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.