Urban Parks, Thank You Victor
In a most unusual bipartisan spirit, the House approved
an urban parks bill yesterday that will earmark millions of dollars generated
annually from offshore drilling fees. This is a major victory for the
nation's mayors and local officials in metro areas.
No one in our organization or elsewhere worked harder
for this victory than Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe. He has trumpeted this
issue long before he became mayor when he was Executive Director of the
President's Commission on Outdoor Recreation. In 1994, when Mayor Ashe
became our President, he, Tom McClimon, Senior USCM staffer, and I walked the
halls of Congress advocating more federal support for urban parks. Mayor
Ashe's rallying cry was and still is, "the most important park is the one down
the street in your neighborhood."
Mayor Ashe's Presidency of the Conference came at the
time when the Newt Gingrich revolution took place. The Gingrich crowd were
all brainwashed on their "contract with America" and urban parks did not make
their priority list. One day we went to see a senior Republican.
After the niceties, Mayor Ashe started in on him like a bulldog. The
Congressman flat out told us their would be no money for urban parks and told us
in a matter of fact way that he had to stay with the Newt Gingrich manifesto
which supported national parks in remote places that many urban voters will
never see. After the Congressman said no about six times, he looked at his
watch and in so many words told us to leave. Tom McClimon, Mayor Ashe and
I huddled outside in the corridor and before I could say anything, Mayor Ashe
looked at me and said, "well, Tom that meeting didn't go so well." I
agreed but that didn't stop Mayor Ashe, he kept walking until he walked his
socks down in his shoes that day all over Capitol Hill. And he has come
back year after year on this issue; he has championed it among the most powerful
in Congress and nationally and his support pushed the urban parks agenda to
yesterday's floor debate in Congress when the historic House vote took place.
We thank Mayor Ashe. In the old days, if Lyndon Johnson were in the White
House, he'd name the bill the Ashe urban parks bill. That was another day
back then when Congress and the President set aside certain issues to be
bipartisan. With the acrimony we have here in Washington, it is
politically essential for Republican leaders like Mayor Ashe to lead the charge
on this and other Conference priorities.
Yesterday, the Republican leaders could not hold their
troops together against the bipartisan coalition supporting this legislation
that Tom McClimon has helped to develop on this issue. We must also note
that it was Larry Naake, Executive Director of the National Association of
Counties who took this issue to the Large Urban County Caucus of NACo. The
urban county elected officials joined with us in rallies, meetings and political
education supporting urban parks.
We thank also Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu for her
hearings in the Senate and New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial for his incredible
energy on this issue.
Conference President Wellington Webb maintained from day
one that parks must be a part of the 10 point plan we have in the Webb Plan we
will take to the Presidential candidates this fall. Go to Denver and you
can see how parks help make that great city so great. Mayor Webb took us
to Red Rocks last September, a park for performing arts owned by the City of
Denver that is not adjacent to the city; instead there are square miles of land
in between the city to the magnificent natural wonder of an outdoor concert site
called "Red Rocks."
The urban/metro parks issue is one more issue where we
find local elected officials lined up with the American people-and particularly
American people who have the responsibility of raising their children. We
need to take special political note of this vote today. Republican and
Democrat Senators, and yes, senior people in the Clinton Administration need to
understand that in a surplus era where money is sometimes spent inefficiently,
money to keep a kid off the street while automatic weapons or handguns are
killing people in churches, zoos and schools is indeed a wise investment.
But some people just still don't get it. Yesterday the Republicans and
Democrats in the House listened to the common sense heartbeat of America.
Yesterday was a vote for kids, our only hope. And yes, yesterday was a
vote for the soccer moms and all the people who shepherd our children. It
was a vote of hope; it gives us something for the kids to say "yes" to.
Now we must keep the momentum going as we head to the Senate to try to pass this
worthy legislation. The historic bipartisan vote in the House will help
our cause. Let your Senators know how you feel. Quote Mayor Ashe and
remind those Senators that the best park for his or her constituents is the park
in his or her neighborhood.
Webb/The Millennium March on Washington for Equality
Denver Mayor Wellington E. Webb, President of the
Conference, came to Washington to address the Millennium March on Equality.
His presence is another example of his leadership style and his commitment to
human rights and to people. On basic rights for gays and lesbians, he is
not a newcomer. As reported by The Denver Post, as a legislator he
supported gay rights legislation in the Colorado Legislature in 1975.
Mayors have been in the forefront on this issue and we will continue to be there
because mayors like Mayor Webb understand that basic human rights go beyond what
others may say or think. It was interesting that as controversial and
bothersome as this political movement is to some of our leaders, the fact is
that they were asking for the right to marry and to join the Boy scouts, not
making new appointments to our Committees, not exactly unusual demands.
Three Mayors have expressed their interest to serve as
Chair of the Advisory Board, and as your President of your Conference of Mayors
in the term year June 20 - to June 20. They are in alphabetical order:
Mayor Sharpe James of Newark, Mayor Tom Menino of Boston and Mayor Meyera
Oberndorf of Virginia Beach.
There are two Trustee openings and five Advisory
Board member openings.
As mentioned earlier, there's so much talent in our
organization many mayors will not be selected for these eight (8) positions.
Remember this Ñ as incoming President of the Conference, Boise Mayor H. Brent
Coles will be making new appointments to our Committees and task forces and
there is plenty of work for a mayor who wants to help him as he goes through a
historical transition, leading us as we help form a new federal
government. So if you don't make it this year to one of the elected
positions, be not ye dismayed because Present Brent Coles will be calling on you
to keep the Webb agenda alive. He has some new exciting initiatives in
store for us as we leave our meeting in Seattle.
Mayors have called and the press is interested to know
if Governor George W. Bush, the Republican nominee for President, is coming to
Seattle. The answer is that the Bush staff are working on his schedule and we
have a letter saying just that. We believe he will be there because so
many of our issues, public schools, brownfields initiatives, etc., are his
issues too. In the meantime, we want to nail our Seattle schedule down.
Last week I sent a letter to key Republican leaders of The Conference asking for
their help in urging Governor Bush to come to Seattle. Democrats and
Republican mayors should contact the Bush campaign or Governor Bush himself.
Let him know that there's a lot we have in common and we can all win if he is
there with us presenting a bipartisan political statement to support our cities,
our metro economies, and above all, the working people of America. Those
who live in cities and counties do not want political differences to affect
basic services and daily quality of life of issues in our nation.
Help us welcome Governor George W. Bush to Seattle.
As mentioned earlier, Vice President Gore has confirmed
he will be with us at the 2:00 P.M. Friday, June 9th plenary session. We'll
put Governor Bush anywhere on our schedule. We are agile and mobile.
We just want him there. Help me Rhonda!
Happy Mother's Day and Happy Million Mom March
This week, I along with DC Mayor Anthony Williams, Gary
Mayor Scott King and Million Mom March founder Donna Dees-Thomases unveiled the
Conference of Mayors "Wall of Death" showing 4001 dead in 100 cities since
Columbine. As US Mayor goes to press, mayors across the nation will be
involved in this gun safety initiative sponsored by the Million Mom grassroots
organization. Our "Wall of Death" will be on the mall on Mothers Day and
thousands will come to Washington for this event.
Some mayors will stay home and sponsor events in their
home cities. No matter where you are, hug, call or thank your mother, mom
or mama or maybe another person who was your mentor. Someone said when it
comes to children, mayors, and moms have one thing in common. They are out
there every day for kids. And when the Million Mom March is over, we will
still be there because mayors know that our children are our future.