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HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo Remarks

Guadalupe, Arizona
Tuesday, April 6, 1999

SECRETARY CUOMO: Thank you very much, Sister, thank you very much. Sister Lillian [Murphy, President and CEO of Mercy Housing] first, thank you for the kind words, thank you for the extraordinary project that you've developed here. Mercy Housing has done a 22-unit complex for senior citizens here which is really going to be magnificent. It's not open yet, but it's nothing new for Mercy Housing, because they do it all across the nation and they always do it well.

And I want to thank the Sister very much for her kind words. I must admit that I am a tad nervous being introduced by Sister Lillian, because she's right, I was educated by the nuns and Catholic school and that experience never really leaves you. And I have this fear that Sister Lillian is going to ask me a question, I'm not going to know the answer, and then I'm going to have to stay afterwards, so, but congratulations for all you do, Sister Lillian.

Mayor, thank you very much for taking the time to give us a tour of all the good things that have been going on. We've been with Chairman Valenzia, the Tribal Chairman before that and I want to thank him for taking the time to show us what we needed to see. Congressman Ed Pasture...who is really a phenomenal representative, as you know...but, as someone who has the pleasure of working with him back in Washington let me tell you - nobody fights for his district like Congressman Ed Pasture and I want you to know that directly.

It's a pleasure to be with the County Supervisor of Maricopa County, which is a county that is doing phenomenally, phenomenally well and is a national model of economic growth and with the County Supervisor's fine hand is going to be the national model of social justice which Sister Lillian was talking about, and a county that recognizes Guadalupe and the extreme needs and that we're only going to do this and make this better, if we make it better together, in partnership. And I would like to point out as a point of personal privilege, Mr. Terry Goddard and the HUD team who are here today. Terry Goddard, you know, he runs the HUD operation. And if the HUD team could just raise their hand, the community builders and people who are here from HUD, don't be shy, raise, there they are.

Let me say this, if I can, because today was really a great experience for me personally, because it sums up so much of what we're trying to do in Washington and so much of the story that President Clinton is trying to tell.

First, congratulations for all the magnificent progress you've made, because you really have made magnificent progress and the Mayor was going through the list. But the list doesn't do it justice. When you see the new homes, the self-help homes, which is really the model of what this is all about - not giving anyone anything, because nobody is asking for anything, no charity, just a hand up, self-help. Let a family invest in themselves, let a family work, let a family sweat, let a family develop equity so they can have a place called 'home' for themselves and their community; the self-help homes, the youth-build program. Youths who are now going to make a contribution to society, who are going to get an education while they build homes, a $350,000 grant from HUD, an investment, it's not a grant, it's an investment in young people, investment in ourselves. We saw a straw house, why? because we have to experiment with new technologies, cost effective construction, straw bails piled up as the insulating material, then stucco on the outside and it's being used as transitional housing, Sister Lillian's 202 housing. So the whole model, the whole array is there and that is a true, true testament to the people of Guadalupe, and the county, and the state, and the not-for-profits have all worked together to do beautiful things and extraordinary accomplishments. That was one story that we saw and it was loud and undeniable.

But there was another story that we saw also, which is equally as loud and equally as undeniable and that is the story of how much more needs to be done. Because you can't see the story of how much has been done without seeing the story of how much needs to be done. You can't see the new home without seeing the home that needs to be replaced. And that story is an obvious story and it is a painful story frankly. And I wish it was just the story of Guadalupe, but it's the story of Guadalupe and it's the story of Gary, Indiana, and it's the story of East New York, and New York City, my home state. It's the story of Buffalo, New York; and Lawrence, Massachusetts; and Birmingham, Alabama; and Santa Ana, California - all these places that have been left behind.

You talk about this great American success story. You talk about the Dow Jones and the stock market. What did the stock market hit today, 10,000? Boy oh boy, a new record. We made more millionaires in this society than ever before. I guess we're a success, right? I guess we've solved all our problems.

Think again. Go to Guadalupe, they did not notice that the Dow Jones hit 10,000. Why? Because they are not in the stock market. Because that dream is not their dream, that wealth is not their wealth. And they still don't have running water even though you hit 10,000 on the stock market. And they still don't have electricity, and there are still nine to a house that shouldn't even be called a house, that's really a shack. And your success is not measured by the stock market, that's not what we were about as a nation. We believed in concepts called community and e pluribus unum, one out of many and equal opportunity, and interconnection and inter-relatedness that says it doesn't matter that you have more millionaires than ever before. When you still have people living in poverty as desperate as ever before, you're not a success as a nation.

What do we have to do? We have to build housing, safe, clean, decent housing. We know how to do it like no country on the planet. All countries around the globe ask me to come to visit them, to teach them what we know, how to build safe, clean, decent housing. Why? Because we have the best construction technology on the globe, the best financial expertise on the globe. We wrote the book on housing. We know how to do it. Well, then why do you have a woman living in a shack if you know how to do it. Because we haven't made it a priority, we haven't committed resources, we haven't said as a nation that 'this is intolerable and we will not allow it to exist.'

We have to repair the housing, we have to build the housing, we have to bring in the not-for-profits, we have to bring in the young people, we have to bring in the families themselves, self-help, and say we're going to help you build a new future for your own. We have to bring in the economy to Guadalupe. Why, what do they want, what do they want in Guadalupe? They want what every other American wants, they want a job, they want a career, they want a future, they want hope, they want the same tools, the same skills, the same education, the same equal opportunity, no hand out, just equalize the opportunity, just let me in the game, just let me play, just give me the tools and let me go, let me run.

We need economic development, that's what we're seeing in the Mercado. You can feel the entrepreneurial spirit here. You put this Mercado together with the vision and it is a vision by the people of Guadalupe for the community services building, with a museum and a day care center, and put that building together with this Mercado and now we can have the beginning of an economic engine. And we can start to create jobs and we can start to attract tourists.

And we'll employ people and then we won't have to be in the housing subsidy business because they can provide their own homes. But that doesn't happen magically, it happens with a lot of energy which you have and a lot of spirit and a lot of vision and a lot of drive which you have. And it happens with an economic investment and that's what we want to help you with from the Federal Government.

It's my pleasure to announce the first step, the first step today which is assistance in planning the economic future for Guadalupe. This is not, this does not happen by osmosis, this happens - economic development - because smart people work with the community and come up with a plan and then it happens. But we need that plan first. And it's my pleasure to announce a HUD grant for about $50,000 to provide the technical assistance - to bring the best economic development minds in the business into Guadalupe to come up with that plan.

And then we'll get that plan for an economic future and then the next step will be to make it a reality. To work together to get Maricopa County and to get the Mayor and to get the tribe and to all sit at the table and say, 'look, rather than us fighting over the crumbs that fall from the table, how about we cooperate on getting a bigger piece of the pie?' That's the kind of wisdom that we're going to bring when we sit down at the table.

And we want to invest, and it is an investment. I don't like when people say 'HUD grants,' because it's not a grant, it's an investment; it's not a gift, it's an investment. And it's as much for the people of this nation as it is for anyone who lives in Guadalupe, because we really are in this altogether.

And you really can't have the extremes, you can't have the polarization, you can't have that great wealth with that great poverty without paying a terrible, terrible price. And it really cuts against what this nation is about in its soul, it's foundation. The promise was, opportunity for all and either it works for everyone or it works for none. Either the promise is a reality or it is a fallacy and then it's a fallacy for all of us. So it's an investment in this nation. An investment in the family of the nation.

As we would say in New York to our Latino brothers and sisters, Nosotros somos mas que amigos. Somos hermanos y hermanas, somos uno. We are one. And we either rise together or we fall together.

And with this great wealth and this great economy that this nation has now - unprecedented economy - if there was ever a time to invest the time is today. The greatest growth of any county in the nation, Maricopa County. If there was ever a time to invest in Guadalupe it is today, and we're not going to lose that opportunity. There is an old saying, the time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining. Well, today, my friends, the sun is shining. Thank you very much.

Content Archived: January 20, 2009

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