts Mayors in
White House at 68th Winter Meeting
By Dave Gatton
Over 260 of the nation’s mayors, led by Denver Mayor Wellington E. Webb, met with President Clinton in the White House on Friday, January 28, 2000, the morning after the President delivered his eighth and final State of the Union address to Congress. Following a breakfast attended by numerous cabinet secretaries, the Mayors convened in the East Room where the President highlighted various domestic policy initiatives –crime, education, child poverty, and transportation—that the White House had developed in collaboration with the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Introducing the President to the mayors, Mayor Webb, President of the Conference of Mayors, said that the Clinton presidency had given millions of Americans “hope where before they had none.” He cited city unemployment rates that had been cut in half, a declining crime rate, education reform and unprecedented levels of business growth as among Clinton’s achievements, and told the President that he had “stood by mayors, just as mayors had stood by the President,” for the American people. (See page 3 for full text of Webb’s White House remarks.)
President Clinton began by
announcing new economic figures that showed the economy had grown at
an annual rate of 5.8 percent during the fourth quarter of 1998, the
fourth consecutive year the economy had expanded by 4 percent or more.
Citing thirty year low inflation figures, the President said, “This
unbelievable recovery marches on.”
The President called on the mayors to help move school construction legislation to repair over 5,000 schools and build another 6,000. “There’s lots of evidence that young children get a very bad signal if they show up at a school where the windows are broken, or they have to be boarded over.” “I’ve been to school with a dozen trailers outside,” he told the mayors.
The President reiterated his call to double the size of after-school and summer school programs. The mayors have long supported such efforts as a way of preventing juvenile violence and ending the practice of social promotion within public schools.
On the topic of revitalizing distressed neighborhoods, the President also asked for support in passing his New Markets legislation, expanding the number of empowerment zones, increasing the earned-income tax credit (EITC), and doubling the number of housing vouchers for the working poor.
On several fronts, the President encouraged mayors to help in reaching people who qualify but fail to take advantage of various federal income and health related programs. The President referenced Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s outreach program to sign up more working families for the EITC program. Last year, over $300 million of EITC benefits went unused in the state of Illinois.
He also asked the mayors
to help sign up children to CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance
Program, which provides health insurance for uninsured children of
working families. Over the two and a half year program, 2 million kids
have been enrolled, but the program is funded to serve up to 5 million
In his State of the Union address, the President endorsed Vice President’s Gore’s proposal to allow uninsured parents of kids who participate in CHIP also to enroll in the health insurance program. The President told the mayors that through this approach over 6.5 million parents could also receive insurance, resulting in a fourth of the uninsured individuals receiving health insurance coverage.
The President hailed the work of Mayor Webb in revitalizing brownfields as part of the clean up and redevelopment of the old Stapleton airport in Denver and encouraged communities to preserve open space and urban parks by supporting his efforts to expand the Urban Parks and Recreation Recovery Program and the Land and Water Conservation Fund within the Department of Interior.
He applauded the mayors for their work in original passage of the crime bill that put 100,000 cops on the streets of America’s cities, and committed to putting another 50,000 cops in high crime areas. While saying the Brady bill works, he pledged to extend it to gun shows and to increase enforcement of current laws to existing gun dealers. “We do need to strengthen enforcement, because about one percent of our gun dealers do most of the damage to the law, in so far as gun dealers are doing it,” he told the mayors.
From the transportation angle, the President said he supported anything to improve commercial airline traffic, humorously adding that he soon would have to use it. AIR-21, the bill reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration and its financial support to airports, is a major Conference of Mayors priority in the year 2000. The President pushed for the development of high speed rail and for transportation research on alternative fuels that would dramatically improve mileage efficiency and the environment.
The President closed by saying that if he could be successful in any one thing, it would not be an expanded economy, but a united American people. “The American people will figure out how to solve everything else, if we can have the right kind of relations toward one another,” he told the mayors.
He concluded his remarks by telling the mayors “to remember that you have people in this White House who believe in you and what you’re doing, wish you well, and want to help.” With that, the mayors erupted into applause.