THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN TELEPHONE CALL TO A TOWN MEETING WITH SECRETARY CISNEROS The Oval Office
10:27 A.M. EDT
SECRETARY CISNEROS: Mr. President, this is Henry Cisneros in Chicago.
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Henry, how are you?
SECRETARY CISNEROS: Good, sir. I'm here with Senator Carol Moseley-Braun and Congressman Bobby Rush and Vince Lane of the Housing Authority, who's a good friend of yours, and about 200 folks at Progressive Community Church. And we are gathered together to talk about how to deal with the violence that's plagued the Chicago Housing Authority, Robert Taylor, Stateway and other developments over the last couple of days.
We're sitting at a table with about 20 guns that were picked up last night in police actions; a verY violent weekend that resulted in about 15 shootings and five deaths -- one 16-year old was killed last night at Washington Park Homes, here in the area.
We're looking at about 20 or so rifles, pistols, automatic weapons that were picked up in police action last night. So this is a very serious circumstance, and the group is very appreciative for your call, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm very concerned that all the efforts that have been made there over the last several years -- and I'm glad Senator Moseley-Braun's there; I'm glad Bobby Rush is there -- I know you're in his district. And I know Vince Lane remembers the trip that we took into Robert Taylor Homes back in 1991, before I even started running for President. And I'm so worried that all the progress that's been made will be undermined by the court decision. I wonder if some of this violence has not been almost aggravated by the decision. And I'm hoping that you'll be able to find a constitutional solution to this working with the Attorney General.
I know that this bike team effort last night did net a significant amount of guns and other things; and I'm encouraged by what you say. I want to encourage all the citizens who are there that we're going to do everything we can to support them and enable them to have control over their lives and not allow criminals to find shelter in the very public housing communities that they're terrorizing.
I think it's very important. I just want to say -- you tell me what you think we have to do, and I'll do it. I've seen what can be done there when people can take control of their own destinies. And I think we owe it to them to do everything we can to give them their homes back.
SECRETARY CISNEROS: Mr. President, we're looking at a strategy that is essentially four elements. And I'll prepare a report for you with the Attorney General and have something on your desk, hopefully by tomorrow or the next day. But obviously the first
piece is to focus on the sweeps and the legality of what can be done to get the sweeps constitutional.
Secondly, to focus on other security measures, other measures we can take, such as Operation Safe Home and other things we can do. Thirdly, to focus on such things as recreational programs this summer, recreational activity, midnight basketball, ballparks, anti-gang things, youth mentorship -- critically important, and the community recognizes that so.
And then finally to focus on the long-term vision remake of public housing in Chicago. And we've got some ideas about that. And I'll get it all to you in writing. But I just wanted to give you kind of the strategy.
I'm going to ask Senator Moseley-Braun to say a word, if I may, Mr. President.
SENATOR MOSELEY-BRAUN: Good morning, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, Senator.
SENATOR MOSELEY-BRAUN: Mr. President, I am first delighted that you've called this morning. I know the community appreciates your concern and your attention to this critical issue. And of course, the Secretary coming out and staying last night was just unprecedented. And we are just very grateful for the commitment and the concern that's being expressed by your administration.
I mentioned to the Secretary that the real bottom line in all of this is getting some money to create some jobs and to put in some security here at DHA. I mean, that's the bottom line. We can -- we've done sweeps before. They work for a while and then you have to go back to the problem.
And the problem here, I think, Mr. President, is only going to be solved if we can put some investment in behalf of securing the buildings, providing security forces and giving people some jobs and some opportunity and some hope back. That really is bottom line here, and I think we're up to do it. And I think we can do it without breaking the bank.
And I would very much appreciate -- Ivan's going to work with the Secretary and with Vince Lane and with the delegation. And your support, sir, will be absolutely critical in making sure that we can free up some money to do this.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. You know, there's some money in the -- some significant money, especially in the House version of the crime bill that would provide for some jobs for young people in high crime areas.
SENATOR MOSELEY-BRAUN: Right.
THE PRESIDENT: And that's one of the things that we tried to do in rewriting it over on the House side, was to get some money in there so that we could determine the impact on the crime rate of providing jobs for people. I think -- of course, I know you agree with me, what we're going to find is if we can go into some of these neighborhoods and put people to work, the crime rate will go way down.
SENATOR MOSELEY-BRAUN: I think that's right. That's right. Well, as you know, I'm going to support that legislation. And, again, if we can come up with some other initiatives -- Mr. Lane was talking about some things this morning. I want to work very closely with you, sir, and with this administration and the Secretary in behalf of putting together the money and putting together the
initiatives we need to begin to turn around a history of neglect here.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
SENATOR MOSELEY-BRAUN: Thank you again, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much.
REPRESENTATIVE RUSH: Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
REPRESENTATIVE RUSH: Bobby Rush, how are you doing?
THE PRESIDENT: Hi, Bobby, nice to hear your voice, Congressman.
REPRESENTATIVE RUSH: Yes. Mr. President, I certainly appreciate your calling to the public housing community of the city of Chicago this morning. It's the first time that any Chief Executive Officer of this nation has taken a part of their day to discuss vital issues that all the residents here are concerned about and have been concerned about over the years. There are a lot of resources that I think that we can bring to bear on this. You and I have talked about this, particularly during the campaign. There are a lot of resources, I think, will be brought to bear if, in fact, we have the commitment and the vision to do that.
I think gathered around this table, and in this room, we have really an advanced team of people who can come up with the solutions. And we certainly, in the Congress, can try to help assist you in terms of helping to find those resources and use creative efforts and creative endeavors to try to bring some resources into public housing; because the people who live here, they're the true victims. They didn't create public housing; they didn't locate it where it's located. Circumstances have forced them to live in these conditions, but they should not be exiled to living in public housing camps in the way they're living in them right now. We have to make these developments livable.
Mr. President, I have a community leader here who's going to ask for 30 seconds to discuss -- to say something to you for about 30 seconds, if in fact that would be appropriate.
THE PRESIDENT: Sure.
MR. SISTRUNK(?): Mr. President, Mr. Clinton ?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
MR. SISTRUNK(?): First of all, I want to say my name is -- Sistrunk(?). And I want to encourage you to continue to support Mr. Lane and the Congressman and the Senator and Mr. Cisneros.
Mr. President, last week, a couple of days ago, I spent a day in the hospital with a Terrence Graham, who was shot in the developments. I've lost kin people in the developments. Mr. President, I want to say sincerely to you, if you would in your next year or so, or whenever you're available, to come and witness the terror, the hurt and the pain, because it's serious, and it hurts, Mr. President. And we need you here in Chicago, but more important we need you to continue to support Mr. Lane and community activists and people who are concerned about death and dying and the residents. And I encourage you to take a stand, Mr. President.
Thank you. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you for what you said.
SECRETARY CISNEROS: Mr. President, thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT: I want to thank the gentleman for his remarks. As I said, I once came to Chicago and visited the projects with Vince Lane shortly before I declared for President. And I would like to come again. And I do care a lot about what's going on there. And I'm encouraged by this meeting. And I want to thank Secretary Cisneros for so promptly responding to my request and going over there and spending the night and getting in closer touch with the situation. I feel better about it. And I hope we can do some things to help. I believe we can.
SECRETARY CISNEROS: Mr. President, thank you for calling. I'm going to sign off with Vince Lane saying a couple of words to you, and we'll close out. We appreciate your time very much. We know there's things swirling in the world and you've got a busy schedule, so we deeply appreciate your call.
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks.
MR. LANE: Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Hi, Vince.
MR. LANE: How are you?
THE PRESIDENT: Great.
MR. LANE: Mr. President, I want to say that this is a historic day in Chicago. We have a symbol here -- are people from all perspectives of this community. As you know, some of the things that we've had to do in order to try to protect life have been controversial; but in the end what I know, as you heard from Mr. Sistrunk(?) and from the Senator and the Congressman -- there we all have the same bottom line -- we've got to make this a safe place for poor black children in this city and in this country so that they can have the same opportunities as everyone else. And I know that with your leadership, under your leadership, and Secretary Cisneros and the leadership that you will bring and the champion of the efforts to redress the problems in Chicago with the Congress will yield us real longlasting permanent change in this country.
And so I just want to thank you for exercising the leadership that you have undertaken here with sending Secretary Cisneros and involving Janet Reno with addressing the problems here in public housing in Chicago.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you Vince, and thanks for blazing away for us and making people believe that we could actually do something to improve life in public housing. You showed me that it could be done years ago, and I'm convinced that maybe we can use this court decision as a spur to even do a better job, a more comprehensive job. We're going to do everything we possibly can.
MR. LANE: God bless you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks -- it's nice to hear your voice.
Goodbye, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you. (Applause.)
END10:37 A.M. EDT