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Opening Statement Secretary-Designate Andrew Cuomo

January 22, 19997

THANK YOU CHAIRMAN D'AMATO, SENATOR SARBANES, AND OTHER DISTINGUISHED SENATORS FOR GIVING ME THE OPPORTUNITY TO APPEAR BEFORE YOU TODAY. AND THANK YOU, SENATORS D'AMATO AND MOYNIHAN, FOR YOUR KIND INTRODUCTION.

I'M GRATEFUL FOR THE CONFIDENCE THIS COMMITTEE EXPRESSED IN ME IN 1993 IN CONFIRMING ME FOR MY CURRENT POSITION AS ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR COMMUNITY PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT. I VERY MUCH APPRECIATE THE PRODUCTIVE BI-PARTISAN PARTNERSHIP THAT WE HAVE ENJOYED.

I ALSO WANT TO THANK ESPECIALLY SECRETARY HENRY CISNEROS FOR BEING HERE TODAY TO SUPPORT ME. I COULD USE MY ENTIRE TIME AT THIS HEARING JUST TALKING ABOUT WHAT SECRETARY CISNEROS HAS DONE FOR THIS COUNTRY. PUT SIMPLY, HIS VISION, LEADERSHIP AND COMMITMENT HAVE MADE HIM AN OUTSTANDING LEADER -- AND IN MY OPINION -- THE BEST SECRETARY IN THE HISTORY OF HUD. IT HAS BEEN A PERSONAL HONOR TO SERVE WITH HIM OVER THE PAST FOUR YEARS. THANK YOU, MR. SECRETARY.

I AM PROFOUNDLY GRATEFUL TO THE PRESIDENT FOR THE CONFIDENCE DEMONSTRATED BY HIS NOMINATION AND THE EXPANDED OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE IN HIS ADMINISTRATION. I LOOK FORWARD TO HELPING BUILD ON THE PRESIDENT'S ALREADY HISTORIC RECORD OF ACHIEVEMENT.

I WOULD ALSO LIKE TO EXPRESS MY APPRECIATION TO MY COLLEAGUES AT THE DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT WHO WORK HARD AND EFFECTIVELY EVERY DAY TO SERVE AMERICA'S COMMUNITIES.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE, IF I MAY, I'D LIKE TO PAUSE A MINUTE TO INTRODUCE MY WIFE, KERRY, AND ASK HER TO STAND.

THE LAST FOUR YEARS HAVE SHOWN THAT WHEN WE WORK TOGETHER WE CAN PRODUCE REAL RESULTS FOR AMERICA. TODAY, BECAUSE OF ALL OF OUR EFFORTS ON BOTH SIDES OF THE AISLE IN CONGRESS AND IN THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH, THE ECONOMY IS STRONG AND MORE AMERICANS ARE BENEFITING. JOBS ARE UP. HOMEOWNERSHIP IS UP. CRIME IS DOWN. UNEMPLOYMENT IS DOWN AND SO IS POVERTY.

AMERICA IS POINTED IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION -- BUT AS THE PRESIDENT NOTED MONDAY -- THE BEST IS YET TO COME. HE KNOWS WELL THE CHALLENGES THAT STILL LIE AHEAD.

TODAY, ONE OUT OF FIVE AMERICAN CHILDREN LIVE IN POVERTY. OVER 5 MILLION AMERICAN FAMILIES SPEND OVER 50% OF THEIR INCOME ON RENT. THERE ARE MANY IN OUR MIDDLE CLASS WHO PLAY BY THE RULES AND WORK HARD EVERYDAY BUT WHO HAVE NOT GAINED A FAIR SHARE OF THE AMERICAN DREAM.

AND THE CHALLENGES FACING AMERICA'S COMMUNITIES ARE NOT LIMITED TO CERTAIN GEOGRAPHIC AREAS. CHALLENGES ONCE ASSOCIATED SOLELY WITH URBAN AMERICA NOW ARE EVIDENT COAST TO COAST.

CHALLENGES ONCE ONLY THE PROVINCE OF OUR OLDER CITIES -- PLACES LIKE BOSTON, BALTIMORE, CHICAGO AND NEW YORK -- TODAY, PLAGUE AREAS ONCE THOUGHT TO BE SAFE HAVENS -- PLACES LIKE DENVER, PHOENIX, TACOMA AND LAS VEGAS.

THE CHALLENGES WE FACE ARE ALSO NOT JUST LIMITED TO THE CITIES. FINDING SOLUTIONS FOR THE CHALLENGES OF POVERTY IN RURAL AMERICA CAN BE JUST AS DIFFICULT AS FINDING SOLUTIONS FOR THE CHALLENGES OF POVERTY IN URBAN AMERICA. TO COMPOUND THE SITUATION, THE CHALLENGES COME AT A TIME WHEN THERE ARE FEWER AND FEWER RESOURCES.

IF WE WERE ALLOWED TO MAKE A CHOICE BETWEEN FISCAL PRUDENCE AND MEETING THE OBVIOUS NEEDS OF TROUBLED AMERICANS, THE CHOICE WOULD BE DIFFICULT INDEED. BUT IN TRUTH, WE HAVE NO CHOICE BECAUSE WE HAVE AN UNDENIABLE RESPONSIBILITY TO BALANCE THE BUDGET AND, AT THE SAME TIME, WE HAVE AN EQUALLY UNDENIABLE RESPONSIBILITY TO MEET THE CHALLENGES THAT LIE AHEAD -- WE HAVE TO DO BOTH.

HOW? WITH A GOVERNMENT THAT IS SMARTER, SMALLER, AND BETTER. AS THE PRESIDENT SAYS, "BY DOING MORE WITH LESS."

WE MUST REMAIN COMMITTED TO OUR WORTHWHILE GOALS, BUT NOT TO FAILED MEANS. WE MUST BE WILLING TO ADMIT THAT SOME PROGRAMS DON'T WORK. WE MUST RECOGNIZE THE ROLES OF GOVERNMENT AND THE PRIVATE SECTOR AND THE PARTNERSHIPS THAT CAN BE FORGED.

I UNDERSTAND THIS IN A VERY PERSONAL WAY. AS THE SECRETARY MENTIONED, I ENTERED HOUSING -- NOT AS A GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL -- BUT AS A BUILDER, OPERATOR, AND MANAGER, RESPONSIBLE FOR MEETING A PAYROLL AND BALANCING A BUDGET.

I LEARNED THAT THE OBJECT OF OUR EFFORTS MUST BE THE DEVELOPMENT OF SELF-SUFFICIENCY -- NOT THE PERPETUATION OF GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS. MY EXPERIENCE REMINDED ME THAT THE PRIDE AND DIGNITY OF HAVING A JOB AND EARNING ONE'S OWN BREAD IS THE BEST SOCIAL SERVICES PROGRAM THAT EXISTS. I LEARNED THAT THE PRIVATE SECTOR IS THE ENGINE THAT WILL DRIVE THE ECONOMIC REBIRTH OF A COMMUNITY AND THAT REAL SOLUTIONS WILL BE FOUND IN THE LOCAL COMMUNITIES -- THROUGH LOCAL PARTNERSHIPS AND LOCAL INITIATIVES.

THESE EXPERIENCES WILL HELP GUIDE ME AS I SEEK TO FULFILL HUD'S MISSION -- A MISSION WHICH BEGINS WITH A SIMPLE, YET PROFOUND GOAL CLEARLY PROCLAIMED BY THE HOUSING ACT OF 1949: "A DECENT HOME AND A SUITABLE LIVING ENVIRONMENT FOR EVERY AMERICAN FAMILY."

THE FEDERAL HOUSING ADMINISTRATION, SECTION 8 PROGRAM, AND -- THANKS TO THIS COMMITTEE -- THE VERY SUCCESSFUL HOME PROGRAM ARE POWERFUL TOOLS TO BUILD THAT FOUNDATION. PUBLIC HOUSING IS BEING TRANSFORMED TO PROVIDE SAFE, SUPPORTIVE ENVIRONMENTS. HOMEOWNERSHIP, AT THE HIGHEST RATE IN OVER A DECADE, IS WITHOUT EQUAL IN GIVING PEOPLE A STAKE IN THEIR COMMUNITY. COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT BLOCK GRANTS PROVIDE A COMPREHENSIVE APPROACH. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVES HELP CREATE THE JOBS THAT DRIVE AND SUSTAIN A COMMUNITY. FAIR HOUSING RECOGNIZES OUR OBLIGATIONS TO ONE ANOTHER, AND THE DEPARTMENT'S HOMELESS PROGRAMS EXTEND A HAND UP FOR THOSE WHO ARE DOWN.

ALL OF THESE PROGRAMS MUST BE SUPPLIED IN ALL OF THE PLACES WHERE THE CHALLENGES EXIST; AND, AS I HAVE NOTED, THAT GOES FAR BEYOND THE URBAN AREAS. TODAY, MORE AND MORE AMERICANS LIVE IN EXTENDED METROPOLITAN AREAS WHERE THE LINE BETWEEN CITIES AND SUBURBS HAVE BECOME BLURRED. A HEALTHY, VIBRANT, SAFE CITY OF TODAY MEANS A HEALTHY, VIBRANT, SAFE SUBURB OF TOMORROW. THE INTERRELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CITY AND SUBURB PROVIDES A RELEVANT CONTEXT FOR OUR MISSION AS WE ENTER THE NEXT MILLENNIUM.

HUD'S MISSION, HOWEVER, CANNOT BE CARRIED OUT IN THE FUTURE UNLESS HUD'S OWN HOUSE IS IN GOOD ORDER TODAY. I HAVE HEARD THE COMMITTEE'S CONCERN, AND I AGREE, THERE MUST BE EFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT AND FINANCIAL ACCOUNTABILITY AT HUD. LET ME ASSURE THE COMMITTEE, THAT WHILE MUCH PROGRESS HAS ALREADY BEEN MADE, I WILL CONTINUE TO BUILD ON SECRETARY CISNEROS'S EFFORTS AND MAKE FURTHER MANAGEMENT IMPROVEMENTS.

I THINK MY TRACK RECORD IN HUD'S OFFICE OF COMMUNITY PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT REFLECTS MY COMMITMENT TO MANAGEMENT REFORM. OVER THE PAST FOUR YEARS AT HUD, MY OFFICE'S PERSONNEL HAS BEEN REDUCED BY ABOUT TWENTY-FIVE PERCENT -- WHILE PROGRAM RESPONSIBILITY HAS NEARLY DOUBLED. HOW HAVE WE DONE IT? BY STREAMLINING, DECENTRALIZING, AND CONSOLIDATING. I WILL TAKE THESE EXPERIENCES WITH ME TO THE SECRETARY'S OFFICE.

DISTINGUISHED SENATORS, RECOGNIZING THAT OUR SHARED GOALS UNITE US MORE THAN OUR PARTY LABELS DIVIDE US, I ASK YOU FOR THE CHANCE TO WORK WITH THIS COMMITTEE, WITH EACH OF YOU INDIVIDUALLY, AND WITH THE REST OF THE SENATE TO FORM A BI-PARTISAN CONSENSUS THAT WILL CARRY OUR CURRENT SUCCESSES TO A NEW LEVEL OF REALIZATION.

DESPITE ALL THE POSITIVE ECONOMIC READINGS, THERE ARE STILL MILLIONS OF AMERICANS WHO HAVE NOT EXPERIENCED THE AMERICAN MIRACLE.

OUR GOAL MUST BE TO CREATE A FUTURE UNLIKE ANY THAT HAS COME BEFORE -- A FUTURE OPEN TO ALL -- IN WHICH NO PERSON IS LEFT BEHIND AND IN WHICH NO COMMUNITY IS FORGOTTEN. A FUTURE IN WHICH EVERYONE WILLING TO DO HIS OR HER PART WILL BE EMPOWERED WITH THE TOOLS TO REACH AS HIGH AS THEIR TALENTS AND HARD WORK WILL TAKE THEM. A FUTURE IN WHICH THE BRIGHT SUN OF OPPORTUNITY WILL REACH THOSE WHO HAVE LIVED TOO LONG IN THE SHADOWS. WE CAN DO IT -- TOGETHER.

THANK YOU.

 

Content Archived: January 20, 2009

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