June 2, 1997 - To The Mayor From The Executive Director
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive DirectorJune 2, 1997
Delaware Senator Joseph Biden surprised, even shocked, many of our mayors last week when our Conference President, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, led them to Capitol Hill to present to Congressional leaders our new National Action Plan to Control Drugs. Senator Biden, addressing the mayors on the House side of the Capitol, seemed to be angry at us. He held up our plan, said there was nothing new in it, and told us that his proposals, written seven years ago, contained all the recommendations the mayors were offering in 1997. Senator Biden's bizarre conduct prompted Mayor Daley to respond forcefully that Senators needed to take off their ear muffs and clean the wax from their ears so that they could hear what the mayors had to say.
There was frustration at the head table and there was frustration in the audience of mayors, police chiefs and prosecutors, too. Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer rose to echo Mayor Daley's concern. Mayors contrasted Senator Biden's " I know more than you do about crime" lecture to President Bill Clinton's listening session in the White House, immediately before the mayors journeyed to Capitol Hill, which lasted nearly two hours. Not only did President Clinton listen to our presentation, he took suggestions from the police chiefs, mayors and prosecutors on how to improve the federal government's failed strategy to stop cocaine from coming into the country. Mayors also called the President's attention to the flawed structure we now have in which our Drug Czar, General Barry McCaffrey, has to seek resources from over 50 federal agencies as he tries to coordinate a national anti-drug strategy.
Prosecutors and sheriffs reported to the President that heroin is back big-time, and it is so pure these days you can sniff it or smoke it. You don't need a needle for the drug anymore. The methamphetamine spread from western cities like Boise, Idaho was reiterated by Boise Mayor Brent Coles. Police chiefs pushed for more preventative measures and treatment initiatives. President Clinton believes all persons imprisoned for illegal drug use should have access to treatment in prison, and he asked the Attorney General, who was present that morning in the White House meeting, to help him require that states provide needed treatment to those incarcerated as a prerequisite to getting federal money to build more prisons. And, of course, we talked about our youth and their needs, which are ever-changing. Recent increased use of marijuana among teenagers will require a new focus from all levels of government as well as our schools, and better overall education and prevention efforts.
The President told us our plan was a good one and that he had learned a lot from us. General McCaffrey and the other Cabinet members President Clinton had assembled for our breakfast meeting also said that they had learned much from the mayors, the police chiefs and the district attorneys. The mayors said they had learned from each other. The police chiefs and prosecutors indicated that we need to come together now more than ever so that we can better coordinate our strategy to confront the national tragedy of drugs and crime. All the participants thanked our Drug Control Task Force Chairs, Gary Mayor Scott King and Boise Mayor Brent Coles, for their leadership. Speaker Gingrich praised our efforts and wants us to come back in 90 days with more specifics on a legislative strategy.
But not Senator Biden. He prides himself on writing all the drug laws. He says he created the drug czar's office. Is he saying all of his accomplishments and creations are working? Is he saying he's giving up on doing anything to stop the flow and use of drugs in our nation? Mayors are still puzzled by his approach to us. All the leaders we talked to listened or at least gave us the courtesy of pretending to listen. None of them came on with the disdain and arrogance of Senator Biden.
As some of the mayors said after the meeting, some Senate leaders appear to be out of touch with what is happening on our streets and in our neighborhoods. We need to work on efforts to get them more in touch. If ever we needed a Senate and a House of Representative to listen to our city leaders those charged to protect us from violence, murder, mayhem and drugs it is now. Why all the shouting? Why all the screaming? Why all the antics? Why all the anger? Why all the arrogance? As he left our meeting, Senator Biden was heard to exclaim, "I told them." Why? If they don't listen to us about this issue today, will they ever?
This is our country. These are our children. Drugs are still coming in. Drug money still flows and so does the blood from our children and citizens of all ages. It is a crying shame when well-intentioned men and women work for nearly a year on a national drug control plan and we are treated the way we were treated last week. There's no reason for it.
Over the past year Mayor Daley has focussed us on the drug issue. Our task force chairs, Gary Mayor King and Boise Mayor Coles, have held hearings across the nation. West Palm Beach Mayor Nancy Graham and Palatine Mayor Rita Mullins, leaders of our other criminal justice committees, have been there, doing their best to share, learn and do something about the national scourge of drugs.
We will continue to bring our message to Congress until they, as Mayor Daley said, take off their ear muffs and take the wax out of their ears. We have no choice.
Copyright © 1996, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.