Mayors came to Washington through a blizzard to attend our 68th Winter Meeting. The elements stopped some from coming but through the storm came over 260 mayors.
Denver Mayor Wellington E. Webb, our President, charged the mayors to go forth and support our ten point agenda, “A New Agenda for America’s Cities.” The President of the National Association of Counties, C. Vernon Gray, Howard County, Maryland Commissioner came and he told the mayors assembled that he and his County organization will support our agenda as we all go forward in the 2000 presidential campaign to bring some sense of substance to it.
Wichita Mayor Bob Knight, President of the National League of Cities, came and received a standing ovation for his brave and common sense speech calling on all of us to “undo racism” in America. The bipartisan national organizations representing all city and county elected officials are more united than ever before. This political unity around our key political issues will no doubt help our efforts to get the presidential candidates to pay some attention to us.
At the White House on Friday morning in the East Room, it was an emotional moment for some of us as our President, Mayor Wellington E. Webb, told it “like it is” about what President Clinton has done for cities and mayors. Said Mayor Webb: “For many of our mayors, they may not know, because, Mr. President, we have many new mayors here today. The regular meetings of mayors in this special place, did not take place until William Jefferson Clinton became President of the United States. [Applause] We’re very proud to be here. Not only did this president allow us in, he allowed us to participate, to help work with him in the writing of the crime bill, working with him on empowerment zones and welfare reform, we’ve been part of the process. He also hired a staff who were told to work with us and include us, not just to tolerate us as was done in previous administrations. And the staff he hired also has reflected America, no north, no south, no east, no west. Just America — one nation — black and white, brown and yellow, Jew and Gentile, Protestant, Catholic, straight and gay; you made it our country too. ... Mr. President, you have included us in a very special way that have made us all feel proud to be Americans. You have been one of the finest presidents this country has ever had, [applause] we respect you, and when history is written, they’ll say this was a special president, it’s one that only comes along very few times.”
It was the first of many goodbyes that President Clinton will experience as organizations like ours bring thousands of Americans to Washington during the President’s final year for their meetings this winter.
Congratulations to Boise Mayor H. Brent Coles, our Vice President, for the national focus on drugs – particularly “meth.” The message was drugs are everywhere – urban, suburban and rural America. To top it off, we had our good friend the former Mayor of Bogota, Andrés Pastrana, now President of Colombia, who reported on what he is doing to stop the international cocaine flow. He got the support he wanted in that mayors are supporting the $1.6 billion Congressional package of foreign aid that will go hopefully to his nation for his use in his effort against cocaine and illegal drug trafficking.
This edition of U.S.Mayor covers three national events: our regular Winter Meeting, the Brent Coles Drug Meeting before our Winter Meeting, and our first ever Main Street to Wall Street initiative, which involved Conference President Webb, along with our “metro” partner, NACo, going to New York City to announce our ten point agenda for the presidential candidates and also ask American business leaders to recognize us as who we are, public CEOs driving the metro engines to make the national economy continue to break historical records for economic growth. Don’t miss the back pages of this edition as it jumps back to give you the story of our historic New York event.
Kay Randal Scrimger, a person who has served our organization with distinction, informed me in late 1999 that she intended to resign her full-time position with us, and the Advisory Board and Executive Committee honored Kay at our Advisory Board dinner during our Winter Meeting. Kay will be with us in a consultant capacity to help us forge ahead with our CITIES/2000 initiative, our international millennium project that will carry us through this year and 2001.
As mayors boarded planes and headed home to watch the Super Bowl, we all faced the New Hampshire Primary where Republican candidate Senator John McCain shook them up a bit. As Governor George W. Bush said, New Hampshire is a bump in the road for him on his way to 1600 Pennsylvania and the White House. For Governor Bush, let us hope that is true. We all know that that little state of New Hampshire has been a bump for some and lights out for others.
After New Hampshire, with Senator Bill Bradley’s numbers moving toward Vice President Al Gore plus the hit that Governor Bush took, the slugfest of the political season begins. Stuff will be slung between now and March 7 when 17 states have their primaries. To many Americans focused on the millennium, Y2K and the Super Bowl, the 2000 campaign has just begun and after New Hampshire it’s going to get meaner and nastier. While people say it’s terrible, overall they love it. It’s American politics at its worst and it’s what we love most.
Meantime, Mayor Webb as your leader is focusing on a number of events and strategies to force our issues into the political fray. We will be reaching out to you to help us push our agenda into the political discussion that we hope will involve a national debate that will result in a President, a Cabinet and a White House that will work with mayors as President Clinton has done to help us make our cities safer and economically stronger for all Americans.