THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN MEETING WITH MAYORS The East Room
3:57 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Mr. Vice President, all the members of our Cabinet who are here, and all those who have been here. I trust they've done such a good job that they've taken care of all the heavy lifting. (Laughter.)
Mayor Abramson, I'm glad to be here with you and all your colleagues. And I thank you for coming to the White House and for coming to Washington. We need your help.
I look out in this crowd today and I see a lot of people with whom I have worked, people I know, people I consider my friends, and most importantly people I consider to be Americans in the best sense now -- trying to come to grips with these problems.
This is going to be a good week for me. I long for the days when the mayors and the governors come to town. (Laughter.) It is in those days that this city is at its least partisan. When we have people who are responsible for running things, getting results, dealing with problems that have no necessary partisan content, I feel that at least there is a moment of hope in the air that we will be able to break out of this crazy paralysis that too often dominates this city. And so I am delighted to see you all.
I also want to thank you for the contributions you have made and will continue to make to the life and the ideas of this administration. I saw the press conference yesterday that Mayor Daley, I think, and Mayor Johnson, maybe some other had, on the meltdown of the weapons. I received a copy of Mayor Rendell's letter to the Vice President on suggestions for an urban agenda; gave the instructions that we should review those ideas in a hurry. I've had a lot of talks in the last few days with Mayor Archer, Mayor Riley, and Mayor Rice. Mayor Webb has talked to me about his efforts.
And I read -- I want to say a special word of thanks to Mayor Abramson for the op-ed piece that he wrote about -- I think it was called your Russell Project, is that what -- because you made the point that I have seen in Louisville, in Cleveland, in Chicago and many other places that there really are things that we can do if we have the right sort of partnership. There are ways to use the relatively modest amount of federal money now available to match with local funds and private sector funds to really do things to get a lot of our troubled urban areas going again. And that was a very important point because there's a lot of cynicism about that around this town and you helped to put a fresh note of reality into our discussions; and I appreciate that very much.
We're working hard up here to do a number of things, and I won't go through all of them -- the Cabinet has doubtless discussed them with you. I would prefer, if I might, just to talk for a few moments about the crime bill. Yesterday I received a letter from the mayors of eight of our largest cities -- Mayors Guiliani, Daley, Riordan, Rendell, Lanier, Archer, White and Goldsmith -- all backing the plan to put another 100,000 police officers on the street.
In the days following the quake in Los Angeles, the number of police officers on patrol, on actual patrol, was tripled and crime in Los Angeles dropped so much that there were just 50 arrests per day in the whole huge city. That's one-tenth, I'll say again, one-tenth the normal number of arrests on any given day. In other words, crime dropped by 90 percent. I want to ask each of you here today, therefore, to help us to pass this crime bill and to do it in a timely fashion; to come back here with your colleagues without regard to party; and when you can, to bring your police chiefs and work for the next 60 days walking a beat in the halls of Congress. You can be the community police for your cities here for the next 60 days.
With the crime bill, we'll get the police. We'll get drug treatment for those charged and convicted of crimes. We'll get boot camps for first time offenders. We'll get a ban on assault weapons and a number of other useful features. Just yesterday, the Vice President went to Dunbar High School where the day before there were shootouts in the hallway and in front of the schools. In too many of our schools, guns has transformed the environment from one of learning to one of fear. And I looked at the television news last night and I saw one of the young women looking at the Vice President saying, "If you guys can send a person to the moon, why can't you get guns out of our streets and schools?" Inconveniently, the television switched to another subject before I heard answer. (Laughter.) But the young woman certainly asked the right question.
This administration does favor stronger punishment when it's appropriate. I do believe in the three strikes and you're out concept for violent criminals. It is clearly true that a small number of total criminals commit a large portion of violent crimes. So that is something we ought to do. But I think every one of us know, if you've ever walked the streets -- really walked the streets -- of a crime-infested area; have ever really talked to the people who live there; who ever really focused on the fact that most people in the highest crime areas of America still obey the law, get up every day and go to work, try to raise their kids, try to the very best they can. What they really want is safety in the first place, which means that we have to follow strategies that can also prevent crime and we have to bring hope back to those places. We have to support the families and rebuild the communities and give people work.
I know of no example where you have a successful civilized society without strong elements of work, family and community. And when all three break down at once, it should not be surprising to anyone that the vacuum created leads to crime and gangs and guns. So we have a lot of work to do.
Our community empowerment agenda is the beginning of that work, and it can lead to a lot more projects like the one that Mayor Abramson discussed in his fine op-ed piece. But let me say for now, if you want me to be able to go out across this country and tell the American people they need to take more responsibility for their children and their neighborhoods and their communities, to try to help you to mobilize the support of the private sector to invest in the empowerment zones and take advantage of other opportunities in cities, the first thing we have to do is to do our part by passing a good crime bill, and by doing it in a timely fashion. When I discussed this with some of you recently, one of the things you wanted to do is to make sure that if we said that bill would fund 100,000 policemen, that it would in fact do that on the terms as advertised. I think you need to make sure that's going to happen.
Another thing we discussed is to make sure that we had some initiatives which would also provide incentives for people to avoid crime, or young people to turn away from crime. We need to experiment with things to see what actually lowers the crime rate.
We know for sure that more people on patrol lowers the crime rate. I mean, Los Angeles just taught us that one more time. And we know there are some other things that do as well.
So, as you come up here to lobby, I ask you to give us the benefit of your ideas, your experience and make sure we get the best possible bill. But the main thing is, we do not need to fool around with this for six months. I mean, there's already been a crime bill passed the Senate; there's already been a number of bills passed the House. We know now how we're going to pay for this and within range how much money we can spend on it; and we have it paid for in our administration's budget, tight though it is, actually can -- provides the funding for it. So let's do it, and let's do it with the benefit of the mayors and the chiefs of police who know what it is to do it right. (Applause.)
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END4:06 P.M. EST