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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 15, 1998
                     REMARKS BY THE VICE PRESIDENT 

9:17 A.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good morning. How are you all? (Applause.) Thank you very much. Welcome to the White House.

Welcome to the White House. Thank you very much. It's a beautiful day, and you've had a good pre-program, and I want to begin by acknowledging Chris Gates, President of the National Civic League; Jerry Choate, CEO of Allstate Insurance Co.; my colleague here in President Clinton's White House, Mickey Ibarra; and Lynn Cutler, Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs.

And we're very honored today to have such an outstanding group from the Senate and the House -- Senator Ted Kennedy; Senator Joe Lieberman; Senator Dick Lugar; Representative Rosa DeLauro; Representative Louise Slaughter; Representative Ken Calvert; Representative Lois Capps -- welcome to all of you. I don't think Michael Capuano is here yet, Congressman-elect, but he will be before the program is over, we expect.

And among the mayors who are here -- Mayor Paul Helmke of Fort Wayne; Mayor John D. Stefano of New Haven; Mayor Carleton Finkbeiner of Toledo; Mayor Ronald Loveridge of Riverside, CA; Mayor William Johnson, Jr., of Rochester; and Assemblyman Abel Maldonado of Santa Maria, CA; City Councilman William Baarsma of Tacoma, WA; Trustee Thomas Catillaz of Saranac Lake Village, NY -- did I pronounce your name right? -- Catillaz, sorry. And CEO Liane Levetan of Dekalb County, GA, the county executive; and Mr. Guy Santagate, City Manager of Chelsea, MA -- did I pronounce your name right?


THE VICE PRESIDENT: Okay. All right. I'm one for two, so far. (Laughter.) Well, this is a great, special time for me. The holiday season at the White House is particularly enjoyable because when people leave and say they saw the tree at the White House, there's a fifty-fifty chance they're not talking about me this time of year. (Laughter.)

Oh, well. You've got to try, right, Ted? (Laughter.)

We're here today to celebrate many things -- the innovation and leadership of some of America's best mayors; the new spirit sweeping communities across America; the life and energy returning to some of America's oldest neighborhoods; and a new recognition across the land of a very simple fact: if our country is going to be strong, our cities must be strong.

You know, it wasn't very long ago that a lot of people were willing to just about throw in the towel on America's cities. There were a lot of factors involved: changing economic patterns -- I think some racial attitudes were also definitely a factor in the abandonment of the cities -- transportation trends -- a lot of things -- crime. For a lot of reasons, we saw a trend where people just kind of gave up a little bit on cities.

And that was a bad time for our country. Years of neglect had left many people to believe that our cities' best days were behind them. You could almost hear in people's words, the way they used the word "city" as a symbol for everything they thought was wrong with America.

Well, together we're now beginning to turn things around. Under President Clinton's leadership, we have not only had this incredible economic renaissance in America -- and next month, you know, it's going to be the longest economic recovery period in the entire history of the United States of America, if it keeps going, and every sign is that, of course, it will -- we've not only had all that burst of economic growth, it's also come in a pattern that's different from some of the economic booms we've had in the past. This time, the cities have not been left behind. This time, the cities have been in the vanguard, leading the way. Because we've been trying to refocus investment and energy and hope back into the center of our cities -- with Brown Fields and community policing, welfare-to-work tax credits and all kinds of other policies that all have the same goal: bringing our cities back to life.

The Community Empowerment program has been the crown jewel of all these policies and even the ones that didn't win the designation put together these extremely impressive plans that brought the public and private sectors together across the jurisdictional lines and really began to get everybody pulling in the same direction. And it has been an exciting time for those and other reasons.

So we're here today to celebrate some of the cities that are leading the way and helping to prove what Teddy Roosevelt said 104 years ago, when the National Civic League was founded. He said, "There are many ways in which a man or a woman can work for the higher life of American cities."

Some of the cities here today are being celebrated for designing programs to get children off the streets and into better lives. Some are being honored for providing affordable housing. Others have worked to bring an end to gang violence; to bring green spaces back to our inner cities; to expand downtown businesses; and even provide a safe haven where victims of domestic violence can go to find safety and security, and begin to get their lives back together.

And we've been proud to play a role. The budget we fought for and signed just a few months ago is the best budget for America's cities in more than a decade. It includes a second round of empowerment zones; a down payment on 100,000 new, well-trained teachers; and more than twice the funding to clean up contaminated Brown Fields.

And I do want to acknowledge that the municipal leaders who are gathered here today, and your colleagues around the country, are really showing us the way. We've learned from you; we've abandoned the old notion that there was a one-size-fits-all blueprint, designed in Washington, that could be imposed on every city regardless of the shape, size or character of that city. Instead we have let you draw the blueprints up, given you some advice on what the general guidelines and principles are, and then we've worked in partnership with you in order to empower you and give you the tools to succeed.

The ten cities we celebrate today -- and we're going to do the awards individually here -- the ten cities come from different regions, with different challenges and different opportunities. But they do teach us one thing in common: when Americans work together as partners -- when business, labor and government all focus together on the issues that unite us rather than divide us -- miraculous things can happen.

That's the common, unifying message of all the cities that you're going to see honored up here in just a moment. And, of course, it's a message that's particularly appropriate in the holiday season that we're celebrating now. For all of the awards we're bestowing, these all-American cities have already won something else a lot more important, and that is a better life for their citizens. That's really what has motivated you, and so I'll close by saying congratulations to all of the award-winners here this morning, and keep up the good work.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 9:23 A.M. EST