Press Release


DENVER MAYOR WELLINGTON WEBB NAMED PRESIDENT OF
THE UNITED STATES CONFERENCE OF MAYORS

Aggressive agenda outlines USCM policy priorities for:

  • Urban growth and sprawl
  • Promotes investment in distressed communities
  • New opportunities for working families

New Orleans, LA (June 15, 1999) – Denver, Colorado Mayor Wellington Webb was named the President of the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) today during the final session of USCM’s annual meeting. Mayor Webb, who was recently elected to his third term as Mayor of Denver, will serve as President of the USCM until June, 2000.

Accepting the Presidency, Mayor Webb outlined an aggressive urban agenda for the USCM leading into the new century. The agenda provides a compelling look at the state and the challenges of the modern American city at the end of the 20th century and establishes USCM's priorities for the coming year to address issues of growth and sprawl; capital investment in distressed communities; and providing working families new opportunities to benefit from the nation’s robust economy. The Mayor put forth 9 specific proposals to address these issues.

The Mayor called for a new collaborative partnership between cities, suburbs, rural communities and the private sector to assist America's working families and to change federal and states policies that many times unfairly contribute to problems of growth and sprawl and economic distress in older communities.

(Excerpts from the Mayor’s acceptance speech are included in this press release. The entire text of the Mayor’s acceptance speech can be found on http://www.denvergov.org. Click elected officials and go to the Mayor’s site. The comments will be found under "speeches.")

"Cities matter," Mayor Webb said in his speech outlining his agenda as President of the USCM. "Cities matter because, with all of our progress, Americans have become more transient and disconnected and isolated, and many of our citizens yearn for the sense of community and tradition that is rooted in our cities.

"Cities matter because our older suburbs now face the same challenges as their urban neighbors - on issues such as public safety, housing, the unmet needs of the working poor, and out-migration of wealth.

"Cities matters because urban sprawl imposes an increasing burden on our citizens, whether they live in century-old neighborhoods or brand new ex-urban subdivisions or rural communities. And as we struggle as a nation to address these unsustainable patterns of growth, we realize the value of the city's legacy of compact development and efficient use of existing infrastructure.

"Cities matters because study after study establishes the interdependence between the vitality of central urban areas and the economic success of entire regions.

"As Mayors, we have tried to do our part, to reverse the image of only one generation ago, of our cities as unsafe, poorly managed, and out of control. It was an image that was etched deeply in the national consciousness and still, to this day, lingers among many state and federal officials.

"We are invigorating this discouraged image with a new commitment and energy. We are reclaiming our cities as places of opportunity, as places where people can live, work, enjoy recreational activities, and mingle with friends and family.

"We are replacing an old urban agenda based on handouts with a new strategy based on empowering people and communities to create wealth.

The Mayor outlined 3 priorities during his Presidency.

They are:

Smart Growth

"In the area of smart growth," Mayor Webb said, "My priorities are based on the principle that we need to "level the playing field" for our centrally-located and older cities:

Number One - Reforms in Transportation Policy. Federal and state departments of transportation and metropolitan planning organizations should disclose annually where their investments go. It's the public's money, and they are entitled to know how it's being spent. We require banks to tell us where they lend money; we should hold our transportation bureaucracies to the same standard.

"And the federal government needs to enforce the provisions in TEA-21 that require metropolitan planning organizations to emphasize repair and investment in their patterns of spending. Federal enforcement to date has been toothless.

"And we need new transit investments. The public sector needs to forge new partnerships with the private sector, particularly the capital markets, to fund new transit projects. The federal Department of Transportation has an opportunity to pioneer innovative forms of financing.

Number Two - "Metro governance. We are a nation of regional communities and regional economies. But only in transportation are we beginning to recognize the metropolitan nature of markets. We treat housing markets and labor markets as if they stop neatly at local borders when we know - in our daily lives - that this is not the case.

"The current system for providing housing vouchers and public housing units does not reflect this new reality. It is administered by 3,400 local bureaucracies which makes it difficult, if not impossible, for our low-income families to exercise their choices in a metropolitan housing market.

"And the same is true for employment and training. It is well established that many of our citizens, particularly in our urban areas, are ready and willing to work, but they are not being linked to the jobs that exist, often in the suburban areas. We have metropolitan economies, but our workforce programs are being administered by sub-regional boards that identify local, but not regionwide employment opportunities.

Number Three – "Smart Tax Policy. Federal and state policies need to increase incentives for revitalizing older communities, which would decrease development pressure on rural communities. Federal and state tax incentives could be used to boost homeownership in underserved areas. Here are 3 options: a targeted, first-time homebuyer tax credit, like the one that exists for the District of Columbia; a targeted homeownership tax credit like the one introduced recently by Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island; and a historic homeownership tax credit, like the one proposed by Dick Moe, President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

"And with regard to rural communities, tax incentives should be used to offer owners of land threatened by development with alternatives to sale and subdivision.

Promoting Our Cities' Competitive Assets

We know that we have under-appreciated assets in our distressed neighborhoods, both in central cities and in many suburbs. These neighborhoods have assets that include untapped markets, existing institutions, and unused land. The agenda I will be submitting puts forth 3 priorities to help our distressed communities leverage their assets.

"Number One - Investments. We must take the necessary steps to encourage investment in our distressed neighborhoods. That means Access to capital, that means Market information, and that means Equity Investments.

"We need to protect the Community Reinvestment Act. For the past two decades, the CRA has been a critically important tool for central cities and low-income neighborhoods to ensure market capital for housing and urban development. As an organization, the U.S. Conference of Mayors will continue to strongly oppose efforts to dilute the coverage of CRA and diminish the role of the regulators, and, at the same time, we will work to strengthen its impact.

"Business and community leaders also need a new Neighborhood Investment Source that provides a positive picture of investment opportunities in distressed area markets. Traditional census tract data paints an inaccurate and excessively negative picture regarding business opportunities in our urban markets.

"The federal and state governments should use tax incentives to support the efforts of community development corporations and private investment funds to rebuild urban markets. I applaud the Administrations' Emerging Tax credit proposal. It's a welcome step in this direction.

Number Two - Flexible Funding. This is extremely important to Mayors. Federal and state policies should be redesigned to give us the flexibility to meet the needs of our citizens. In particular, I will be proposing a community tax initiative that provides local governments with a specific amount of federal tax incentives that we can structure - as wage credits or housing credits or infrastructure spending - as we see appropriate for our unique circumstances and priorities. In addition, we will be calling upon the federal government to allow local governments to dedicate a portion of our intergovernmental transfers (such as block grants and discretionary awards) for priorities that we set as local leaders.

Number Three - Land Assembly. We will be calling for increased investment in the acquisition, cleanup and reuse of vacant land in older communities. This will build upon the successful efforts by this organization with regard to brownfields.

Investing in Working Families

"It is a fundamental principle of this nation that work will pay. That means that the millions of low and moderate-income Americans who get up and work hard every day, pay their bills, care for their children, contribute to their community, and play by the rules should enjoy a decent standard of living. In addition, it means that as we move folks from welfare to work, we need to address not only employment and training issues, but also issues such as child care and transportation.

"We'll be focusing on 3 priorities for expanding the opportunities of working families

Number One - "Outreach efforts. States have been given enormous latitude in administration of programs that lift working families out of poverty. But many states have failed to exercise this flexibility with any sustained focus or discipline. For example, states administer the Children's Health Insurance Program, which was designed for working poor families who earn too much to quality for Medicaid. But only 11% of the $8.4 billion dollars allocated over the past two years under this program has been spent. That is unacceptable. Federal polices should establish incentives for states to design easy-to-use enrollment forms and creative outreach efforts and work closely with us at the local level. South Carolina, for examples has made simple enrollment forms available in pharmacies, day care centers and schools; and they found 40,000 eligible children.

Number Two - "Extend Welfare Reform. Our states have enormous reserves in the TANF program. At the same time, the remaining welfare caseloads are disproportionately located in our cities. The states have the flexibility to use their TANF dollars much more creatively - to target the concentration of urban poverty, and to assist working families, not just those moving off welfare.

"The federal government can encourage such behavior in several ways: finding new ways to reward innovative states, disclosing information on urban caseloads, simplifying TANF regulations, and publicizing new TANF rules that provide more flexibility in spending.

Number Three - "Invest in Children. It is well-established that early childhood education and care pays for itself many times over. The federal government should pursue a plan for universal early childhood programs, such as the universal pre-school plan that Vice President Gore recently outlined.

"In the shorter-term, we need to create a less fragmented system of childcare, to eliminate the perverse disincentives that slash childcare assistance for low-income families who move from welfare to work or that deny assistance to the working poor who never went on welfare. The Childcare and Development Block Grant was enacted to do precisely that by consolidating four separate federal programs. Unfortunately, many states have failed to meet this challenge. States need to establish eligibility for childcare based on income alone, rather than making artificial distinctions between welfare and low-income families. They need to eliminate obstacles that often require parents to find a new providers or reapply for child care assistance as they move from welfare to work; and the federal government needs to increase funding for the child care and development block grant so that states have the flexibility and the resources to provide childcare assistance to both welfare recipients and low-income working families;

"In addition, the federal government should consider consolidating the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit and the Child Care Tax Credit to establish a single, more targeted and fully refundable credit that would better serve low-to-moderate income families with pre-school age children."

Background

The United States Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are about 1,100 such cities in the country today. Each city is represented in the Conference by its chief elected official, the mayor.

Mayor Webb was recently elected to serve his third and final term as Mayor of the City and County of Denver. Mayor Webb’s distinguished public service career began in 1972 when he was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives, representing his boyhood neighborhood of northeast Denver. In 1977, State Representative Webb was selected by President Jimmy Carter to serve as Regional Director of the U.S. Department of Health Education and Welfare. In 1981, Colorado Governor Richard Lamm appointed Webb to his cabinet as Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies. In 1987, Webb was elected as the Denver City Auditor where he was applauded by fellow City officials for restoring the office’s professionalism and integrity.

Contact: Katie Cullen, 202.861.6766

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