New York City/Hempstead Leadership Meeting
Garner, Conference Leadership Begin Development of '04 Bipartisan Agenda for Cities; Secretary Ridge Discusses Homeland Security with Mayors in Hempstead
By Conference Staff
August 4, 2003
With the 2004 presidential and congressional elections fast approaching, Conference President Hempstead Mayor James A. Garner convened a meeting of the Conference leadership in New York City and Hempstead in an effort to develop a bipartisan policy agenda for America's cities.
More than 30 mayors participated in the Special Policy Leadership Meeting on July 23-25 which focused on refining policy papers developed by each of the Conference's policy standing committees in conference calls over the preceding weeks.
Continuing the Conference's focus on homeland security, the final session on Friday was held in Hempstead at Hofstra University and featured a meeting between the mayors and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.
Over the course of the three days, the mayors also had the opportunity to meet with other Administration representatives including Toby Burke from the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, Jamie Metzl from the Council on Foreign Relations, and invited policy experts.
And, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg hosted a reception for the mayors at Gracie Mansion on July 24.
Clavelle Outlines Sustainability
The bulk of the meeting's policy conversations took place on Thursday. Following opening remarks by Mayor Garner and Executive Director Tom Cochran, Burlington Mayor Peter A. Clavelle began with an address on sustainable development. Mayor Clavelle, who chairs the Sustainable Development Task Force, urged his assembled colleagues to "move beyond the rhetoric of sustainability and act."
Mayor Clavelle emphasized several core components of sustainable development, asserting that effective policy in this area had to be both "about the future" and "about an integrated and comprehensive approach to development." The speech built upon Mayor Garner's identification of sustainable development as one of his top priorities in his inaugural speech at the 71st Annual Conference of Mayors in Denver this past June.
Bloomberg at Gracie Mansion
Thursday evening, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg hosted the mayors at Gracie Mansion. Mayor Bloomberg expressed gratitude for the kindness shown to New York by its fellow cities in the aftermath of September 11, and added that he hoped New York would be able to return the favor and form partnerships with other cities to advance shared interests. He also spoke in support of effective distribution of homeland security funding to those areas which need it most.
Mayor Garner spoke of the strong history of New York City's involvement with the Conference of Mayors, adding that, "We are working together today to make sure that New York City and cities across the nation have the resources needed to stop terrorism, and prepare for any possible attacks." Mayor Garner also told Mayor Bloomberg, "We also strongly support you in your efforts to address the budget difficulties that New York City faces."
New Homeland Security Report
During the opening meeting on July 23, Jamie Metzl from the Council for Foreign Relations discussed the organization's recent report entitled, "Emergency Responders: Drastically Underfunded, Dangerously Unprepared."
The report, which was based on an extensive research effort, indicates that funding will ultimately have to reach $98.4 billion over five years to bring American first responders up to minimum standards of preparedness.
Indicating that ultimately "no upper limit" could be placed on potential homeland security needs, he presented the Council's report as a reminder of the need to efficiently manage homeland security dollars. Describing the need for homeland security preparation at all levels of governmental jurisdiction, Metzl said, "It is not acceptable to have a piecemeal homeland security system. . . . federal responsibility [for homeland security funding] is the incremental difference in preparedness between where cities were on September 10, 2001, and what their response and prevention needs are now."
Among proposals Metzl advocated were the establishment of a multi-year Department of Homeland Security grant process that would reward cities for investing in long-term strategic plans and personnel, the formation of regional partnerships among cities to make effective use of shared first responder equipment, and the implementation of national standards for first responder equipment and training. Copies of the report can be obtained at: www.cfr.org.
Policy Committees Identify Priorities
Following Mayor Clavelle's remarks, the mayors broke down into roundtable discussions pertaining to each of the Conference's eleven standing committees. The mayors were joined by experts in their individual topic areas as well as by Conference staff. Following extended dialogue within each sub-group, the task force chairs presented their committees- prioritized policies to the entire assembly.
While mindful of the importance of pursuing the entirety of their agenda, the mayors also recognized the need to develop a concise, coherent message to present to 2004 presidential and congressional candidates on behalf of the nation's cities.
The work of the committees will next be taken into the Fall Leadership Meeting in Miami Beach on October 9-11 for refinement.
Following is a summary of some of the key recommendations from each of the 11 policy standing committees:
Arts, Parks, Entertainment and Sports
Under the leadership of Chair Manuel Diaz of Miami, the Arts, Parts Entertainment and Sports Committee focused on the economic importance of arts and culture in America. Arts produce $37 billion in economic activity and $5 billion in tax revenues in America.
Runaway productions of movies and TV, especially to Canada, are costing cities jobs, and there are trade issues that need to be examined.
European countries spend millions of dollars to promote travel and tourism to their cities, while our federal government spends nothing to promote American cities. Mayors have called for an international destination marketing program with direct funding for cities.
As for parks, mayors believe federal transportation funds must be used smartly to develop bike trails and pedestrian friendly areas, which will help prevent obesity and other chronic diseases. Full funding of The Conservation Trust Fund and the UPARR program are important since the most important park to most citizens is the one in their neighborhood. In addition, tax credits for historic preservation must be continued.
Mayors believe arts and music education must not be cut because children are enriched, do better with studies, and are less likely to have crime problems if they participate in arts and music activities.
The mayors called for a new Cabinet post and agency to provide a national strategy in this area the Secretary of Arts, Cultures and Tourism.
Children, Health and Human Services
Under the leadership of Chair Irma L. Anderson of Richmond (CA), the Children, Health and Human Services Committee focused on healthcare for the uninsured and support services for working families. The Committee called for the development of a health development block grant for cities modeled after the Community Development Block Grant to address the growing number of uninsured working families in the country.
The committee called for the development of a sustainable and ongoing financial investment to assist small businesses to pool resources to provide health insurance coverage for low income working poor; utilizing any funding stream which may include federal, state, or local. The committee urged continued expansion of work supports for working families including improved access to benefits and support services such as childcare, skills training, educational training, mental health services and the removal of access barriers on all federal income support programs targeted to low income families such as EITC, food stamps, SSI, Medicaid.
Community Development and Housing
Kansas City (MO) Mayor Kay Barnes served as Acting Chair of the Community Development and Housing Committee. The Committee centered its recommendations around the theme of integration and flexibility as an approach to housing and community development policy. To overcome policies that pursue housing in isolation, the Committee called for integrating transportation, economic development, environmental, education and other policy areas with housing. Incentives, the Committee said, should be provided through federal agencies as well as HUD to localities that actively promote affordable housing.
Flexibility should be pursued through increased use of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnerships program for home ownership. Expanding the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, and use of the Earned Income Tax Credit for housing, and increased use of land banking and land trusts were also strong recommendations by the Committee. Finally, the Committee said that the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) should be strengthened and strong enforcement pursued.
Criminal and Social Justice
Under the leadership of Chair J. Christian Bollwage of Elizabeth, the Criminal and Social Justice Committee focused on first responder funding, information sharing, and the ongoing fight against crime.
The Committee continued the call for direct first responder funding. Until that happens, the Department of Homeland Security was urged to ensure cities have a stronger role in the state- dominated process for distribution, and that states account for risk in the allocation of funding. Concern was expressed that state funding not simply be allocated to counties.
The Committee also called for: continuation of existing law enforcement programs such as COPS and the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant; more resources for drug treatment and efforts to reduce drugs in prisons; and stronger enforcement of current gun laws as well as new initiatives such as closing the gun show loophole and extending the assault weapon ban.
Education Committee Chair Jane Campbell of Cleveland led a discussion on the key education issues and policy positions to be recommended to the Conference for its 2004 elections policy platform. It was uniformly agreed that mayors need to have an increased role in education in their cities.
The discussion directed its primary focus on implementation and funding of the No Child Left Behind Act; funding and expansion of out of school programs to all school age children; and full funding of key federal education programs.
The Committee also called for: establishing universal Pre-K programs; continued funding for and targeting of the E-Rate for schools and libraries; establish a federal role in funding school construction; establish linkages between schools and city service programs through federal statutes, regulations and guidelines; ensure federal policies enable school participation in Medicaid reimbursement; fund expansion of Americorps; establish loan forgiveness as an incentive to teach in urban schools; and make immigrant students who graduate from U.S. high schools eligible to receive federal student financial aid.
Under the leadership of Chair Gus Morrison of Fremont, the Energy Committee called for an "ISTEA for Energy" which take energy as seriously as we do transportation with a national program. The Committee also recommended that we build on what we have already and focus on local governments and individuals to conserve and reduce energy usage, thereby reducing reliance on imported sources of energy.
The Committee urged that local governments be included in state energy programs which are currently funded by the federal government.
An aggressive educational outreach campaign was called for to increase average consumer awareness about energy efficiency practices. By doing so, these efficiencies could increase an individual household's disposable income between 5-12%, if both energy and transportation costs are reduced in half. For instance, if 110 million households saved a minimum of $10 a month on energy costs this totals $13 billion a year in people's pockets. These energy savings, placed into Individual Development Accounts (IDA) for a home down payment could dramatically reduce the accrual time-frame from a 10 to 5 years, or less, depending on the actual savings.
In addition, the nation must continue to develop alternative methods of energy, such as hydrogen.
Augusta Mayor Bob Young, Chair of the Environment Committee, led a discussion on environmental priorities for the upcoming year.
The group proposed creation of a brownfield redevelopment program that would leverage private sector investment on brownfield sites. The group acknowledged that tax credits and creative public/private partnerships would be needed to attract developers to many industrialized facilities, and that clean up funds alone would not be sufficient incentive for many sites.
The group called for a Clean Air program with federal standards leading to "real reductions" of pollutants based on a national market-based "cap and trade" program. A new national policy to encourage public/private partnerships to ensure future water supply was also given high priority.
Strong support was expressed for a strong national alternatives fuels program based on hydrogen fuel cells, along with the need for more coordinated efforts to create and preserve green space. The group also discussed creation of an Environmental Development Block Grant at EPA, modeled after HUD's popular Community Development Block Grant program.
International Affairs Committee
Under the leadership of Chair Meyera E. Oberndorf of Virginia Beach, the International Affairs Committee focused on the need for the U. S. Conference of Mayors- continued international outreach of mayors to mayors, the need for financial support of such outreach, sustainable development, and the importance of encouraging municipal leaders in the Palestinian Authority and the State of Israel to continue to seek a peaceful solution.
The committee discussed the importance of building partnerships with the federal government, the United Nations, the private sector, and international organizations, such as the World Bank, in order to obtain financial support for sustained international outreach. To buttress such linkages, mayors discussed the possibility of developing 1) a report to quantify the impact of international trade on the cities of the world and 2) a clearinghouse on international best practices in sustainable development. The committee also expressed continued support for the Jerusalem Conference of Mayors.
Transportation and Communications
Under the leadership of Chair Greg Nickels of Seattle, the Transportation and Communications Committee focused on increased and sustainable public transportation and rail investment as well as greater resources to address aging transportation infrastructure in the reauthorization of TEA-21.
The Committee called for increased transportation and border security funding direct to cities given that mayors are responsible for most of the nation's transportation infrastructure including 90 percent of the nation's transit systems and the majority of airports as well as overland and maritime ports.
The Committee also called for the federal government to provide resources to deal with the continued interoperable communications threat and access to spectrum as well as reaffirmed the right of local government to control its rights of ways infrastructure.
The Committee summarized its focus by stating given the strategic role of cities in addressing the nation's transportation and security challenges, it is imperative the federal policies more fully respond to the link between the sustainable transportation and communications infrastructure investment, economic growth, international competitiveness, quality of life and security by directing resources and decision making to local government.
Urban Economic Policy
Jackson Mayor and Urban Economic Policy Committee Chairman Harvey Johnson led mayors in a discussion on priorities for urban economic policy. The Committee focused on collecting taxes on Internet transactions and other remote sales, municipal debt refinancing, unfunded mandates, economic growth and fiscal relief.
Since many local governments, like states, are facing the worst fiscal crisis since World War II, the Committee believes Congress should be urged to enact legislation that will help local governments with fiscal relief. It was agreed that the Internet tax legislation, which would help state and local governments collect billions that go uncollected on remote sales, offers the best opportunity for relief this year. The Committee also believes the municipal debt refinancing act, which would allow state and local governments to save billions by refinancing tax-exempt bonds and taking advantage of record low interest rates, could provide additional relief.
The Committee feels Congress must be urged to reimburse state and local governments for the cost of unfunded mandates; pass an economic growth package that includes more funds for transportation and housing programs to create jobs, and more incentives for individuals to invest in infrastructure projects; and provide general fiscal assistance to local governments. The Committee also called on the Conference to have an open dialogue on the impact of federal tax cuts and the federal deficit on local programs.
In his new role as Chair of the Workforce Development Committee, Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphries shared his concerns about the Reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), particularly taking power away from the mayor; the skills gap and ensuring adequate funding to address the problem; youth unemployment; and adequate funding of one stops.
In their discussion the Committee raised concerns about giving the governor control over designation of local areas, allocation of funds, the role of the Workforce Investment Board and eligibility determination.
With youth employment this summer at its lowest level in 40 years, mayors urged that a new summer jobs program be created.
Mayors are also concerned about not being able to serve 14 and 15 year olds and changing how much can be spent on in-school youth. In addition, they discussed the problem of inadequate funding of one stops.