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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 11, 1997
                       REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                       DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA PLAN

East Room

4:40 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much. Mr. Vice President, Representative Norton, Representative Moran, members of the administration, Mr. Mayor, Chairman Bremer, Mr. Evans, and especially all the citizens of the District of Columbia who are here today. You know, every year millions of visitors come here, but even those who don't come know a good deal about our Capital. America's eyes and the eyes of the world constantly focus on Washington. They see the good, and there is much good.

There is history here, everywhere -- tremendous resources and talent from all over the world. But there is more, as well. There are the people of the District, some of whose families have lived here for generations. They are hardworking and they are committed to making the community and their neighborhoods better. There are businesses which strive to make it, sometimes under very difficult conditions. There is much dedication and much heart.

In my State of the Union address, I said that we have to renew our Capital City, to make it the finest place to learn, to work and to live, because people here deserve no less and because the District matters beyond the city limits. The city is every American's home, and it should be every American's pride. Our Capital City must reflect the best of who we are, what we hope to become and where we are going.

Washington started as a planned city. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and a soldier and architect named Pierre L'Enfant shared a vision of order and beauty -- the boulevards, the museums, the monuments reflect their vision. But this is a different time and our city needs a new and different vision -- one that reaches where the magnificent vistas end; one that touches our schools where too often books and teachers are in short supply; our streets where too often children are robbed of their futures, their freedom, and law-abiding citizens too often live in fear of the few who break the law. One that touches the lives of those who want to be responsible in work, but lack the opportunity to do so. One that makes businesses want to locate here, to create jobs here, to give the community new economic life and spirit and vitality.

Our strategy must begin to reset the course for a better life for all who call the District home. Our challenge is to revitalize the city as the Nation's Capital, to improve the prospects of self-government to succeed, and to make it a place where people really want to live, to work, to do business. We can clearly do this.

From New York to Chicago to San Francisco we have seen new life brought to urban areas. Unemployment is down, crime is down, things are looking up. We know that if we empower people and we help them within the economic framework, they will do the rest, and that is the heart of our strategy.

Of course, our Capital City faces enormous challenges. Of course, these challenges are, to some extent, unique to D.C. and have been a long time in the making. But at least now we have a plan and we are committed. More of you in more ways than I have ever seen before are committed.

We at the federal level must help our Capital City to lift itself to the point where it can be a model for the nation for revitalization. Working together, we can and we must make Washington once again the proud face America shows to the world.

As the Vice President said, there are steps which have been taken already, but now it's time for the next step, our economic plan for the District of Columbia -- an important piece of a larger strategy, to build on the work begun and on what we have learned from success stories in other cities about what actually is working there. It reflects our agenda to revitalize urban America. It addresses the unique needs of the District. It recognizes that only the people of the District can lift it up in the end, so it gives people the tools to do the job.

Our $300 million plan has two parts: First, it will provide $250 million in federal tax incentives for jobs and capital to strengthen the economic base in our Capital City. Second, it will provide $50 million in federal commitment to help capitalize a new, non-federal public-private partnership, the D.C. Economic Development Corporation.

The Corporation will develop an economic development strategy, coordinate large-scale development projects, support efforts to create jobs and business opportunities. It will have broad powers to facilitate many existing plans such as the Monumental Corps, the Downtown Interactive and the New York Avenue plans. The Economic Development Corporation will be authorized to allocate a new D.C. Capital Credit, which will provide $95 million in tax credits for investors in and lenders to D.C. businesses. These credits will be worth up to 25 percent of the amount invested or borrowed. This will help to bring and keep businesses where jobs are needed, and they will be given on a competitive basis to investors and lenders who can do the most for the District and its people.

The Corporation will also have authority to issue tax-exempt private activity bonds to finance businesses in hard-hit areas. And it will be able to receive transfers of land or development rights from the federal government and from others. It will work with the National Capital Infrastructure Commission we're creating to make certain that infrastructure and economic development build on each other.

The Corporation will be a driving force for our Capital's renewal, for it to take its rightful place in the fast-growing economy of this region and in our nation. The federal government's investment of $50 million in the corporation is just a start. Our goal is to involve all sectors of the economy in helping the District.

Our plan also includes a new D.C. jobs credit, available to businesses in the District that hire low- or moderate-income residents living in economically distressed areas. It would provide a 40-percent tax credit on the first $10,000 of eligible wages in the first year of employment. This jobs credit builds on the work opportunity tax credit passed last year and my proposed welfare-to-work tax credit. Our plan will also allow small businesses in distressed area to deduct up to $20,000 in additional expenses for certain equipment costs. Just as we are committed to seeing that self-government works as it should, we have a commitment from the District government to cooperate fully in the Economic Development Corporation.

This is important, but we need more. I challenge business and community leaders to give their unqualified support to bringing back the District. If you're a business or an association in the District, don't give up on it. I commend the members of the National Association of Homebuilders, who decided to keep their headquarters here, because that's important for a truly national organization. And it's important for a truly international organization as well. I thank MCI for its decision to keep their offices in the District.

If you're a business making money in the District, then invest here. Follow the lead of Ford Motor Company, which is providing a line of credit to repair emergency police, fire and other vehicles, and Ford to set up an automotive program with three District schools.

I want to mention another example of good citizenship as well, and good business. Tomorrow, Secretary Cuomo will be on hand as Safeway opens a large supermarket in Southeast D.C. It sounds so basic to have access to a grocery store, but that area has not had one in 20 years. Safeway will create 200 new jobs. And we thank you, sir. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

I want to thank all the businesses who are here today for everything you do to support the District. I hope you will work with Director Raines and Secretary Rubin to develop concrete ways to participate with the Economic Development Corporation and the District and report back to me within 60 days.

The government will honor its commitment to the District. We know the federal presence here is critical to the local economy. We know that we must do more. And that is why I have issued a directive to ensure that agencies do all they can to stay here and to contribute here. We want to build on our presence wherever possible. For example, the Navy will boost employment at the Southeast Navy Yard by doubling its current levels by 2001, adding 5,000 jobs here in the District.

As District residents, the First Lady, the Vice President, Tipper and I will continue to do our part. Recently, the First Lady presented a check for $18 million to repair our city schools coming from the Privatization of Connie Lee -- the institution that insures college and university bonds. And our public-private partnership will now benefit District school children. The First Lady also challenged law firms -- I thought that was good -- we don't have any shortage of law firms in D.C. -- (laughter) -- to expand their efforts to adopt D.C. schools, to visit with students, to develop relationships with them and mentor them.

I'm proud of all the departments and agencies in the federal government that have adopted D.C. schools. And I would like to say a special word of thanks to my Secret Service detail who gave that to the First Lady and me as a Christmas present not very long ago. I couldn't imagine a better gift. And the work they do at the Kramer School is something that I am particularly proud of.

As the Vice President said, our administration has worked hard to be a good neighbor. But I've asked the Cabinet to do more. You will hear and see a lot of our Cabinet Secretaries in the District. You will see them doing things.

In the next two weeks, for example, Secretary Albright and Ambassador Richardson will adopt local schools to teach children about diplomacy and geography. Secretary Glickman will announce a renewed effort to glean surplus food from cafeterias at federal buildings to feed the hungry here in the District. And I'm asking all the Secretaries to report back to me within 90 days with a targeted plan of action for each department to do all it possibly can to help the District.

It has been said that Americans didn't think much of their capital until they had to defend it during attack in the War of 1812 when, as all of you know, in 1814 the White House was burned. In a way, history is repeating itself, because for too long, Americans have not thought enough about our Capital City. But Washington is still worth fighting for. In fact, it's more worth fighting for than ever.

The people I have seen who live in this city, who do miraculous things every day to try to help people make more of their own lives, to try to help kids in trouble, to try to turn things around and see people live up to their potential, deserve more than the rest of us have done. And I am determined that even though the solutions will not come overnight, we will provide our part of the effort. And, together, with local government and business, with the involvement of every citizen, we can have a strategy and implement a strategy that makes Washington the city we all know it ought to be, and that we must believe it will be.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 4:53 P.M. EST