THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN CONFERENCE CALL WITH MAYORS
From The Oval Office
11:00 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: It's nice to hear all of you. I'm here with the Vice President and Attorney General Reno and our Drug Director, Lee Brown, to congratulate all of you for working so hard to help make your community and, of course, our country safer again. Today I'm proud to announce that the six of you on this phone, along with the leaders of 68 other cities and towns all across the country, will receive the first grants to put more police on the street and expand community policing.
The Justice Department received applications from more than 1,000 communities across our nation, and the proposals we got for community policing from your police departments were truly outstanding. I know these grants are simply a down payment on our pledge to put 100,000 new police officers on the streets. It's just the beginning. As soon as Congress comes back in 1994 I want them to send me a crime bill that finishes that job and puts 100,000 more police on the street, expands boot camps and drug courts like the one the Attorney General started in Miami, gets handguns out of the hands of minors, and bans assault weapons.
Earlier this month, as all of you know, I signed the Brady Bill which broke seven years of gridlock on this issue. And we just can't afford to wait any longer for the crime bill. In the meanwhile I'm excited about what you're doing because we know community policing works. It worked for our Drug Director, Lee Brown, in Houston and New York, and it's working all across the country.
So I want to just thank all of you very much and say that I wish I could be there with you today. I wish I could see your police officers, and I hope you'll tell them all that help is on the way and we'll do our best to be there for you, to be good partners with you. And I know I'm speaking for the Vice President, the Attorney General and Lee Brown in saying we'll stay after this until the job is done.
Mayor Riordan, would you like to say anything?
MAYOR RIORDAN: Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, General Reno, Dr. Brown, and fellow mayors, welcome from sunny Los Angeles. (Laughter.)
Thank you very much, Mr. President and General Reno, for including us in on the present appropriations. Fifty-four police officers are a great beginning, but they're merely a down payment, as the President mentioned, on the 100,000 police officers that are included in the crime bill of next year.
All of us in Los Angeles -- Chief Williams, members of Congress who are with me today, City Council members -- we are all rowing in the same direction. We realize that safety is the number one issue in big cities, and that if we're to turn L.A. around and
other big cities around, get jobs back, to get tourists back, to stop young families from leaving, we have to make the cities safe. As L.A. and other big cities go, so goes the United States.
So, Mr. President, again from the City of Angels, we thank you very much, and we look forward to working with you in the years to come.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
MAYOR GRIFFIN: Mr. President, thank you very, very much for including the City of Buffalo, the City of Good Neighbors, in the grant program. Congressman LaFalce is here with me, along with our Commissioner of Police Rich Donovan and the two people that worked on the grant, Ed Hepling and Barbara Oakley -- or Maureen Oakley.
And this is going to be great for Buffalo. It will put 27 policemen and policewomen on the street, into the neighborhoods, around schools and talking to different groups. It's just one cog in the wheel that we need to get this crime off our streets. We've had quite a few murders these last years in Buffalo because of the drug problem, but we're winning the battle.
And thanks to you and the Brady Bill and the bills that will be coming from Washington, we're going to beat this thing. We need others. We've got to get monies into our cities for jobs and for training and retraining. And I know that's in your plan as well. But this is a start and it's in the right direction. And the people of the City of Buffalo want to thank you, Mr. President, for thinking of the cities. This is where life is and this is where our hope is and this is where our future is.
And God bless you, and I want to wish you and your family a very merry Christmas.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
Mayor Tauer, all of us were thinking about you last week, and we're very sorry about what you've been through.
MAYOR TAUER: Thank you very much, Mr. President. It was a very trying time, but we're helping the community heal and get over it and that's the important thing. But on behalf of the city council and our staff and our citizens, I want to thank you and all those who were responsible for us being selected for this grant. It's extremely important to us.
We feel we've been in the forefront of the issue of community policing and youth violence for several years, but our resources are stretched to the limit. And a big concern of our citizens has been neighborhood representation of the police department so that they can work more closely with them. And this grant is certainly going to help us be able to do that and increase our community policing response. And that's extremely imperative.
I want to thank you for your leadership on this issue and look forward to other things that will be done, and hope we will be able to support you on getting the crime bill through the Congress. So thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
MAYOR JAMES: Mr. President, Attorney General, Vice President and Mr. Brown, we'd like to thank you for your commendable leadership. Thank you for caring about our cities and towns and, more important, this is the best Christmas gift that the city of Newark could ever receive. Our renaissance and our struggle must be more than mortar and bricks. And since public safety's our number one issue, this gift from your leadership will certainly help us to ensure that public safety remains our number one priority.
We'd like to commend you for your leadership in passing the Brady Bill. It's a foot in the door. We plan to work with you to ban all assault weapons and also the question of licensing and registration for those who carry a firearm. And finally, we pledge our wholehearted support to join with you in seeking passage of the crime bill.
But more important today, we want to thank you for making Newark, New Jersey, have a merry Christmas. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mayor.
MAYOR LOSTER: Mr. President, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you on behalf of the 70,000-plus citizens of the city of Saginaw. We have a number of representatives from the Senate as well as the Congress, police department, prosecutor's office and Saginaw City Council here this morning. I, too, want to echo the sentiments of my colleagues and be among the first to thank you for the 13 new police officers which will come to our community. We're certainly proud to be able to participate in the process.
And let me just say this, Mr. President, we want to extend to you, as the smallest city, an invitation to come back to the city of Saginaw and to look at our efficient utilization of the 13 police officers that you've given to us. We wholeheartedly support the anticrime initiatives, and certainly we feel confident that we will succeed in the battle against crime.
We were early one of the participants to support the Brady Bill, and we're proud of that. I will say to you: We give you our wholehearted support in terms of supporting the anticrime initiatives and look forward to seeing much, much more from the White House.
Thank you very much again. And to you and the First Lady, merry Christmas and a happy new year.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much.
MAYOR WOLFF: Mr. President, let me first say thank you for being the first administration to address crime as a number-one priority. The 40 police that we will receive will be added to 73 new positions that we have put in for the police department. They will emphasize community policing initiatives as outlined by Captain Philippas in the grant proposal.
In San Antonio, we see crime going down; but as we see overall crime going down, we see violence going up, particularly youth. And that is our number-one concern. We've taken many local initiatives -- the coalition, the Education Partnership, Project Quest which are recreational, education and job-training programs to address youth. We've created a violent crime task force, headed by Captain Sandoval, and a gang intervention unit headed by Sergeant Richie, who are with me today. And Councilman Lyle Larson heads up a citizens crime prevention task force that just recently recommended three initiatives dealing with graffiti, daytime curfews, and possession of firearms by youth which we passed last Thursday.
The crime bill that's before Congress, we support you 100 percent on it. It could have a major impact on crime in this nation. One aspect I would like to comment on. We must stop the firepower getting into the hands of youth, criminals and mentally unstable people. Resident Agent in Charge, ATF, Bill Lewis, is with me today. We support banning assault weapons and controlling handguns. We say that licensed dealers should only be those that have a place of business, that it should be illegal for anyone to sell guns to youth, licensed dealers or not. And we do need more ATF agents -- we only have 14 in San Antonio. And let me add by saying that a criminal must believe he's going to get caught, convicted and serve hard time.
Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Mayor.
I want to ask the Attorney General now to say a word, because the Justice Department, as you know, managed the process by which your cities were selected. I think they did a very good job. And so I'd like to call on her and let her say a few words.
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: Mayors, I just want to thank you. Your applications were so impressive. They indicate just what can be done with community policing, how it can both prevent crime and identify the real bad guys who need to be put away. And this is the first round -- they're more to come. And we look forward to working with you in a real, true partnership.
THE PRESIDENT: I'm going to let Lee Brown say a word to you now. He started a community policing program in New York City. And I don't know if you saw it, but last week there was a wonderful cover story in The New York Times Sunday Magazine about a police officer named Kevin Jett who works eight square blocks in one of the toughest neighborhoods in New York. And the story pointed out that he not only arrests criminals, but he also prevents a lot of crimes from occurring in the first place. And I think that's the emphasis we ought to have here. This is not simply a question of catching people who break the law in a violent fashion, it's preventing crime.
So I want Lee to say a word.
MR. BROWN: Let me congratulate the mayors and certainly the police chiefs for being selected. I've experienced community policing in Houston and New York -- New York, for example, after one year we saw crime go down in every major category for the first time in 36 years. I see it as not only a better, but a smarter and certainly more cost-effective way of using police resources.
So congratulations to all of you, and Merry Christmas.
THE PRESIDENT: In closing, let me say, I know that from New York to Michigan -- and we've got members of Congress -- I mean, from Los Angeles to Michigan -- we've members of Congress who are actually there today, as well as in Buffalo and perhaps in some other places. And I really thank all of you for your support. Somebody told me that Mayor Riordan had the whole southern California delegation there, and if he does, I bet he's talking about more than law enforcement. (Laughter.)
I hear all of the movement in the background. I wish you all a happy holiday. And I thank you. When you're taking these kind of affirmative actions, the President can't do it alone, we've got to have the support of Congress. And I really appreciate their presence there. And thank you all so much. And congratulations to you and to the 68 other cities and towns who are in the vanguard of this move to bring community policing to our entire nation.
Thank you very much.
Q Do you think you're going to get that bill through?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I do, yes.
Q The atmosphere has changed, hasn't it?
THE PRESIDENT: It has changed. You know, there may be some differences between us and the House on the amount of the bill or exactly how it should be spent. But I think there is now a clear bipartisan commitment in both Houses for the 100,000 police officers on the street, for the drug courts and for some of the other innovations. And so we're very, very hopeful that we can do it.
I think having the mayors, again, out there in small towns as well as the big cities, the Democrats and the Republicans marching arm in arm, it's changed the dynamic of this issue in America in a way that I think will be very good in helping us to make our people safer --
Q Do you think Congress is getting the message at home while they're at home?
THE PRESIDENT: Big time. That's our sense, that they're really hearing from the people that they just have to have more security on the streets, in their schools and communities.
Q Mr. President, are you taking too much credit for the growth of the economy? There have been stories suggesting that it may not be all your doing.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I saw those stories. I got tickled this morning -- I took a poll around the staff -- we just had a two-hour meeting on the budget, and I said if the economy were bad who do you think would be blamed? (Laughter.)
I'm not so concerned about who gets the credit really. The American people get the credit -- if they go back to work, if they're becoming more competitive, if they're investing their money.
I do know this: that from -- even going back after the election, from the time we announced our deficit reduction plan to the time it was presented, to the time it was enacted, to the present day, the steady, disciplined drop in interest rates has played a major, major role in helping millions of people to refinance their homes and businesses -- last year we had a 19-year low in delinquencies in home mortgages -- and getting all this investment for new jobs.
So I believe our economic policies are stabilizing this country and contributing to this recovery. I think a lot of Americans have been working for years and years and years to be competitive in the global economy, and I think that is to their credit. I mean, we have a private sector economy. No person in public life can take credit for it.
But if we hadn't done what we have done on the economic plan to spur both -- to drive interest rates down and to spur reinvestment, I don't think we'd be where we are on the economy.
Q But every day we read about thousands being laid off.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it's still a terrible problem. That's why I always say we've got a lot more to do.
The problem that all rich countries are facing now is that productivity, which has always been a good thing in the economy; that is, fewer people produce more goods and services increases their ability to earn more income -- that's a problem unless you can sell all the goods and services you're producing. If you don't, it keeps unemployment higher than it should be and it depresses wages.
So that will be our challenge next year. That's why I wanted to get NAFTA this year; that's why I wanted to get that GATT trade agreement this year; that's why I wanted to try to start a new relationship with Japan and the Far East this year -- so we would have more customers for our goods and services, so we can grow this economy.
Q Are you going to have the flexibility to deal with the job-training issues and retraining, given the budget situation?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, that's what -- I've already spent two hours on that today and I expect I'll spend a couple more hours on it. I certainly --
Q Can you wrap it up now the budget's over?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we're not done yet, but we worked hard on that today. We're going to keep working. We have a few more days. But the retraining issue is important because there have been a lot of news stories lately -- many of you perhaps have run them -- showing that people that either have high skill levels or are capable of getting them in a hurry have much shorter periods of unemployment and are much more likely to get good-paying jobs.
We still don't have the kind of retraining system we need. So that's going to be a big part of next year's initiative.
Q Prime Minister Malval is criticizing President Aristide openly for being an obstacle to some sort of reconciliation. Are you on board with Prime Minister Malval or President Aristide? Where are you trying to throw your support?
THE PRESIDENT: I wouldn't say it's an either-or thing. Let me say, we have been working with this Friends of Haiti group, with our friends in Canada and France and Venezuela, to try to come up with a new approach that would restore democracy, would create the conditions where President Aristide could return, and would meet the fundamental objective we tried to meet in the Governors Island Accord -- to be to guarantee the security and the human rights and safety of all the parties in the previous disputes.
So we're going to take another run at it and see if we can do something on it. And it's going to require some flexibility on all sides. It just is. And we'll just have to see if we can get there. We're going to try -- hard.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much.
END11:40 A.M. EST