US Mayor Article

Coles Calls for 21st Century Rail System Fostering Regional Collaboration, Smart Growth also themes of address before 2,000+ County Officials

By Jubi Headley
July 31, 2000

Conference President and Boise Mayor H. Brent Coles spoke on Sunday, June 16 before more than 2,000 delegates assembled in Charlotte for the 2000 convention of the National Association of Counties (NACo). In his remarks, Mayor Coles called for greater collaboration between America's Mayors and county officials, to promote smart growth, foster regional cooperation, and to build a rail/transportation infrastructure to connect America's metro economies.

"I want you to know that Mayors from across the country are aware of what you do and what you are trying to do," Mayor Coles told the audience. "We appreciate the close working relationship that the U.S. Conference of Mayors has with you. I think we are enjoying an unprecedented period of collaboration between the U.S. Conference of Mayors and NACo."

As examples of this successful collaboration Mayor Coles cited The Conference and NACo's joint efforts to secure passage of TEA-21 and AIR-21; the partnership of NACo's Large Urban County Caucus (LUCC) in making the Joint Center for Sustainable Communities a reality; and NACo's endorsement of The Conference's 10-point "Agenda for America's Cities."

"The New American City is a place where elected officials have an entrepreneurial spirit, a place where we are never complacent about the past. It=s a place where we work together," Mayor Coles said. "Because each New American City adjoins a county B our future is your future and your future is our future."

That future, as Mayor Coles contended in his remarks, will be largely determined by the ability of America's cities and counties to jointly and successfully advocate for building the nation's infrastructure to connect America's metro economies. "Our [metro] economies will stagnate if we do not maintain the ability to move goods and services readily between cities, counties, regions B and the world, " Mayor Coles warned. " I believe that we as a nation have not looked carefully enough at the importance of our rail system. On Friday [July 13 in Washington, DC] I met in Washington with this country=s leading rail advocates, including the President of Amtrak. We are working on a strategy to 'Bring the Tracks Back.' We talked of the critical importance of rail in our transportation system and we talked about how rail has somehow slipped out of our national consciousness. It=s time we change that."

Mayor Coles emphasized the need to develop this transportation infrastructure in ways that inhibit sprawl and encourage smart growth in communities. "Because cities are the engines that drive our nation=s economy, we must pay careful attention to their livability and viability," Mayor Coles maintained." "This means we must engage in Smart Growth. We must create more transit-oriented development. We must work with the private sector to build the technology infrastructure needed in the 21st Century. We must assure that we have what we need in the way of roads, rails, and airports to connect us with each other and with the world," Mayor Coles urged. "I look to you for help and support as we do this."

And while he acknowledged that it was a difficult and unpopular subject, Mayor Coles stressed the need for regional collaboration as critical to achieving these goals. "We must work together, fostering regional coordination B even though this is often difficult and frequently frustrating," Mayor Coles said. "I must tell you that when I talk about this, I always get groans from the audience and people start to tell war stories. Regional coordination seems to be an idea that is okay in concept B but someone always has a complaint about why it won=t work in their city or their county. I know from personal experience that it is not easy B but it is something we must do to continue to be strong and healthy. In today=s ever shrinking world, we must understand that our future lies in working together and in erasing boundaries instead of emphasizing them."

In his speech Coles also called for cooperation on a number of issues of mutual importance to cities and counties, including:

  • Continuing the fight against the spread of methamphetamine and other drugs throughout urban, suburban, and rural communities in America;

  • Strengthening families by vigilantly upholding human rights and protecting human dignity, fostering civility, tolerance, and respect; and

  • Utilizing the 'assets approach' to provide resources to raise healthy children. The 'assets approach' looks at the factors that contribute to the development of a healthy child ready to learn, and focuses on what parents, schools, and others in a community can do to provide these resources to every child.

For more information on Mayor Coles' priorities as President of the Conference, please visit our website at

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