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Remarks by Secretary Andrew Cuomo
Applachian Summit Town Hall Meeting
Thursday, August 12, 1999

SECRETARY CUOMO: Thank you. A couple of quick points. First item, I am totally surprised and taken aback and aghast at the concept of the Federal Government might have too many regulations. (LAUGH) Who would believe such a thing. The Federal Government and regulations sort of just go together, it's like rain and umbrella, I guess. We are working very hard on this concept, I believe it's been a long time coming, but it is literally changing a culture and orientation.

Not to get defensive, but when you are in Washington the concept of regulations are not, "Let us come up with things that make it difficult for the local communities to do good things!" They are, "This is a good idea and we can't envision a scenario where you would not want to do it." That is the impetus, it's a good intention gone awry. Also many of these things are in the law, so it is not up to HUD or anyone to be able to waive it because they were in the law and they have to be followed period. So there's no discretion. I can't waive a regulation that is in the law.

When I was the Assistant Secretary I took the Home Program - which when it started was so bound with regulations and red tape that after one year only three percent of the money had been spent, because no one could figure out how to spend it - and we went back and tried to strip away all these regulations. It's come a long way and we have made progress, but many of them are in the law, you can't do it.

But the basic point is right. We tend to be over zealous with regulations. It's very hard to come up with a good idea in Washington that doesn't become a bad idea in some community across the country. We are working on changing the culture, we're working on changing the orientation. Many of the HUD people are here today, they can tell you this is one of the standard elements that they hear from me. So this is the new gospel of the new HUD: flexibility, look to the local community, menu not mandates.

We have a new work force called community builders who are not 20-year Federal officials, they're from the private sector, they are from not-for-profits, or they come with different orientation. I think we're making progress on that. Also we're doing something which I think can make a big difference.

We're proposing this year that we increase the number of CDBG grantees who get funds directly - what we call entitlement communities - because the program has grown over the years. And we want to increase those grantees who get directly from the Federal Government. What does that mean? Kentucky, Kenton County, Bowling Green, Frankfurt, Paducah, Richmond, are now direct grantees from the Federal Government. We want to change the programs so they will get funding directly, every year they get a formula amount to plan against.

Second point, Jerry talked about platforms and the Governor and I have discussed this point. I use the expression that we have to be building a platform, a solid platform, a foundation for any of these efforts to stand and climb. We felt that platforms both in terms of places and people. Community platform, building communities, housing infrastructure, road and sewer, education in place. But also in the person - solid job training, solid child care, and necessary economic development platform activities for an individual.

If there is housing there is economic development. Transportation is economic development. Economic development is housing. All these labels don't work anymore in my opinion. Community development encapsulates them all, that's the concept of comprehensive. Housing is economic development also for the individual. The first source of wealth is homeownership. The first source of financing is homeownership. Many entrepreneurs, businessmen, started by getting second mortgages against their homes. So I see all of these things as interconnected.

Simultaneous with that, we have to be working on the pure economic development business development. The Governor, I think, is exactly right. You have to be producing those jobs, you have to be expanding those jobs, while you are simultaneously building the platform. Otherwise you are building a platform that leads nowhere if you don't do the economic development, traditional economic development simultaneously, and vice versa. We have to walk down both paths simultaneously.

On the regional point - I think we use the word regional often, I think we act regionally - regional, the concept of regional is right. It is much easier said then done. When we sit down and plan it there is a tremendous desire for everyone to want to do everything there is! Every city should have it's own hospital, it's own police department, it's own fire department, it's own job training centers. We cannot, frankly, take these resources and stretch them to the point where we can do everything everywhere!

Regional means literally getting outside of the box, having the cities cooperate with counties, neighboring counties cooperating, neighboring states cooperating to the point where they say, I'll help build a hospital and you will have one next door. I'll do the homeless services and I'll build a larger homeless shelter so you don't have to, neighboring city, but you do a job center so I don't have to. It is a coordination of cooperation - that is much easier said than done.

Last two points, I spoke about what I believe is the insanity of taking the current surplus and giving it back in a tax cut rather than using it wisely to invest in the needs that we currently have.

There is a proposal in Washington, 792 billion dollar tax cut, 25 percent which would go to the top 1 percent wealthiest in the nation, instead of a more prudent course of taking care of Social Security, taking care of Medicare and then doing some investing.

That is aggravated by the fact that the 792 billion dollar tax cut is partnered with a proposal, is in a budget, that would actually cut all of the programs we're talking about today. CDBG - we've heard so much about it - would be cut in the house budget appropriation that does the tax cut. The Home program would be cut. The economic development initiatives would be cut, public housing would be cut, homeless services would be cut. Every program that HUD runs would be cut to finance the tax cut, which takes the insanity and brings it up to lunacy. (LAUGH AND APPLAUSE)

And my last point is someone said to me this morning, you know, we've been working on these issues for a long time, and we've been talking about them for a long time. And it's gone on for so long that I'm almost numb, the person said to me. Apathy here is the enemy. Disbelief is the enemy. Lack of energy and commitment and passion is the enemy. We have a special moment in history today. This convening is historic. This economy is historic. This new technology and business mobility is historic. This Governor's leadership, this President's leadership is literally historic. (APPLAUSE)

The need that the American economy has for, and of, Appalachia is historic. They need you in a way they've never needed you before. They need your workers in a way that they never needed your workers before. Capitalize on this moment and no one else can do this, no one else can do this besides you. If you don't make it happen it doesn't happen.

I don't care how good the speeches are, how much President Clinton wants to do this, how much Governor Patton wants to do this: if you don't make it happen it doesn't happen. Please don't give up the opportunity.

Thank you. (APPLAUSE)

Content Archived: January 20, 2009

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