Opening Statement of
The Honorable Roy A. Bernardi
Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development - Designate
before the Senate Committee on
Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs
May 15, 2001
morning Mr. Chairman, and distinguished Members of the Committee,
my name is Roy Bernardi, Mayor of the City of Syracuse and President
Bush�s nominee for the position of Assistant Secretary for Community
Planning and Development.
wish to thank the Committee for inviting me and for expediting the
confirmation process for myself and the other nominees present today.
With President Bush�s guidance, Secretary Martinez has assembled
a supremely qualified team with the experience and vision to act
on his and your concerns for urban America. If confirmed, it will
be a great honor to serve with these individuals.
proceeding further Mr. Chairman, please allow me to introduce my
wife Alice. Without her support and love I would not be here today.
Unfortunately, our two young children Dante and Bianca could not
be here, but it is because of them that I understand the true importance
and seriousness of the task before me, before this Administration,
and before this Committee.
paraphrase Senator Gramm�s famous saying, "A parent�s dream dies
hard in America." Alice and I dream that Dante and Bianca can grow
up, work, and find happiness in the City where we were raised �
where neighbors were family, where jobs were plentiful, and where
you always felt secure.
Unfortunately, for many decades the tides of history seemed to flow
the other way. In Syracuse, typical of many Cities across the Northeast
and the nation, we have seen our population decrease � while the
needs of our citizens increase.
20 years as City Auditor and now nearly eight years as Mayor I have
fought to reverse those tides and ensure that the mothers and fathers
of Syracuse can still dream. And as the past-President of the New
York Conference of Mayors and the past-Vice Chairman of the northeastern
division of the US Conference of Mayors� I have worked with other
local leaders to make sure that the public trust is kept with all
my three decades of public service the issue of housing and community
development has remained at the forefront of my agenda. With the
knowledge that can only come from hands-on experience, I understand
the role of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the
lives of Americans. Because I�ve seen inefficient initiatives waste
valuable resources I approach this new challenge with a sense of
also approach it with a sense of hope. Hope, because I�ve seen how
good programs, ones that are well-conceived and well-managed, can
change lives and change communities.
As an administrator, I will also draw on my first hand knowledge
of the CDBG process, the HOME program, and brownfield remediation
efforts. I know the importance of CDBG dollars, and I also know
the importance of keen oversight. These block grants fund valuable
programs, but too often foster dependence, rather than development.
My office will focus on using these resources for civic improvement,
not civic welfare.
to civic improvement is greater homeownership. Owner occupied housing
makes for cleaner, safer, and more livable neighborhoods. The Homeownership
Downpayment Program authorizing legislation will be proposed that
would require each participating jurisdiction to use, on a cumulative
basis, 12 percent of each annual allotment for downpayment assistance
towards the purchase of single family housing by low income families
that are first time homebuyers. I spoke earlier of a parent�s dream,
well homeownership has been a uniquely American dream for hundreds
of years. It is a dream that the HOME program has made real for
hundreds of people in Syracuse. And the efforts of the Bush Administration
will make it real for thousands of other families across the nation.
As the Mayor of a City with a long industrial history I also know
that housing is an issue linked with economic development and redevelopment.
Over the years I have addressed many audiences on the subject of
suburban sprawl and the importance of brownfield remediation. I�m
proud to say that today in Syracuse our most sought after downtown
residential addresses are in remodeled factories and several parcels
of land � victims of decades of environmental abuse � are now prized
pieces of commercial real estate. Similar scenarios across the country
show the flexibility of our urban centers to respond to the changing
needs of industry and individuals.
faith in cities as centers of commerce, and culture, and community,
fuels my interest in aggressively reclaiming our industrial wastelands.
also fuels a desire to reclaiming our neighborhoods. In Syracuse
we did that by literally attacking problems block by block. From
my office to the dog control office we enter troubled neighborhoods
as a team to tow abandoned cars, mow lawns, cite code violators,
haul debris, and talk with residents.
also attacked neighborhood issues by publicly identifying absentee
landlords that take advantage of low-income renters. Meanwhile,
to help responsible property owners we�ve set up classes to teach
them how to be better landlords.
the practical experience I bring before you today. And with it I
bring a commitment to urban America that transcends that facts and
figures of public record. As a child of immigrants � raised in an
Italian enclave on Syracuse�s Northside � I know that when my parents
sought opportunity in America they found it in the city. I want
my children to find it there too.
that�s where my heart has remained � with the immigrant, and with
the young family struggling to make ends meet, with the renter saving
for her first home, with the man who sees the city as his best chance,
and with the man who sees it as his last chance.
all of these reasons I am deeply thankful for the confidence President
Bush and Secretary Martinez have placed in me and for the chance
to address this distinguished body.
Last modified: June 27 , 2001
Content Archived: March 17, 2010