Executive Director

Washington, DC
October 6, 2000


With one Presidential and one Vice-Presidential debate behind us, Conference President Boise Mayor H. Brent Coles is concerned that all four candidates are not addressing the challenge of illegal drugs in our cities throughout the nation. Mr. Joseph Califano, Director of CASA (The Center Against Substance Abuse), has also publicly expressed his deep concern over the lack of any discussion as to what the next President will do to join mayors and citizens like Mr. Califano and others that know that, while crime is down, illegal drugs are destroying young and old in every region of the country.

The Presidential debates are more substantive this year than those in recent elections. They do focus on such issues as the needs of seniors, the necessity of shoring up social security and ways to alleviate the high cost of prescription drugs. Public schools also top the discussions. The debates are not exciting but it is reassuring that Governor Bush, Vice President Gore, Secretary Cheney and Senator Leiberman can face the TV cameras and know what they are talking about. But you do miss the zingers. You never knew when Senator Robert Dole would do something unpredictable. So you waited. This year, it's different. But who knows? There are two more debates.

Some ask why the candidates" are focusing on the problems and aspirations of seniors. This question was raised here in D.C. this week during a Youth and Politics seminar featuring Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, the Independent Party leader. He said it's simple, the answer is "because they vote." He pointed out how low the voter turnout among young voters in 1996, which was only around 30 percent. Another interesting note is that according to polls, 47 percent of the young people in our country get their presidential political news from the late night comedy shows, Leno, Letterman, and others. And veteran nightline anchor, Ted Koppel, says young people don"t watch the news until they get married and "settle down" — whatever that means.

The overall voter turnout in 1996 was dismal, lower than 50 percent. Governor Ventura cites other countries that have a 90 percent plus voting record and he maintains this is so because they have multiple parties which draw interest from all segments of society. He points out until they let him in the Gubernatorial debates in Minnesota, his support in the State was in the single digits, a little higher than where Ralph Nader is in the national standings today. So Ventura is telling the young voters to make noise, get involved and, then he says, national candidates will not ignore you. Governor Ventura also thinks that a 15 percent national standing in the polls in order to qualify for the debates is still too high. He criticizes the "inside the Beltway crowd" who head up the Presidential Commission on Debates who establish the 15 percent requirement. Pioneer talk-show host and author, Phil Donahue, has also hit the TV circuit as the President of the Ralph Nader organization and he is obsessed about how the powers that be have shut Nader out of the debates.

While all this is going on, our President, Mayor H. Brent Coles of Boise Idaho, is travelling around our nation speaking on your behalf. Mayor Coles carries the message that you helped him develop which is contained in our Conference of Mayors White House Transition Policy. Mayor Coles was in Denver and Chicago this week. Rails, and the need for a national rails policy, was his message in Denver, where he and Denver Mayor Wellington E. Webb addressed the "Rail Volution" Annual meeting where hundreds of rails activists gather each year. In Chicago, at the Illinois Municipal League Meeting with Illinois mayors, Conference President Coles will stress, along with Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, the need for the candidates to pay attention to personnel and policy recommendations coming from the mayors of cities. Next week, the Brownfields 2000 meeting takes Mayor Coles to New Jersey where hundreds gather to strategize to promote federal/state/local partnerships to clean up Brownfields sites and develop alternative positive places of economic development to recreation for our citizens. Mayors want candidates to talk about the issues and policy recommendations that Mayor Coles is talking about.

So the campaign rolls on and so does our President, H. Brent Coles of Boise. He is talking to Americans about our issues in this presidential campaign season. The question is what do we do to convince the candidates that people want to hear proposed plans in addition to the three or four issues dictated by polls identifying the concerns of undecided voters. It's a tough question.

We all know that the next President must face and propose policies to meet the challenges of American society, as articulated and adopted in the Conference of Mayors' transition proposals. As he speaks to the nation on behalf of America"s mayors, Conference President Coles says that crime, drugs, sprawl, and transportation are not being discussed in the Presidential debates.

Mayors deal with these issues day and night and there is a frustration among key leaders in our organization that the debates should be more focused and deal with what is happening in our metropolitan areas.

These metro areas drive the national economy and provide the quality of life for Americans to live and work. With a month left in the campaign and two more debates, let us hope more of the priority issues of the Mayors of this country on behalf of their constituents come forward for full discussion. Meantime Mayor H. Brent Coles, our President, is out there for you, the men, women and the children who live in your city.

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