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Remarks by HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo
to U.S. Conference of Mayors

The East Room -- January 29, 1999

SECRETARY CUOMO: Thank you very much. Mr. President; Secretary Alexis Herman; my colleagues from the Cabinet; mayors of America -- good morning.

Mr. President, the mayors are here enjoying the most successful winter conference in the history of the Conference of Mayors. More mayors have attended this meeting than ever before. And before I begin, Mr. President, I've had the pleasure and opportunity to work with you and the group now for over six years. Literally, I began in the Clinton-Gore administration before day one, because I was part of the Clinton-Gore transition team. And I just want to thank you, Mr. President for each and every day of that public service, and what we all have been able to accomplish together. Thank you very much.

When President Clinton took office he had the courage to take on the issues of our cities. When his political advisors said, whatever you do, don't use the words "urban agenda," President Clinton stood up and said, "I have an urban agenda." And he didn't just say it, he did it. His directions to us at HUD were clear: Reinvent the place. Make it work and make it work for the cities and for the mayors. Listen to them and do what they want done at HUD. Find a third way -- find the intelligent way -- and we did.

We couldn't follow the so-called "devolution revolution," which was big at that time, which would have passed the buck without passing the bucks, as they said. But nor could we rely on the old program of federal knows best, one size fits all, because it doesn't. The most intelligent approach was federal goals, national goals; federal funding, but local leadership, local initiative. That's what we did, and that's what's working today.

It's working in cities. It's working at HUD. Last year, based on your success, based on the ability to say, look how well cities are doing in the nation, the President went to the Congress and challenged them to put HUD back in the housing business. After a five-year hiatus where we weren't building any affordable housing in this nation, for the first time in history we went to zero production. The President said, that's wrong. Cities are working. We have a new approach. We have battled the bureaucracy. We reformed the Department. Now give us the funds so cities can do what we know they can do. And he asked for a $1.8 billion increase just in the HUD budget, and last year he got it. And this year, as you'll hear from the President, based on your success again, I think we can do even better.

This victory is your victory. Cities are back. Cities are roaring back. They have a new energy, a new credibility, a new vibrancy. Literally, the future is what you have made it and it is bright, indeed. The victory has been about teamwork -- the Capitol and the cities; the President of the United States and the President of the Conference of Mayors. And the President of this year's Conference of Mayors is a perfect example of the new breed of Mayor - innovative, entrepreneurial, efficient. Her leadership skills have allowed her city to have the first budget surplus in two decades. It's my pleasure to introduce Mayor Deedee Corradini.

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