IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 10, 2001

Marc H. Morial - National Press Club Transcript

NATIONAL PRESS CLUB LUNCHEON WITH
MARC H. MORIAL, MAYOR OF NEW ORLEANS
SUBJECT: AMERICAN CITIES
MODERATOR: RICHARD RYAN
TIME: 1:01 P.M. EDT
DATE: TUESDAY, JULY 10, 2001

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MR. RYAN: (Gavel.) Good afternoon, and welcome to the National

Press Club. My name is Richard Ryan, and I am senior Washington

correspondent for the Detroit News and president of the National Press

Club. I'd like to welcome club members and their guests in the

audience today, and those of you who are watching on CSPAN or

listening to this program on National Public Radio. The video archive

of today's luncheon is provided by Connect Live, and is available

through the National Press Club website at press.org. National Press

Club luncheons are also carried live by many sites on the World Wide

Web. Press club members may also access transcripts of our luncheons

at our website. Nonmembers may purchase transcripts, audio and video

tapes by calling 1-888-343-1940.

Before introducing our head table, I'd like to remind our members

of some upcoming speakers. On this Thursday, July the 12th,

Condoleezza Rice, national security advisor to President Bush, will

address the National Press Club. On Wednesday, July 18th, Hamilton

Jordan, former chief of staff for President Jimmy Carter, will talk to

the National Press Club. His topic will be "Battling Cancer: My

Personal Journey and Our National Challenge." And on Thursday, July

the 19th, former first lady and now senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton of

New York will be our guest.

If you have any questions for our speaker, please write them on

the cards that are provided at your tables and pass them up to me, and

I'll ask as many as time permits. But please remember to write

legibly or otherwise I cannot ask the question.

I'd now like to introduce our head table guests and ask them to

stand briefly when their names are called -- but please hold your

applause until all head table guests are introduced.

From your right, and my left, we have Mike Coleman (sp), the

Albuquerque Journal; Bruce Elbert (sp), New Orleans Times Picayune

Washington Bureau; Darcy McConnell (sp), Detroit News, Washington

Bureau; Brian Taylor (sp), vice president, marketing communications,

USNewswire; and Cybil Morial (sp), former first lady of New Orleans,

associate vice president, public affairs and communications, Jesuit

University -- and, as she told me, the very proud mother of our

speaker. (Laughter.) David Hess (sp), reporter for the National

Journal News Service, a former National Press Club president, and the

co-chair of the NPC Speakers Committee.

Skipping over our speaker for a moment, Shawn Vollard (sp),

associate legislative director, National Association of Counties, and

the Speakers Committee member who organized today's luncheon. Thank

you very much, Shawn (sp). George Condon, bureau chief, Copley News

Service; Carl Lubsdorf (sp), bureau chief, Dallas Morning News; Tom

Cochran, executive director, U.S. Conference of Mayors, and a guest of

our speaker; and Jamie Gorelick, vice chair, Fannie Mae, and a guest

of our speaker. (Applause.)

When Marc Morial, mayor of New Orleans, took the helm of the

United States Conference of Mayors on June 26th in Detroit, there had

to be a great sense of pride. Sixteen years earlier, his father, the

late Ernest "Dutch" Morial, also a New Orleans mayor, headed the same

mayors' group. But that was a far different time. Then critics

declared cities were not the places to invest, and certainly were not

the places to live in. But now the son, assuming the mantle of

leadership, represents a new generation of mayors and a new era.

At his inaugural, Mayor Morial said, "America's once downtrodden

cities were poised at a cross-roads. In 2001," he said, "no one says

that cities are dead. No one says the cities are places not to

invest. No one says that cities are places not to live."

When he was first elected in 1994 at the age of 35, Mayor

Morial's top priority was to reform one of the nation's most crime-

ridden big cities. "There is a new sheriff in town," he proclaimed at

his inauguration. Today, Mayor Morial is recognized as a champion

because New Orleans leads all major U.S. cities in the rate of violent

crime reduction. Since his election, violent crime in New Orleans has

fallen by more than 60 percent. The number of murders in a city once

known as the murder capitol is down by 55 percent.

In October of 1998, Mayor Morial became the first mayor to file

suit against the gun industry, arguing that gun makers failed to

incorporate available safety devices in handgun designs. Since then,

dozens of other mayors and organizations, including the U.S.

Department of Housing and Urban Development and the NAACP have filed

similar suits.

Early on, the new mayor created a broad based "Gumbo Coalition"

to encourage a spirit of partnership and cooperation among city

officials and its citizens. Under his leadership, the city passed a

$172 million bond initiative to improve the city's landscape, with

repairs to streets, public buildings and recreational facilities. The

grassroots building has led to New Orleans being designated as an All-

American City by the National Civic League for the first time in half

a century.

The mayor told Ebony Magazine recently that he would like his

legacy to be that, quote, "We took a city that was dying and we

invigorated it. We revitalized it."

Now 43, Mayor Morial was born in New Orleans. He received a

bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania,

and a law degree from Georgetown University. He was elected to the

Louisiana State Senate in 1991. He ran for mayor in 1994 and won in a

bitterly contested run-off election. He was reelected four years

later with nearly 80 percent of the vote. He is currently barred by

city charter for running for a third term. However, there is an

effort under way to change the charter to allow the mayor to run

again.

Today, the mayor wants to talk to us about a national competitive

cities tour, to promote America's metro areas as competitive

powerhouses.

Please join me in welcoming New Orleans Mayor and president of

the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Marc Morial, to the National Press

Club. (Applause.)

MAYOR MORIAL: Thank you. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. And

I appreciate the National Press Club for having me. Because you're

here, I've brought one small promise for you -- a free trip to Mardi

Gras next year -- because I want everyone who is listening to know how

proud I am of my city, its people, and its culture.

But today I'm not here to talk just about New Orleans. I'm here

to talk about American cities and how they have come back. I'm proud

-- before I talk today in some detail about what we as mayors have as

a message and a vision for America, certainly to acknowledge some very

special guests.

Richard Ryan, the president of the National Press Club, certainly

I want to acknowledge him. I'm very, very happy that Alphonso

Jackson, the new deputy secretary of the Department of Housing and

Urban Development, is here. I'd like you to stand so we can properly

acknowledge you. (Applause.) And also, Ruben Varalles (sp), who is

special assistant to the president for intergovernmental relations.

Ruben, we're proud that you're here. (Applause.) Also, I'm very

proud and always honored to be in the presence of giant amongst us,

Marian Wright Edelman, who is with the Children's Defense Fund, who is

working on -- (applause) -- very important things. And George

Warrington (sp), who is the president of Amtrak, one of the partners

of the mayors in cities all over -- (applause).

And our very, very special host today, because when we come into

a mayor's city, he's always the host, Mayor Anthony Williams of

Washington, D.C. (Applause.) And I look forward, Mayor Williams, to

the day when we can count three voting members of the Washington

Congressional delegation as part of the congressional urban caucus.

(Applause.) And you have our commitment in that regard.

And I'm certainly happy that others who have already been

announced at the head table are here.

Ladies and gentlemen, what cities have done is turn the tin cup

over. It used to be that mayors came to Washington looking for,

asking for, begging for, pleading for money from all of the

departments of the federal government. We've turned the tin cup over,

because when you turn the tin cup over, you have a flat surface which

is a foundation upon which to build. And what mayors have done, and

what has happened in cities in the last ten years is that cities have

rebuilt themselves. We want America to know. We want this nation's

policymakers to know. We want the Congress to hear. We want everyone

in Washington and everyone on Wall Street and on Main Street to hear

our message, because our message is very simple: as America's cities

go, so goes this nation.

Today, we are releasing a very important report. It's a report

which I believe is going to be the beginning of a process in which we

change the way people in this nation look at American cities. And you

know the landmarks, you know the punctuations, you know the history.

Indeed, a little over 30 years ago, riots rocked this city, rocked

many American cities, and symbolized the deep social and economic

problems that plagued America. Policy makers and presidents and

members of Congress ran for office making the city and its peoples the

enemy in the politics of division, and wedge, and separation. Today,

I believe we have a different message. And we have a different

message because we have a new reality. And that reality is that

American cities, the new American city, the American city that is not

defined by mere political borders, not defined by the jurisdiction

that a mayor may serve over -- that these cities are now the very

reason why America's economy has come back.

We're not mayors who are standing here at the National Press Club

beating our chest, trumpeting some success that doesn't have any

factual basis. Our Gross Metropolitan Report tells a story that is as

significant as any story that's been told in the last 25 years.

Indeed, if you looked at American cities, as cities as a unit, and you

rank American cities, ladies and gentlemen, in terms of the strength

of their economy with the nations of the world -- not the states, not

regions, not continents, but with the nations of the world -- American

cities would represent 47 of the 100 largest economies in this world.

These numbers are so compelling that the economy of New York --

yes, the economy of metropolitan New York -- is larger than the

economy of Australia. When you look at the economy of a number of

other cities, you will find that the economy of Chicago is greater

than Taiwan, Argentina, Russia, or Switzerland. Philadelphia and

Houston, larger in output than Hong Kong.

But even more significant than that, every one here easily

acknowledges that the 1990s were a decade of great economic growth --

a decade of new jobs, a decade of expansion in new sectors of the

economy, like technology. But viola, when we look at where those jobs

were created, where that new economy flourished, it was in American

cities. Almost 90 percent of the new jobs, in excess of 90 percent of

the technology jobs were created in American cities.

We stand here today -- and I stand here today as a testament to

the fact that cities have changed because mayors have changed. The

new American mayor, elected in the 1990s, has been a much different

kind of person -- not just a political figure, not just someone who

had the strongest political organization in his or her city, but

someone who was an innovator, someone who was a creator, someone who

did not define their job by the limits of their city charter or by the

limits of their governmental responsibility. Mayors all across this

nation, in their example -- there are examples after examples after

examples of mayors across this nation who have partnered with business

leaders, partnered with faith-based organizations, partnered with

community-based organizations, to change this nation and to change

their cities.

And why do we have to tell this message, and why is this message

so important today? I think it's important because for too long there

was an attitude, a perspective, a notion, a feeling in this country by

some that the solution to the country's social and economic ills were

simply to wall off the troubled neighborhoods of American cities, to

separate the American city from the rest of the nation -- and if we

did that, the problems would be solved. We're here today say

emphatically and unequivocally that the opposite is in fact the

reality, that if this nation is going to continue to grow, if this

nation is going to continue to thrive, it will only happen if we

invest in the metropolitan economies of American cities.

I'm not simply talking about what goes on in the federal budget,

although that is very important. I'm talking about what mortgage

bankers do, what the business and financial communities do, what

charitable organizations and foundations do. I'm talking about what

state governments do. I'm talking about what arts and music

organizations do. I'm talking about what we do as a society to

prepare for the 21st century, to build for the next 25 years.

What we know from this report is when we neglected American

cities, the economy of America was troubled. When we emphasized

American cities, the economy improved itself. This information in the

Gross Metropolitan Report -- and I don't want to overburden you with

too many numbers, because the printed material is there, the charts

and graphs are there, that tell this very important story. But what I

want you to understand, and what I want our listeners and our viewers

who are out in the audience to understand very, very fundamentally, is

that mayors have a vision for this nation. And we have a vision for

the nation because we feel that the communities that we lead, the

economies that we preside over, are indeed the key to the future.

What does it take to make a city competitive? What does it take

to sustain this comeback? I want to share with you a few very

important areas that we think that a city must focus on.

First of all, so much of the comeback of American cities has

occurred because cities are safer today, because there's been a

dramatic decline -- in my own city we've had a decrease of almost 60

percent in violent crime. In Washington, D.C., in New York and

Chicago, in Philadelphia -- in cities big and small, the commitment

across the board to public safety must be maintained in order to

sustain this economic growth. And that means that mayors and police

chiefs, community-based organizations -- it means that the Congress

and state governments must continue to ensure that public safety and

adequate protection in our neighborhoods remain at the top of the

agenda, and that complacency, which sometimes seeps in when you have a

little bit of progress, doesn't overwhelm us.

Number two, a competitive city is a city which puts its children

first. One of the important things that we are going to need to do to

sustain the comeback of American cities is to invest in our children,

and that means investing in the public education system. It means

investing in the health care system for children. Why is that so?

Because indeed, while we can tell a story today of an American city

that has come back, we can also tell a story of American cities that

still have deed-seated problems. I am troubled that while we've made

great progress in the last 20 years, we still face a nation where

there's been almost no reduction in the number of children living in

poverty. But what we know is that if we put the same energy, and the

same resources, and the same commitment behind curing that situation

and dealing with that situation -- by investing in education, by

investing in early childhood schooling -- that we can indeed make a

marked difference, the same way we've done it on crime, the same way

we've done it when it comes certainly to the infrastructure and the

economies of our cities.

Third, a competitive city is one that invests in its

infrastructure. Why -- and I've been asked in several interviews in

the last 48 hours -- why is it that cities have come back?

Well, you know, ladies and gentlemen, it's in the cities where

our infrastructure is -- the communications systems, the

transportation systems, the banking and financial systems, the higher

education systems. Our great colleges and universities are mainly

headquartered in the major cities of America. And in order to

continue this, we must invest even in a greater fashion in that

infrastructure, particularly our transportation infrastructure.

If you look at our report, you'll see that cities in the West,

cities like Vegas and Boise, Salt Lake and Denver, have grown

tremendously in the decade of the '90s. You'll notice that Sun Belt

cities like Atlanta and Houston and Dallas have also experienced great

growth.

But now they face a new set of problems. They face the problems

of sprawl and congestion, and the associated air quality problems.

How many of you must face issues and concerns over drive time, drive

times and commute times, going back and forth to work or back and

forth to your personal responsibilities?

How can we solve an issue like that? Mayors say we must invest

in our transportation systems, and we must specifically and in a

focused way invest in our rail transportation systems. One of the

reasons why the cities here on the East Coast, from Boston down to

Washington, function so well together is because of an integrated

transportation system. You have Amtrak. You have commuter rail. You

have Metro systems and SEPTA systems and subway systems and

underground systems in all of the major cities here on the East Coast.

It's an integrated transportation system that visionaries in the early

part of the 20th century began to put together.

Similarly, in this era, now that we're in the early 21st century,

we must recognize that we've built a first-class civil aviation system

that's crowded. We've built a federal highway system that is second

to none. Now is the time, right now, for us to recognize that for

this growth, this expansion of our metropolitan economies to continue,

we must invest in our transportation systems. It is why mayors

support Amtrak. It is why mayors strongly support an increased

commitment by the federal Department of Transportation to new rail

start projects, which came in great number in the last transportation

funding programs, with rail links and trolley cars and street car

projects being proposed in cities all across America.

Fourth, a competitive city must also recognize that the economy

of America is changing. We're changing to an information economy.

We're changing to an economy whose strength is based on the skill sets

of its people. Cities must change.

Recently we were in Detroit for our annual meeting, and many

people, if you haven't visited Detroit in recent years, may not sense

some of the good things that are happening there. In downtown Detroit

right now, a brand-new worldwide headquarters is being built for

CompuServe, an information technology company. Cities must focus on

the information technology, the biotechnology, the medical research

components of the nation's economy, in order to continue this

comeback. And mayors are committed to that diversification, and the

nation -- the nation -- must be committed to that diversification.

Fifth, a competitive city has good, decent housing. One of the

great stories of the 1990s was the dramatic increase in homeownership

rates across this nation. We are now a nation where better than two-

thirds of the people who live in this country own their own homes.

But in cities that number lags. Indeed, in my own city, the

number is about 47 percent.

And while it's increased by 4 to 5 percent, and housing values have

dramatically gone up, one of the keys to the continued sustainability

of the growth of our cities is to build, develop affordable housing.

It's got to be done with a partnership between mayors and the

financial community. It's got to be done in conjunction with the

United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

And a competitive city, finally, six, is a city that invests in

the arts. All over this nation there are examples -- abundant -- of

how investment in arts infrastructure is changing American cities. Go

to Newark, New Jersey, where downtown Newark has been -- gotten -- has

received a new boost because of the construction of the New Jersey

Center for the Performing Arts. Look right here in downtown

Washington, where investment in the new MCI Arena, which I define,

because sport is art -- isn't sport art? -- (laughter) -- sport is

art, sport is money -- where investment in arts, broadly defined, has

spurred new revitalization of sites in downtown Washington.

In my own city, New Orleans, we're in the middle of efforts to

build four new museums, four brand-new museums being built

predominantly by private nonprofit organizations, with the financial

support of the city, the state government, and in one instance, the

brand-new D-Day museum, the support of the federal government. Arts

can change cities.

And we articulate a new model of redevelopment in American

cities, a model which is based on these six basic principles.

What do we say to the nation, once again? We say to the nation

that if you want this revival to continue and sustain itself, you must

invest in American cities. And that is why we -- and I announce today

formally that the United States Conference of Mayors is going to take

this message on the road. We're going to do a competitive cities

tour, where we're going to go to at least one city a month.

And when we go to that city, we're not going to just stand in a

hotel room or in a downtown office and talk about what's going on in

that city. We're going to go to a neighborhood where new housing is

being developed. We're going to go to a place in the city's downtown

where an old industrial or commercial site is being turned into loft

apartments. We're going to go into a neighborhood where partnerships

between universities and a city have created new health clinics for

young people. We're going to go to neighborhoods where African

American and Latino entrepreneurs have teamed with majority companies

to build new businesses.

We're going to take this tour on the road, and we're going to

take it on the road because we have a story to tell about what's

happened to American cities that is good; but we also have a story to

tell about what it's going to take, what commitment it's going to take

for this nation to address the unaddressed problems and also to

continue the tremendous revival in American cities.

Mayors, and serving at the local level is a much different level

of government. When a member of Congress or a member of the

legislature goes to work in the morning and shows up at a state

capital or shows up at the United States capital, they're primarily

going to have dealings with professional representatives -- lobbyists,

lawyers and others who represent interests. When a mayor goes to

work, it's not uncommon for a mayor to show up and have three people

there to see him or her with no appointment, and not only with no

appointment, believing that they don't need an appointment to see you.

(Laughter.) And if you're a mayor halfway worth your salt, you're

going to see them, if only for a minute, to refer them to someone

else.

And the beauty of this job and the beauty of the work that we do

is that we still have great contacts with the people we represent --

unfettered, unfiltered and unvarnished. And because of that, I think

uniquely mayors are in touch with not only the problems in America,

but with the possibilities and with the hope for the future. And that

is the work that we do. And for too long, cities and mayors have been

pushed to the side, have not been part of the national debate and the

national discussion about the issues that this nation faces. And we

are determined to change that as the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Who are we? We are an organization that is a bipartisan

organization. We are Republicans and Democrats. We're an

organization that represents the breadth and the diversity of America.

We are Hispanic, we are Latino, we are black, we are white. We are

men, we are women. There are many, many women mayors in America. We

are a broad, diverse group of people. We're in the North, in the

South, in the East and in the West. And we're made up of all

philosophical stripes. But at the end of the day, we must make sure

that the garbage is picked up, that the streets are clean, that the

grass is cut. We must make sure that the police and the fire stations

are open each and every day. We can't sit in our offices and just

pass laws or sign executive orders and survive politically. We have

to do much, much more than that.

And we want our message and we want our cities and we want the

role that these great metropolitan economies play in this great nation

to be respected and to be understood by everyone. Each and every one

of you may know that today President Bush was at Ellis Island.

And Ellis Island has played a great role in the development of this

nation, but a tremendous role in the development of the American city

of the early part of this century.

It was through Ellis Island that many of the immigrants came that

built new neighborhoods, that became the earliest political leaders in

many of these cities. It was through Ellis Island that the beginning

of the diversity and the melting pot began. It was through Ellis

Island where immigrants from Russia and Germany and Ireland and Poland

came and they ended up in American cities where they met with African

Americans who were sons and daughters of slaves and sharecroppers.

And together they went through a tremendous tension and rebuilding and

effort. But what they did was they built the Industrial Age. They

were the factory workers. They were the people who built the cars.

They were the people who built the machinery, the electric bulbs.

They were the people that mined the iron ore and the steel. They were

the people that unloaded the ships. They were the people that drove

the American Industrial Age that helped us win the war in the 1940s

and that fueled the economic growth of the 1950s and '60s. Today

those very same forces -- the sons, the daughters, the grandsons and

the granddaughters of people that came through Ellis Island, the sons,

the daughters, the grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons and

great-granddaughters of people who came from the South to the cities

of America, and now the new immigrants who now come from Latin America

and Africa and Asia -- and they may not be coming through Ellis

Island, but they're coming for the very same reasons -- are coming

together to build the new American city.

What I hope we do as a nation and as a people is that we look at

what happened in the 20th century with great pride, but we look at

what happened in the 20th century and learn some new lessons, and

understand that the American city is now, as this nation is, receiving

a new lease on life, an opportunity to etch out, to carve out, to

develop a whole new and different future. We've got to do it with a

diverse, much more diverse group of peoples. We've got to do it

without a technology gap infiltrating.

We've got to do it in a way where we respect people of all income

levels. But most importantly, our ability to do it, ladies and

gentlemen, is going to define the greatness of this country in the

21st century.

That's the message that the mayors of America are going to take

to the road, and that's the message that we want this great nation --

we want people from Wall Street to Capitol Hill to hear and understand

that mayors have a vision for this nation and that as the cities go,

so goes America.

So let's invest in American cities, and if we invest in American

cities and invest in the people of American cities, this country is

going to continue its ongoing path as the greatest democracy the world

has ever known.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

MR. RYAN: Thank you, Mr. Mayor, and also thank you for the nice

plug for my home city of Detroit that you put in there.

President Bush has now been in office for six months, and so

you've had a chance to sort of assess where he's coming from and what

he thinks about in terms of cities. Can you kind of give us your

feeling about his thoughts or what he's doing towards cities?

MAYOR MORIAL: We've had a good start with President Bush. We've

had two meetings with President Bush. President Bush visited the

annual meeting of the Conference of Mayors in Detroit just two weeks

ago. Very importantly, he was the first Republican president to visit

an annual meeting of the Conference of Mayors -- even though we're

bipartisan organization -- I believe, since Gerald Ford.

And what we are doing with President Bush is working with him in

a number of key areas. One area where the president has been quite

supportive is in the area of brownfields. There are thousands and

thousands and tens of thousands of sites throughout the country that

are abandoned industrial or commercial sites that are somewhat

contaminated. These are prime candidates for redevelopment.

So the president has stepped up and agreed to support some

landmark legislation that's going to do a number of things -- give us

some money to begin the cleanup of a number of these sites; change

some of the rules that have been a disincentive for private developers

and the private sector to invest in the sites; and thirdly, to provide

some tax incentives to try to induce development in the sites.

We sincerely want to and intend to work very closely with

President Bush. And what I would say is, we've gotten off to a good

start, and we're going to continue to work with him on the issues that

matter to us.

MR. RYAN: If you don't get a large influx of federal government

spending for the cities and there's a downturn in the economy, what's

the plan B for cities? Are there likely to be layoffs, tax increases?

And how can cities avoid the cutbacks that the rest of the business

world is now going through?

MAYOR MORIAL: Well, I think it's a good question, but I think

the most important thing we -- one of the most important things I want

to emphasize here is that if members of Congress, if people believe

that you can cut back the commitment to American cities and it's only

going to affect American cities, you're sadly mistaken. If you cut

back on the commitment to American cities, it is going to affect the

entire nation; because if we represent, the metropolitan economies,

almost 90 percent of the jobs and 85-plus percent of the economic

output, it stands to reason that if there's a retrenchment, it's going

to affect everyone.

We must convince people there need not be a plan B, if you will.

A plan B is to accept what I would call the old tired notions of the

past, as opposed to the notions of the present. We certainly are

concerned with cutbacks and layoffs and any of the things that might

be occurring in terms of a softening of the American economy, but we

think -- we think one of the important ways that the nation can drive

out of this softening of the economy is with the continued practice,

pattern and strategy of investing in cities.

MR. RYAN: This questioner notes that recent studies have shown

that the nation needs to invest about $1 trillion to replace worn-out

water and sewer pipes. I suspect, as Mayor Williams could tell us,

also to replace the electrical outlets that blow up manhole covers

here. (Laughter.) Anyway, should this issue be a national priority,

and what can the Conference of Mayors do to help address this

challenge?

MAYOR MORIAL: I'll tell you what. It's a national priority on

the regulatory side. If you don't fix your pipes, I can assure you,

EPA will have you in federal court. And because of that, because it's

a national priority on the regulatory side, it ought to be national

priority on the funding side, because cities' abilities to finance the

tremendous capital infrastructure needs independently, or based on

their own tax bases, is virtually impossible. Right now in New

Orleans we're spending about 500 million, 4(00) to 500 million, on a

complete rebuilding of the city's sewer system, or wastewater system.

It's being done. It's compelled in part by a little visit down to the

district court, thanks to the EPA, and so we now have a consent decree

that we've got t comply with.

And I can tell you we've for the last several years received

money from the federal government to help us comply with that consent

decree. If that money isn't there, then what we would have to do is

something that's unacceptable, and that is to dramatically increase

fees and taxes, which will take money out of our economy in order to

deal with that. So this investment in infrastructure -- I can tell

you I cringe when people look at these projects as pork. I really,

really cringe. Because what these projects do is they're smart

investment and they pay off.

I can tell you that when an economic developer comes to city hall

and they want to take a site that might have been an old residential

area, and all of a sudden they want to build a much denser

development, one of the things that enhances the site is if the water

infrastructure system can accommodate the denser development. And

sometimes, if you can't strike a deal where the city puts up the money

and the developer puts up some of the money, it can mean the

difference between the deal occurring and the deal not occurring. And

we need to look at many of the things we do for cities less from a

political standpoint and more from an economic standpoint. And that's

why investing in water infrastructure systems -- I mean, here in

Washington, I'm certain, in New Orleans and Boston and Philadelphia

and Louisville, the older American cities -- and you see, ladies and

gentlemen, the newer American cities that are out West may not

experience these issues today, but I can assure you it's 15, 20, 26

years down the road.

MR. RYAN: This questioner notes that you've talked America's

past neglect of cities, but even today in New Orleans, urban blight is

widespread and the need for affordable housing is not being met. And

the questioner wants to know why mayors are not more insistent on Mr.

Bush becoming a housing president. And another questioner on the same

sort of topic says that you talked about home ownership, but what

about people in the cities, American singles and one-parent households

being able to find decent rental property?

MAYOR MORIAL: I want to take the last part of the question

first. Rental property, you've got to build a rental base, but my

experience in New Orleans is that there's a world of difference

between somebody that rents and somebody that owns. And if we in New

Orleans, with the size of the market, can help someone buy a house,

paying a mortgage of $425 a month, that's preferable to them paying

$400 a month to rent somebody else's house or rent an apartment.

And I'll tell you why. I can drive through neighborhoods in my city,

and I can tell whether it's a neighborhood of homeowners or a

neighborhood of renters.

When people rent homes and the screen door falls off, they call

the landlord. When people own homes and the screen door falls off,

they go to Harry's Ace Hardware. (Laughter.) Or they get their son,

or they get their grandson to fix it. If the grass gets too long at a

rental property, they call the landlord. If the grass gets too high

at a property that they live in, they're going to get out there and

cut the grass themselves.

And I don't dismiss the need for us to focus on rental housing

because in a lot of cities it's more of an acute problem. But in my

own city, focusing on home ownership, focusing on home ownership,

trying to get our rate from 47 percent up to maybe 55 or 60 percent we

think is the mission that we need to pursue.

Now, we are working with -- Deputy Secretary Jackson's been here.

We've had great dialogue and we're working with the Department of

Housing and Urban Development on the development of a housing

production program. The mayors had a recent meeting in Boston, and we

look forward to working with the new Bush administration on how such a

program should function effectively.

One of the things that we've learned as mayors is that to do it

the right way you can't do it with just the federal government driving

the train alone. You need federal involvement, you need the

involvement of mayors, you need the involvement of the primary and

secondary lending markets who are so crucial to the construction and

development of home ownership properties, but also rental properties.

So we -- and I want to just say this with respect to our ongoing

relationship with President Bush -- we're going to work with President

Bush and try to do it without rhetorical salvos that are not

necessarily needed. But I do want to say this: the mayors of

America, we have consistently, where it was in our interest, agreed

with presidents and disagreed with presidents.

We had a great relationship with President Clinton. In the early

days that relationship wasn't necessarily so great. Tom Cochran (sp),

our executive director, likes to say that Clinton came to Washington

as a governor and left as a mayor. And we're going to do the same

thing with George Bush. (Laughter, applause.)

MR. RYAN: The demographics of America's cities are changing, as

you know, and becoming more and more populated by minorities. This

questioner wants to know if this trend is good for America, and if not

do you have any ideas for reversing it?

MAYOR MORIAL: (Pause, laughter.) Who sent that question up?

You know, I lead a city that's now about 70 percent, quote-

unquote, "minority", with African Americans, Hispanics and Asians

making up about 70 percent of the population. And diversity is the

strength of America. You hear that; it's real. And I think that what

we shouldn't get hung up on, we shouldn't get hung up on this issue of

looking at diversity and trying to create a perfect ethnic model for

any American city.

If you look at the landscape of America today, you now have

majority Latino cities, majority African American cities. You're

going to have majority Asian cities. You still have cities that are

going to be majority white. And I think what we have to do as mayors

and as a nation is just fundamentally accept the fact and work with

the fact that this diversity is indeed our strength.

I think one of the things that mayors have to do at the local

level -- I know that I do it, and I do it very, very consciously --

when I put task forces and committees together and have dialogue

around issues facing the community, I try very hard to balance those

committees and balance those commissions and balance those task forces

based on the ethnic makeup of our community. It's not quotas; it's

just smart, because if you don't do it, I can assure you, you will

never, ever reach consensus.

And the challenge for mayors -- and you have a different

political landscape among mayors today -- you have majority minority

cities headed by white mayors. You have majority white cities headed

by black mayors. You have majority Latino cities headed by white and

African American mayors, and the converse and the reverse is true.

So I don't think we ought to be overly concerned about the trends

toward cities becoming populated by more so-called ethnic minorities,

because that's going to be a trend in the nation in the next 50 years.

And what we have to do is not get hung up, and get beyond it and work

on the underlying issues, like education and transportation, health

care for our children, and economic development and workforce

development, that are going to be the key to making our cities great.

MR. RYAN: Since this is the Press Club, I feel obliged to ask

you a press question. This question notes that a number of mayors,

including Willie Brown in San Francisco and Mike White in Cleveland,

are in nasty fights with their local newspapers. And so why do you

think that this is so? And what can be done about this?

MAYOR MORIAL: Well, I think the best thing to do is, let's sell

tickets -- (light laughter) -- put them in the ring, and you know

what? I'll be the promoter. (Light laughter.)

You know, I got elected in my own city -- I was the first mayor

to get elected mayor of New Orleans in almost 40 years without the

endorsement of the daily newspaper.

And there's a trend in the United States -- the Baton Rouge

Morning Advocate does this -- they no longer endorse. And they no

longer endorse in races, because -- I think in certain races they no

longer endorse, because they know that their endorsement is ultimately

going to affect or could ultimately affect their coverage of a

subject.

Mayors have to undergo intense scrutiny. It's scrutiny greater

than the White House. It's scrutiny greater than Congress. And I say

this all the time -- I call it ambush interviewing.

I am ambush-interviewed three times a week. In other words, what is

an ambush interview? And mayors have to do this. I walk out the

door, and there are the cameras. I don't know what they want. I know

why they're there. (Laughter.) And I don't know what questions I'm

going to get asked. At the national level and with members of

Congress, that is a rarity. That is a rarity. Most of the time, the

president, members of Congress, they have an opportunity to prepare.

They're operating in a much more staged and prepared environment.

Mayors are not. You know, mayors are not.

And because mayors are not, because mayors undergo such intense

scrutiny, I don't think that it's uncommon for mayors to have spats

with their local newspapers. Now, let's be honest about that. You

know, a good old spat with the mayor and a saucy headline will sell

you some newspapers. And a good old tease at 3:00 or 4:00 about the

latest fight that the mayor is involved in will drive up the ratings

for the evening news. The fact is, is that the battles, the fights

that you see between some mayors and some newspapers many, many times

-- let's be honest -- they make good copy.

Mayors like Willy Brown make good copy. I mean, Willy Brown, I

would probably conjecture is probably on the front page of the San

Francisco papers 60 percent of the time. Suppose he wasn't on the

front page on the paper, or if he was on the front page of the paper

10 percent of the times? So I think -- and, you know, Bruce Alpert's

here from my paper. We get along most of the time. (Laughter.)

Every once in a while, we have a little disagreement and we drink

coffee and we end it. Right, Bruce? (Laughter.)

But I think that one thing I would say to the working media is,

you know, understand that the mayors have personal lives, you know;

that the mayors are operating under an intense level of scrutiny. And

I would hope that the people who -- one of the problems I face, and I

want to make a comment on this, is that oftentimes, all too often

reporters, working reporters are not given sufficient time to put good

stories together. They're driven by deadlines. And what deadlines do

is emphasize a lack of accuracy because you're so much in a rush to

get a comment or any comment to meet the deadline, you don't have an

opportunity to corroborate it, you don't have an opportunity to

verify. It is not uncommon at my office that the phones ring like

crazy at 4:00, with stations and radio and television looking for

information all at the last minute that you've got to try to meet

their deadlines and make themselves available. So that's Journalism

101. (Laughter.)

MR. RYAN: Thank you for the lesson.

But before I ask the last question, I have a couple of things to

do. Number one is to present you with a Certificate of Appreciation

for your appearance here today.

MAYOR MORIAL: Thank you very much. (Applause.)

MR. RYAN: The coveted Press Club mug, that can be used for any

number of things but should have a prominent place on your desk.

And lastly, and you're going to have to be brief because we don't

have a lot of time left, but there are a lot of questions that want to

know about your political future. Says: Will a mayor of New Orleans

ever be elected governor of Louisiana? Tell us about your future.

Are you going to run for m mayor? What about governor? And what

about the charter change? But you only have a minute or two.

(Laughter.)

MAYOR MORIAL: I love being mayor. I'd love to stay for four

more years. And a mayor of New Orleans will one day get elected

governor of Louisiana, I'll predict, within the next 10 years.

(Applause.)

MR. RYAN: Thank you very much, Mr. Mayor. I appreciate your

coming here today. And I thank you all for coming and all of your who

are watching or listening to this on radio.

And I'd also like to thank National Press Club staff members

Melinda Cooke, Pat Nelson, Jo Ann Booze, Melanie Abdow Dermott and

Howard Rothman for organizing today's luncheon.

And once again, transcripts and audio and video tapes can be

available by calling 1-800-343-1940. Thank you.

(Gavel.)

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