Thursday, July 31, 2008


Today I addressed an audience of close to 1,000 guests during the 2008 National Urban
League Annual Conference in Orlando. I spoke about the U.S. Conference of Mayors' urban priorities and agenda, in the midst of the 2008 presidential campaign. Below are my comments from the Conference:

Good morning - it is truly an honor to be here with you - thank you for inviting me.

And thank you for your work to empower all people.

Thank you for what you represent..... nearly a century of service toward others........the oldest civil rights organization in America.

At the conference of mayors, we are proud of our shared history, working with great leaders like Whitney Young, Vernon Jordan and Ron Brow.

We have secured billions for cities, producing jobs and opportunities for millions of Americans to work their way from poverty to prosperity.

And of course today, you have one of the strongest leaders in America--Marc Morial

Marc......once a mayor, always a mayor…

As President of the Conference of Mayors, Marc led us through one of America’s most difficult and darkest moments—

After 9/11, Marc called on America’s mayors to work together...... to wipe away the tears from the pain —and, in so doing, helped to lead and inspire other mayors and cities to move our country forward at a time when Washington seemed paralyzed and confused.

Our country was blessed and continues to be blessed with your leadership. Thank you, Marc.

I am privileged to be the Mayor of the City of Miami.

A city built on the aspirations and the dreams of so many who have come to America searching for freedom, searching for a better life.

It is what this country gave my family, and it is what this country gave me.
I came to the United States when I was 6 years old, on a freedom flight sitting on my mother’s lap,

Fleeing a place where the government denies its people the very freedoms and opportunities we so cherish.

We saw this country as so many others still do, as a beacon for hope, as a land of boundless opportunity.

My mom and dad worked two to three jobs at any one time.

They cleaned toilets, parked cars, washed dishes - and yet, there was never despair.

They knew....that if you work hard, you can provide your children a better life.

We lived in a clean, safe neighborhood. I went to a public school and enjoyed after school activities.

I worked as a school janitor making $1.10 an hour through the CETA program.

Student loans made it possible for me to attend college and earn a law degree.

At every turn of my life, especially in my youth, I benefited from a partnership.

Because government invested in me, I can now give back, as Mayor of Miami, and President of The US Conference of Mayors.

Not long ago, I spoke at a naturalization ceremony. I could not help but remember the day that I raised my right hand to swear allegiance to this great nation.

As I looked out at the crowd of over 3,000, from all corners of the world..............from every walk of life...........all eager to join this great American democracy, I asked myself, do they see the same things in America that I saw all those years ago?

Is this country still willing to provide the tools necessary for advancement?

Is America still willing to invest in its people?

Does a six year old child today have the same access to opportunity that I did, or that any of us did?

This is a time when Washington has lost its values----- lost its principles – lost its sense of purpose –

They no longer invest in our cities, they no longer invest in our people.

Plain and simple, they have abandoned us.

They engage in endless debate and partisan bickering - meanwhile people throughout this country continue to suffer.

We see what happened in New Orleans, in Minneapolis, in Des Moines – but let’s look deeper:

Over 60% of America’s children don’t read or perform math at grade level, the number is higher if you are black or Latino.

In our largest cities, over 50% of children don’t make it past high school.

Is education a local problem or an American problem?

1 in every 6 children lives in poverty, with nearly half living in extreme poverty – the numbers are higher for minorities.

If you are a young black male, you have a 1 in 3 chance of going to jail, 1 in 4 if you are Latino.

Close to 10 million children in this country have no health insurance, part of the 47 million in this country who are uninsured.

Are poverty and health a local problem or an American problem?

Many middle class Americans are one paycheck, one sickness away from economic catastrophe.

35 million Americans go hungry, including nearly 13 million children.

Is hunger a local problem or is it an American problem?

Americans are being priced out of their homes or losing their homes at alarming rates.

And the number of homeless is still at unacceptable levels.

Is housing a local problem or an American problem?

We see violence increase in our cities. Today, there are more gang members in America than there are police officers.

Youth violence accounts for 20% of all violence and is the second leading cause of death among our youth. Young people killing young people.

And we continue to have the highest incarceration rate in the world.

Is crime a local problem or is it an American problem?

Gasoline is now over $4 a gallon - rising food prices, rising medical costs – hitting each and every one of us in the wallet.

Is our economy a local problem or is it an American problem?

These are not just Democrat or Republican problems, these are America’s problems.

And yet, where is the federal government? Cuts to education, to housing, health, public safety, youth programs, economic development, job training, arts, infrastructure...

Government investment in our cities and in our people......... all cut.

When Washington does act, it is to clean up a mess that should never have happened in the first place.

Just look at the recent housing bill signed by the president yesterday…

A fix for a problem that mayors saw coming, a problem that would not have happened had those in Washington heard our cry for help…

For the first time in our history, we are in real danger of failing to give our children a better world than the one our parents left us.

We are danger of raising a forgotten generation.

Solutions are not coming from Washington. Solutions are coming from our cities - from our urban cores.

We drive the national economy.

Metro areas are responsible for over 85% of all jobs, income and our gross domestic product.

We address the issues that matter to people the most.

We provide the front line.......the last hope.......... that in cities......... not all is lost.

Cities are not the problem, cities are the solution.

When faced with inaction on climate change, it was Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels who brought over 870 mayors together to implement the Kyoto Protocol.

Mayors like Richard Daley of Chicago and Will Wynn of Austin are showing the nation that you can have economic development and an environmental conscience.

When illegal guns and assault weapons flooded city streets, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Tom Menino raised their voices against violence in our cities.

Faced with cuts to federal programs that help the most vulnerable, mayors like Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles took poverty reduction head on.

While the federal government claims to leave no child behind.....we know better,
which is why mayors like Mike Coleman of Columbus and Shirley Franklin of Atlanta developed education policies that put children first.

While congress gives us multi-million dollar bridges to nowhere, mayors like John Hickenlooper of Denver are demanding a long-term, common sense infrastructure investment in America.

And, when our cities break because of federal neglect, it is mayors like R.T. Rybak of Minneapolis and Frank Cownie of Des Moines that are left to heal a city’s grieving soul.

America’s cities-- we are the government of first resort - but we should not have to be the government of last resort.

So it is that today we face a moment of choice.

In November, we will go to the polls to elect the next president – we demand, the American people demand an accountable federal partner.

We are prepared to sit down and work with Senator Obama. We are prepared to sit down and work with Senator McCain.

Next week, we will begin our Mayor’s March across America.

Five forums in five cities in sixty days…

Our forums will focus on:

Crime and public safety...... keeping America’s families and neighborhoods safe

Poverty, jobs and economic opportunity for all Americans

Preserving our environment and sustaining America’s economic independence for generations to come

Investing in our America’s infrastructure and building our country’s resources

And economic stimulus though tourism, arts and culture.

From these forums we will develop and advocate for the urban agenda-- the agenda of empowerment-- the agenda for the first 100 days of the next administration.

And we do this because we know the opportunities this country still holds... the promise it stands for.

And we do this because America is the only country in the world that inspires a dream.

It was a phrase coined in the early part of the last century during the great depression –A dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for all.

Mayors have never lost sight of that. The national urban league has never lost sight of that.

And it does not matter if we are Democrats, Republicans, or Independents.

This is a defining moment for our country.

We all have a great duty - to make our next president understand
that an investment in America’s cities is an investment in America’s future.

That our next president should be mayor of the United States.

World powers compete for economic strength, China, Russia, India, Brazil, and others who are gaining on us by investing in their people, investing in their cities, investing in their nations.

If we fail to do the same, we know from history, that we will no longer be competitive, that the world will pass us by.

It is not a question of whether we should invest - it is our mandate- it is why we exist - it is our most solemn duty as a nation -

To leave cities where poverty is not a lifelong sentence, but a temporary condition to be overcome –

To leave cities that combine economic prosperity with environmental sustainability –

To leave cities where our children can receive the best education, afford a home, hold a good paying job, have access to the arts and live in clean and safe neighborhoods –

To leave cities where everyone has access to the promises of the dream -

I ask you, I need you,to join us in this challenge – to fulfill this duty – to make an investment in our cities, an investment in our people,

So that our children and their children may inherit cities.........may inherit a country better than was left to us.
Thank you and God bless.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

USCM President Manny Diaz Releases Statement on Senate Passage of Housing Bill

I recently released a statement commending the Senate and House for passage of a Housing Bill which will go very far in assisting our nation's communities in the present foreclosure crisis. Along with the nation's mayors, I now urge President Bush to sign the bill as soon as possible. Below is my full statement:

As President of The U.S. Conference of Mayors, and on behalf of the American people and America's cities, we commend the Senate, specifically Senators Harry Reid and Christopher Dodd, for their courage and action today in the passage of this most urgent and landmark housing bill. We also commend House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for standing with us, and we urge President Bush to sign this act immediately.

We stand ready to work with Washington as we go forward to stabilize our neighborhoods and further assure that millions of Americans are provided a Federal Government that will never again permit the pain and economic hardship caused to millions of our people by the current home mortgage crisis.

Further, this legislation contains proposed reforms that the US Conference of Mayors has advocated for years. Together, we urge that Federal officials to work directly with the nation’s mayors in a true federal-city partnership to establish a new federal-city working governmental structure that will benefit our citizens and their housing needs – so critical during the economic challenges America faces in 2008.

Commission Approves Vision of Miami

At the City Commission Meeting on July 24, the Commission voted to approve several measures that will help define Miami as one of the world’s greatest cities. Commissioners voted to approve the Coconut Grove Waterfront Master Plan, create the Wynwood CafĂ© District, and provide funding for the Miami Art Museum’s (MAM) future facility at Museum Park. The greatest cities in the world are created because of vision and proper planning to make dreams a reality. Our Commission has shown true leadership and belief in the future of Miami.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Saluting "Mr. Diabetes"

I recognized Mr. Andy Mandell-Mr. Diabetes®, Executive Director of the Defeat Diabetes Foundation, at the City Commission meeting on July 24. Mr. Mandell, a Florida resident, is undertaking an epic walk around the perimeter of United States, more than 10,000 miles, to raise awareness about the dangers of diabetes. So far, he has completed over 9,600 miles of his journey.

I applaud this man's effort to bring awareness to an increasing health crisis which has affected so many families across the nation, including my own.

Kagoshima Visit

I recently had the pleasure of welcoming Kagoshima, Japan Mayor Hiroyuki Mori and his delegation to Miami. Their two-day visit marks the 18th year of the Miami-Kagoshima Sister Cities relationship and its continuing growth and expansion. This year's visit aims to explore environmental interests shared by Miami and Kagoshima as well as educational exchanges for students and business opportunities for our cruise lines and other local businesses.

I recognized the Mayor and his delegation at the City Commission meeting on July 24, and joined Mayor Mori and his delegation for a tree planting ceremony to celebrate the restoration of the Ichimura Miami-Japan Garden at Jungle Island.

U.S. Conference of Mayors President Manny Diaz Releases Statement on Foreclosure Prevention Act

I was encouraged by recent reports, confirmed by the White House, that President Bush has dropped his opposition to the Foreclosure Prevention Housing Act which contains the much needed investment of the $3.9 billion dollar neighborhood stabilization initiative that is direly needed to meet the national problems that now exist in our cities due to the national home mortgage crisis.

As President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, I now join with the nation's mayors in calling for the legislation's swift passage in both the House and the Senate. Below is my full statement:

“As President of the United States Conference of Mayors, I --- along with the nation’s mayors --- are pleased with recent reports confirmed by the White House that President Bush has dropped his opposition to the Foreclosure Prevention Housing Act with contains the much needed investment of the $3.9 billion dollar neighborhood stabilization initiative that is direly needed to meet the national problems that now exist in our cities due to the national home mortgage crisis.

We now call on the House and the Senate to rapidly approve this legislation to be sent immediately to the White House for Presidential signature.

At issue and the critical issue today --- is the method of distribution of this national investment.

As the President of the U. S. Conference of Mayors I speak for the nations’ mayors and we pledge full cooperation with the Administration and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to make certain that this national investment of federal money is forwarded to our cities in a fair and targeted distribution formula to meet the needs of our people --- to repair the present devastation --- to prevent further devastation to the life savings of our people, the majority, living and working in many neighborhoods of our cities across America..” .

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


On Thursday, June 17, as President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, along with USCM Executive Director and CEO Tom Cochran, I announced the Mayors ’08 Action Forums. These forums are part of a national tour to five major American cities, where the nation’s mayors will forge an action agenda for cities and metropolitan areas. These recommendations will be presented to the next President of the United States during the critical first 100 days of the new administration.

Philadelphia, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Miami are the five cities that will be hosting the forums, which will take place between August and October. The forums will focus on five areas that mayors believe are in need of significant federal investment and are at the center of the Mayors’ 10 Point Plan: crime, poverty, arts – culture - tourism, infrastructure, and environment.

Below is a copy of my comments from the press conference announcing the Mayors '08 Action Forums:

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you all for being here today for this important announcement.

I am Manny Diaz, Mayor of Miami and President of the United States Conference of Mayors.

I am joined by Executive Director and CEO of the Conference, Tom Cochran.

(Also with us is President of the Police Executive Research Forum, Miami Police Chief John Timoney)

We are here today to talk about critical issues that are affecting the American people, America’s cities, and the next president of the United States.

Before we talk about that, we need to talk about a vitally important issue and debate that is taking place in Washington relating to the national foreclosure crisis.

This year 2.2 million families will lose their homes to foreclosure.

Beyond the devastating effect of these losses on these families, foreclosure will leave blight and economic devastation behind in our cities and our neighborhoods.

Too many cities are already seeing the effects of growing numbers of foreclosures.

We commend Speaker Pelosi, Chairman Frank, Majority Leader Reid and Senator Dodd for their leadership.

The Foreclosure Prevention Act provides $300 billion in loan guarantees, $130 (check number) million for homeownership counseling, and $3.9 billion for neighborhood stabilization.

Funds would come directly to cities. Funds that are critically needed to stabilize neighborhoods in cities all over the country

The blight and devastation left behind hits hard-working men, women and families who don’t have a foreclosure problem, but are left to face declining property values and a loss of their life’s savings.

Reports indicate President Bush has threatened to veto this bill, basing that decision on the 3.9 billion Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

There is too much at stake for the president to veto this bill
We respectfully request President Bush to sign this legislation when it reaches his desk and that he reject his advisors’ bad advice to veto this bill.

We are also, with all due respect, informing and warning President Bush that if he does use the veto power and does not sign this bill, then the mayors of the country will stand for our people and make every effort to override a presidential veto.

Should the president veto this bill the US Conference of Mayors will call on every city and every mayor in the country to join us in this effort, and we will prevail.

Today we are (also) announcing that between now and October - and before the presidential election in November - the mayors of the country will be holding a series of five Action Forums on key issues and concerns.

These five action forums will bring mayors together in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and here in Miami, to build on our mayors 10-point plan …
“Strong cities, strong families for a strong America”.

Discussions are underway to ensure that senior policy advisors with Senator Obama’s and Senator McCain’s campaigns participate in each of these forums.

These are issues of vital importance to cities across the country and more importantly, the people who live in them

The nation’s cities and metropolitan areas are where 85 percent of the American people live.

And it is well documented (metro economic reports) that the country’s cities and metro areas are unquestionably the engines that drive the national economy.

(Mayors enjoy higher approval ratings than our elected federal officials, much higher. (Zogby – Jan))

The purpose of these forums is to forge a plan of action for America’s cities for the next president.

The mayors of the country want to see these recommendations included in the next president’s proposals to congress, and implemented in the first 100 days of the next administration.

The five issue areas are:
Energy and the environment
Crime and public safety
Reducing and breaking the cycle of poverty in this country,
Infrastructure investment and development, and
The economic impact of arts, culture and travel

Washington has not acted on these issues and it has had a duty to.
These are national problems that demand national investment

These are important core issues for America’s cities and for the American people

The first Action Forum on Crime and Public Safety will be hosted by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter Tuesday, August 5.

Mayors from all over the country will be joined by police chiefs, the Police Executive Research Forum – PERF and others.

Crime numbers in America today tell a story, but unfortunately a negative one that city residents do not want to hear.

While some statistics showed a small decrease in violent crime last year, others saw increases.

The statistics for 2007 are preliminary, but in 2006, many cities saw double-digit increases in murder, assaults, and robberies.

The FBI estimates there are 800,000 gang members nationwide, more than the total number of law enforcement officers.
30,000 Americans are killed every year as a result of gun violence, and the recent Supreme Court decision striking down the D.C. gun ban will do nothing to reduce that number.

Our police officers and the people they serve are under attack by criminals using assault weapons and ridiculous loopholes in gun sales continue unaddressed,

According to a Zogby poll released at our winter meeting in January of this year, the American people today are more concerned about street crime and neighborhood criminals than international terrorists.
Without a federal partnership that provides resources, personnel and technological support, these crime statistics are unlikely to change.

In Los Angeles, the country’s mayors will come together to forge a plan to reduce and break the cycle of poverty.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa led our task force on poverty, work and opportunity last year and has made a strong recommendation to the next U.S. President to appoint a top White House presidential advisor to work directly with mayors and cities.

Nearly 36 million Americans live in poverty, with a family of earning less than $20,000 for a family of four in 2007.

Statistics for children living in poverty are even worse.

Annually, one in six children in the United States is living in poverty and poor children are more likely to die in infancy, as well as go without healthcare, housing or adequate nutrition.

We commend New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg who has begun a national dialogue around redefining poverty in 2008.

A revised poverty definition is critical to break the cycle of endemic poverty so that all of our cities’ residents can thrive.

In New York City, hosted by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, our focus will be on infrastructure investment and development.

The American Society of Civil Engineers has given the country a D+ rating for all of our infrastructure systems.
A poor rating by any standard, but Washington has ignored this.

The state of America dictates that we must invest more on our transit, and water systems.

But we must also invest smarter – especially in this era of rising gas prices.

Our country has spent years building outward from cities – expanding highways and ignoring the needs of our cities and metropolitan areas where the overwhelming majority of Americans live and work.

Higher energy costs and higher transportation costs are forcing us to rethink how we develop.
Miami, like many other cities can and will continue to absorb more people.

Our transportation must be able to help us move people in a way that supports a better quality of life.

As for water and sewer infrastructure, city and local governments have been paying for 95 percent of the services provided to city residents, while the federal government only covers less than 5 percent. This translates into cities spending twenty dollars for every one dollar spent by the federal government.

Some cities have pipes that are over 100 years old and these are the essential systems that underpin this nation’s economy.

Further, while some schoolhouses in this country withstood the winds of Hurricane Katrina, many were not wired for the Internet.

Our nation’s schools must be modernized so our children can compete globally.

In Chicago, our forum will focus on the economic impact of the arts, culture and travel, (including tourism).
Mayors are leaders and mayors acutely understand that the arts, humanities, culture and museums, are critical to the quality of life and livability of America’s cities.
Mayors are also acutely aware of the economic role the arts play.

Studies have shown that the non-profit arts and culture industry generates over $166 billion in economic activity each year and supports almost 6 (5.7) million full-time jobs, returning more than $12 billion in federal income taxes annually.

Governments that support the arts see an average rate of return on investment of over $7 in taxes for every $1 that they appropriate.

Travel and tourism are critical elements of many of our city economies regardless of where the city is in the country.

Since 9/11, while the world tourism market has expanded rapidly, the U.S. share of international travel has declined 17 percent.

Yet, our national government does not spend any money to promote travel to the U.S. while France and many other European countries spend millions to market their countries to attract travelers.

The nation’s mayors will be calling for the new President to create a new cabinet level secretary of culture and tourism.

And we will conclude the tour here in Miami on October 2nd with an Action Forum on Energy and the Environment.

The American people are faced with rising energy costs. We are approaching $5 per gallon for gas, and many are being faced with the difficult choice between gas and food or gas and medicines (prescription drugs).
Scientists are now telling us that the world’s (icecap) is melting even faster than they predicted one year ago. Mayors know how to act and are acting now.

This is why 870 mayors and climbing have already pledged to do their part and take aggressive actions to reduce carbon emissions in their cities over the next five years.

Mayors want Washington to get moving and get serious about real energy independence, greater efficiency and increased energy conservation.

Oil industry leader T. Boone Pickens challenged America last week to get serious about stopping the enormous outflow of our economy to pay for oil -- $700 billion just this year, most of which flows to countries outside of the U.S.

Mayors are leading on energy efficiency and in the face of this challenge are acting to use more domestic energy sources – wind power, solar power, and are shifting to non-gasoline fuels to power the transportation sector.

To get started, we have worked with congress and the president to authorize $10 billion for cities over the next five years to address this challenge.

If we do this right, we can save people money, ensure that our cities and communities prosper and at the same time create millions of new green jobs.

Five core issues that matter to Americans – the issues of the American people - five forums in five cities – ninety days….
Thank you very much. We’ll be glad to take any questions.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Critical Mass and the Bike Action Plan

Today is the 2nd anniversary of Critical Mass in the City of Miami. Critical Mass is a monthly bike ride planned and organized through Emerge Miami, a local activist organization that engages a broad spectrum of issues including environmental sustainability, education, and alternative transportation.

There was much to celebrate when the bike ride stopped for a lunch break at Peacock Park. Members of my Bike Action Committee and I were on hand to discuss bike routes throughout Miami where cyclists use them most. It was an informal event, but also an important one, with nearly 50 riders participating. Results from these conversations and from a brief online bicycling survey put together by Critical Mass/Emerge Miami (that you can fill out here) will be used in the City of Miami Bike Action Plan. The Plan, which I will bring to the City Commission this Fall, details the ways that we are working together to make Miami a bike-friendly city for everyone.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

DC, Climate Change, and Inaction

Of the many great lessons one learns from being mayor, one is the disconnect between local and federal governments - take climate change for instance.

Over 850 of my colleagues and I have signed on to the US Climate Protection Agreement to bring our cities in compliance with the Kyoto Protocol - Cities are also engaged in ways to reach this target, implementing climate action plans - here in Miami, among other things - we are mandating green buildings, we solar power city hall, and I have a hybrid. As you can imagine, taking these green steps requires funding -

The nation's mayors convinced the federal government to make an investment in green cities through the Energy and Environment Block Grants program - The bill passed Congress and was signed by the President, but here's the twist - they approved the "concept" but attached no money to it - then I read a story about how Congress' approval rating is at single digits

I can see why...






Washington, DC – “The nation’s mayors are shocked and dismayed over the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee action to cast aside the fully authorized and nationally-accepted delivery system to provide energy efficiency block grants to cities, towns, counties and states that would have provided essential funds to move our nation forward toward energy independence and climate protection.

“While Washington was asleep on this issue, I along with my mayoral colleagues have led the way to confront this national problem. Today, more than 870 Mayors have signed the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, committing to take city actions to reduce energy consumption and curb carbon emissions below 1990 levels by 2012.

“We are allocating local funds to cope with this national problem, absent a national investment from Washington. We have the American people with us. The nation’s mayors have been working on a daily basis, providing leadership on this issue through partnerships with nonprofits, civic and religious groups, and the academic and business sectors to secure funding for our energy block grant delivery system, established by Congress and signed into law last year by President Bush.

“We stand poised and ready to take action. This is a national problem that demands a national investment from Washington now, not later. The Senate Subcommittee has chosen to ignore and act against last year’s approved delivery system. Instead of funding this critical block grant program for cities, counties, and states, the panel approved a mere $50 million in discretionary funds that ultimately will result in precious earmarks for a precious few.

“If the Senate allows this action to stand, it will be another glaring example of how Washington is out of touch with the American people, and ignores the dire need for national investment that is required now. This is not the time to delay; it is the time to act. The clock on global warming is ticking away on all of us, and for generations that come after.

“Today, we send billions of dollars to Washington to invest in solutions to America's problems and challenges, and to do so in an equitable manner. We call upon the full Senate Appropriations Committee to correct this misstep, and affirm the established block grant system, as approved last year.

“We commend House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who worked with us to establish the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program; and encouraged and supported funding for the program through a delivery system to cities, counties and states to help us act on this critical national challenge. Mayors hailed her leadership on this landmark legislation.

We also commend House Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Pete Visclosky, Representative Chaka Fattah, and Members of the entire House Appropriations Committee who found the resources in the budget and voted $295 million to be distributed throughout the nation under this energy block grant delivery system.

“Our Mayors Ten-Point Plan for cities called for a $4 billion annual commitment to this program structure, a funding level that will be effectively utilized by communities throughout the country.

“Today, I am calling upon city, county and state leaders to stand with us and the American people to direct our political energy to persuade the Senate to respond and send our taxpayers’ money back to us to help us fight the economic and environmental threats of climate change and energy dependence.”


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Housing Bill and DC

Released today - The President and Congress must help cities fix this issue.


Diaz Says Foreclosure Crisis is A National Problem Demanding a National Investment

Washington, D.C. – "When Congress returns from the July 4th recess, the Senate and House are expected to take action on a major bill (HR 3221) that proposes $300 billion in loan guarantees to help families who face losing their homes to foreclosure. Included in this bill is a $4 billion measure for neighborhood stabilization that would help cities and localities to deal with the growing number of vacant and abandoned properties left behind from foreclosures. The media has extensively covered the impact of these properties on communities all over the country, and from all accounts, it appears that this is becoming a major national crisis.

"The White House and Congress must recognize that this is a national problem – not a local problem -- that demands national investment. This devastation was caused by Washington, and Washington is obligated to do what is right to fix it. Cities and Americans send trillions of dollars to Washington. It is time for Washington to recognize and meet its obligation by sending these funds back to us to stabilize our neighborhoods.

"As members of Congress return to their respective districts, the nation’s mayors believe it will be impossible for our legislators to avoid the impact of foreclosures and the resulting vacant properties on their communities. Vacant properties create real challenges. Overgrown grass, abandoned houses requiring maintenance and the increased police presence necessary in many of these neighborhoods are a constant drain on city budgets which are losing revenue due to a decline in property tax revenues. All of this creates unstable neighborhoods and a loss in the quality of life for homeowners. In addition, the damage this does to our neighborhoods stunts economic growth and is detrimental to the resurgence that many communities were experiencing.

"While we believe that $300 billion for loan guarantees and $150 million for counseling are both necessary to address the problem, we are appalled at what this mortgage crisis has done to destroy neighborhoods in cities and metropolitan areas across the country. According to a recent Conference of Mayors survey of vacant and abandoned properties in cities, the problem is already severe and is only expected to worsen in the coming months. The audacity of Congress to pass legislation without an acknowledgment of the deterioration of American neighborhoods is simply unconscionable.

"The nation’s mayors hope when our federal legislators return to Washington, that they do so with a renewed resolve to help American families who are struggling daily to keep their heads above water. We strongly urge Congress to enact this critical legislation leaving intact the $4 billion for neighborhood stabilization. To do anything less would be a grave disservice to the people we serve."