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Bush, Gore Dispatch Top Aides to Key West Leadership Meeting

By Conference Staff
March 6, 2000

As the 2000 presidential campaign season hit high gear, Vice President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush sent their top domestic policy directors to meet with the leadership of The U.S. Conference of Mayors on February 25. The discussions took place in Key West during the three-day Conference’s Winter Leadership Meeting, which was attended by over 25 mayors.

Conference President Denver Mayor Wellington E. Webb extended invitations to the Bush, Gore, Bradley and McCain campaigns to send their key policy advisor to engage in discussions with the mayors on top domestic policy priorities. Each advisor met with the mayors for over an hour and a half in a formal meeting, and joined the mayors for extended discussions during evening events.

Participating from the Bush Campaign was Stephen Goldsmith, Chief Domestic Policy Advisor of the campaign and former Mayor of Indianapolis. Representing Vice President Gore was Elaine Kamarck, Senior Policy Advisor.

The free-flowing dialogue centered on the Conference’s A New Agenda for America’s Cities. This 10-point plan calls on the next President to support the nation’s metro economies by helping to: 1) refocus government; 2) increase public safety; 3) build affordable housing; 4) invest in kids and schools; 5) promote arts, culture and sporting amenities; 6) recycle land, preserve open spaces and support local parks; 7) invest tax cuts in challenged neighborhoods and working families; 8) improve workforce training; 9) modernize infrastructure; and 10) increase access to affordable healthcare. (See pages 22-23 for the full copy of the 10-Point Plan.)

In addition to discussing the domestic policy priorities of the two campaigns and the nation’s mayors, much of the dialogue focused on the structural relationship between the Conference of Mayors and the next administration. Mayor Webb stressed the importance of direct access to the President and the cabinet, and of having a top-level metropolitan policy advisor in the White House with the authority to cut across cabinet departments in order to help cities and counties improve service delivery at the local level.

The mayors also stressed a strong desire to increase local control and flexibility over certain federal programs, and to avoid unnecessary and often costly state regulations.

Both policy directors pledged the support of their respective Presidential candidates for a domestic policy which emphasizes local control, and for a White House which will continue the recent tradition of a strong working partnership with mayors.

Mayors Demand Action on Summer Youth Crisis

As mayors assembled in Key West, they expressed grave concern about their inability to provide enough jobs for youth this summer. Structural changes in the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998 (which becomes effective July 1, 2000) and insufficient resources for youth programs are one of the most pressing issues for mayors as the phones begin to ring in city halls across the country from kids looking for summer jobs.

Mayors discussed the positive impact of summer jobs in the lives of at-risk youth in their cities and the tragedy of making youth suffer at the expense of a lack of funding and the transition to WIA. Mayors developed a letter to President Clinton and directed staff to prepare similar letters to the leadership in the Congress, including the Appropriations Committees, and also a letter to Gene Sperling, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Director of the National Economic Council.

The letter urges the President to include funding for summer jobs in his Emergency Supplemental Appropriation bill that is expected to go to Congress shortly. (The Supplemental was sent to Congress February 29 and did not include funding for summer jobs. See mayors’ letter to President on page 19.)

The new requirements of WIA have doubled the cost of services, and the unintended consequence is a significant reduction in the number of summer jobs expected to be available. 

WIA significantly changes how services are provided at the local level. Specifically, regarding the youth program, WIA requires more comprehensive services for youth on a year-round basis, which would considerably raise the cost of serving each young person. Because of the additional requirements of WIA and the lack of an increase in funding for year-round youth programs, the most immediate result is that in Summer 2000, the Summer Youth Employment Program will be significantly smaller than it has been in the past. While mayors support the idea of comprehensive services for youth on a year-round basis, there is strong concern that mayors may only be able to provide summer jobs in this transition year for fewer than half of the youth who normally participate in the program.

A survey conducted by The U.S. Conference of Mayors shows average reductions of almost 50 percent in the number of youth that will be served in the summer of 2000, as compared to the summer of 1999. Some cities are facing cuts of up to 80 percent. Last year, with the support of mayors, Congress appropriated sufficient funds to serve 500,000 young people.

It is estimated that it would take $500 million to serve the same number of at-risk young people in the summer of 2000.

In an emergency resolution at the Winter Meeting of the Conference of Mayors, mayors called for an emergency supplemental appropriation to address the shortfall of funds for this summer and advocated for increased funding in the Federal FY 2001 Budget for youth under WIA.

Parks Support Also Discussed

At the meeting Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe reiterated the Conference’s support for funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the Urban Parks and Recreation Recovery Program (UPARR). Boise Mayor H. Brent Coles and Ashe pointed out how cities have used LWCF and UPARR funds to develop neighborhood parks. Currently Parks legislation, which dramatically increases funding for both of these programs, has passed the House Natural Resources Committee and is awaiting full House consideration. Action in the Senate is expected in April.

Mayors recently wrote to their Congressional Representatives asking them to co-sponsor the Conservation and Reinvestment Act. To date, over 300 Members of Congress have signed-on to the legislation. With the large number of bi-partisan supporters, the House leadership will hopefully allow the legislation to come to a vote on the House floor this spring. A rally for parks on Capitol Hill was this week (see story on page 5).

Mayors Voice Strong Opposition to Internet Tax Commission’s Review of Telecom Recommendations

Dearborn Mayor Michael A. Guido, chair of the Conference Telecommunications and Technology Subcommittee, talked with Conference leaders about the work of the Advisory Commission on Electronic Commerce, pointing out that the final Commission meeting was scheduled for March 20-21 in Dallas where the 19-member panel will consider its recommendations to Congress on electronic commerce. He noted concerns of mayors about pending recommendations submitted by both government and business representatives on the Commission calling for significant changes in state and local telecommunications taxes. Mayor Guido expressed the view, with mayors at the session concurring, that recommendations submitted to the Commission focusing on telecommunications taxes are well beyond the purview of the panel.

Guido also singled out a proposal that was submitted by six business representatives led by America On-line Chief Executive Robert Pittman that calls for the consolidation of existing state and local telecommunications taxes into a single state rate. He explained that such a change doesn’t take into account that telecommunications taxes in many areas include taxes to compensate communities for use of public rights-of-way in lieu of franchise fees and other payments for using this property. He also discussed other issues involved with this proposal, cautioning mayors that existing local revenues could be jeopardized.

The mayors also discussed recommendations in the business proposal calling for a five-year extension of the current 3-year moratorium on new Internet taxes, and expanding the coverage of the moratorium to prohibit sales taxes on digitized goods (i.e. compact disks, newspapers, movies, books, etc.) sold over the Internet. They also noted that the proposal suggests that state and local governments eliminate sales taxes on functionally equivalent goods sold over the counter. In addition, they discussed other proposed changes that would create loopholes to allow remote sellers to use companies physically located within local areas to better market their goods while avoiding tax collection obligations. 

Conference leaders discussed efforts by four government representatives on the Commission – Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, Washington Governor Gary Locke, Utah Governor Michael Leavitt and former South Dakota Legislator Gene Labrun– to advance a proposal calling for no new taxes on the Internet, an international moratorium on tariffs on electronic transmissions, sales tax simplifications, and no changes in the nexus definition. The proposal also includes a provision opposed by the Conference calling for the “consolidation of the administration of telecommunications taxes at the state level.”

In response to the Conference leadership’s concerns, Mayor Kirk sent a February 28 letter to Charles Schwab Corporation President David Pottruck, a key business representative involved in the discussions, reemphasizing the view that the telecommunications issue “is outside the purview of the Commission’s charge.” As an alternative to the specific changes in telecommunication taxes, he recommended that language be inserted to encourage cooperation between state and local governments and the telecommunications industry to find ways to reduce complexity and cost of complying with state and local telecommunications taxes.

Following the leadership review of these issues, Conference President and Denver Mayor Wellington E. Webb indicated that the Conference would convey its opposition to pending telecommunications recommendations, emphasizing that such proposals are beyond the purview of the Commission. Webb directed that the views of the Conference leadership on this and related issues be sent to Commission members immediately. A copy of the letter is included in U S Mayor on page 20.


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