The United States Conference of Mayors: Celebrating 75 Years

Cuomo, Mayors Discuss Wide Range of Issues In Key West

By Eugene T. Lowe

HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo attended the leadership meeting of the Conference of Mayors in Key West on February 19, and as in previous years, he discussed a wide range of issues in a free flowing discussion for nearly two hours.

Secretary Cuomo, in opening remarks, said that now that the impeachment process has ended, Congress will move on and get something done. But he also said that "the budget discussion will be tight" with social security and defense squeezing the process.

"Last year, HUD had the best budget in a decade," the Secretary said, "and it was not a good year to get a budget done. Yet, we had a home run budget."

But, "in the midst of economic success, we still have problems," Secretary Cuomo added. "The admission of this does not say that we did something wrong," the Secretary asserted. "We have a concentration of problems in the cities. Great leadership will not solve these problems, nor will public/private partnerships. It will take resources."

The Secretary told the mayors that investing in the cities is "not charity." To illustrate his point, Secretary Cuomo said that "the suburbs developed because of federal policies. We must now redevelop the cities. We must do this because it is good for the nation and for the economy."

One investment strategy is to expand capital in urban and rural distressed areas which have both labor pools and untapped markets. Cities have significant purchasing power. HUD's FY2000 budget request includes a program called America's Private Investment Companies (APIC), an equity incentive program that will leverage $1.5 billion in private funds in inner cities and rural areas.

In an overview of the budget, the Secretary said that "the President's proposal is very aggressive." Then he asked, "Was last year's budget a fluke? We want to say there is a new understanding of cities."

One of the features of the budget proposal is the focus on regional planning. "We want to provide incentives for joint planning between cities and older inner ring suburbs. We can't solve our problems without this alliance."

In closing his remarks, the Secretary said that "the strong economy gives us the opportunity to solve problems that we have not been able to solve. The deficit is now gone. We should now invest in cities."

The discussion with the mayors covered such issues as homeownership, brownfields, the APIC initiative, the million home initiative over the next 10 years between HUD, the Conference of Mayors and the National Association of Homebuilders, empowerment zones, and the use of Section 8 rental assistance for mortgage payments.