Executive Director's Column
February 18, 2006
The onslaught by the Administration against our HUD Community Development Block Grant program continues. The President’s budget calls for a one billion dollar cut from this most successful city, county, state and federal partnership. We have Republican leaders in the House and Senate who will stand with us to fight these misguided proposed cuts.
The proposal last year to eliminate CDBG was defeated. We must be just as vigilant this year. Accepting a cut this year means another one is coming next year. We must stop the continuous onslaught against us by giving the Administration a resounding defeat of their proposed one billion dollar cut.
Over the next few weeks the Governors, The National Association of Counties, The National League of Cities and the National Association of Housing Redevelopment Officials all are coming to town for their Annual Legislative Conferences and we are linking with all of them as we work in a coalition to preserve, protect and fully fund CDBG at HUD.
In the field, as U.S. Mayor goes to press, is a survey to all local officials soliciting data we will jointly release soon to help as we prove once again the value of the sound federal investment of CDBG funds in states, counties and cities across our nation.
Next week press conferences are scheduled across the country as Members of Congress go home for the President’s Day break.
With your help and your grassroots support toward your House Members and Senators we can win this battle. Your voices, your action is key to our victory. We ask all mayors to be attentive and to respond to our requests for action to stop this unwise recommendation to cut $1 billion of CDBG funds. Together, with our CDBG Coalition, we can prevail if, and only if, you stand up to your Congressional delegation. We did it last year. It’s sad we have to do it again but it isn’t the first and it won’t be the last time officials at the Office of Management and Budget messes with our CDBG program. Watch for our faxes but don’t wait to hear from us. Go ahead and use your political instinct to do everything in your power to let your Washington delegation know that you won’t tolerate this devastating and deplorable move to cut one billion bucks out of our CDBG funds.
This week Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff continues to take heat on Capitol Hill over the disastrous Katrina response. Former FEMA Director Michael Brown preceded the Secretary and Brown stuck it to the White House and so the bickering and finger pointing continues.
We were surprised to read this week that Homeland Security officials had met across the river here over in Alexandria with 50 state emergency directors telling them a set of over 100 new recommendations are coming soon from the Department that will help Washington coordinate with Governors and Mayors in the readiness and response activities that are desperately needed at this time. We await to hear from the Department on the details of their recommendations that will help our first responders do their job.
This past Fall, following Katrina, Conference President Beverly O’Neill led a group of mayors, police and fire officials to meet with Secretary Chertoff here in Washington where we outlined our recommendations for his consideration. We trust that some of our recommendations will be included. Changes are needed — now — and they are long overdue. We are asking HHS and FEMA officials to join with us in Key West next week so they can inform us in more detail their recommendations to repair the flawed system we have today.
Our goal is to learn from the tough experiences as we have done after 9/11 and Katrina, to work with all levels of government to correct the flawed delivery system so that our first responders can do their job to protect our cities and our citizens from terrorist attacks and natural disaster destruction.
Total Defense on Three Fronts
As we move forward into the Washington legislative season following our Winter Meeting, it is bipartisan political strategy involving total defensive actions and warfare on three fronts.
First, as mentioned above, to stop and kill dead in its tracks efforts to cut $1 billion from our CDBG program.
Second, as Congress debates and moves toward a rewrite of the Federal Communications Act, local government stands to lose local authority and money. Over 100 mayors signed a letter to Congressional leaders during our winter Meeting outlining our principles ans we have friends on Capitol Hill. But we all know that the different industries are all over this issue and we have to do everything in our power to convince Congress and the public concerning a number of primary issues that affect our local authority and our fiscal stability. Therefore, it is important you respond to our faxes, phones and email messages as we go forward. Ron Thaniel is our lead person on this key issues so please contact him at (202)861-6711 - or email: email@example.com for the latest update and guidance as we try to stop Congress from doing harm to our cities.
Third, the use of eminent domain for public use and economic development at the state and local level would be shut down and halted under the proposed legislation adopted by the House last November. At our Winter Meeting, our Executive Committee passed an emergency resolution expressing our strong position that Congress not interfere to change the rules of sovereign governments in the use of eminent domain for the good public use and economic development of our cities. At issue is a GAO report commissioned by Congress to “examine” state and local government use of eminent domain. At issue, too, is the House-passed Bill which states that if a state and local government receives federal funds for economic development, such as CDBG, eminent domain use would be prohibited.
We don’t need Congress wading in here. We must appeal to the Senate. For decades since our country, was formed state and local governments have judiciously used eminent domain to strengthen our cities, counties, states and our nation.
Again, this is a defensive action to stop Congress from doing further harm. We will need your help as we go forward. Larry Jones is our lead person on this issue and he can be contacted at (202)861-6709 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Positive Movement on Two Fronts – Energy and Poverty
On a more positive creative note, we are moving forward under President O’Neill’s leadership on two very creative and landmark initiatives.
Energy issues continue to dominate the news and are even being discussed in our breakfast room and family and personal discussions throughout America. Following President Bush’s “State of The Union” address calling for an end to our addiction to oil, we have a cadre of mayors within our organization that will join President O’Neill and host Mayor Richard M. Daley at our Energy Summit in Chicago May 10-12.
Poverty and Opportunity
Our new Poverty and Opportunity Task Force, led by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, will hold its second meeting soon in Los Angeles. All are encouraged over the response we have received with this new initiative. We will examine, once again, poverty and opportunity in America. It is, as we all know, a vast subject with many facets of our life. We start this initiative knowing full well it will not be short-lived. We are most fortunate to have the commitment of Mayor Villaraigosa and both he and Conference President O’Neill will start the process for a multi-year effort against an old issue with new challenges in this century that were not present in the past. But we have started and that’s good. We will need mayors to open up and be creative as we move toward new initiatives and approached on energy and poverty. Every mayor is invited to join with us.
Let us continue – to stop Congress and Washington from hurting us and let us continue to use our best practices and our creative talents to bring new solutions to old challenges to Washington and to the nation for stronger cities and a stronger America.