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Coles: The New American City
Gore and Bush Commit to Strong Mayoral Participation in Presidential Transition

By Ed Somers

Outgoing Conference President Wellington E. Webb (r) passes the gavel to Boise Mayor and Conference President H. Brent Coles (l). Conference Executive Director J. Thomas Cochran looks on.
Boise Mayor H. Brent Coles assumed the presidency of The United States Conference of Mayors at its annual meeting in Seattle, June 9-13, stating that the nation's mayors will be strong players during the Presidential campaign season and transition, working to ensure that the policies of the next administration support the nation's critical metro economies and the people that live and work in these metro/regional areas.

Coles commended outgoing Conference President Denver Mayor Wellington E. Webb for developing his 10-point New Agenda for America's Cities which Coles said, "is a road map that will define the course of this organization for many years to come."

Coles added that "Wellington Webb has done an incredible job leading this organization this past year, building that momentum. He has worked tirelessly... He has rightfully positioned the cities of the world and the mayors of this world to lead the global economy. I think that in years to come, there will be mayors who will say with pride - I helped develop the Agenda for the New Millennium."

In focusing on the year ahead, Coles said, "We intend to be at the table on issues that face us and with your help and support and the fine work of the Conference staff, we will make significant inroads." To that end, the Conference adopted a resolution entitled "Mayors and the Presidential Transition" which emerged from a special leadership meeting held Saturday, June 10 in Seattle during the annual meeting. Both Vice President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush pledged that mayors will be a part of forming the new government in their respective addresses to the Conference.

"But, in the true spirit of the entrepreneurial mayor, we are not going to sit around waiting to see what happens with the presidential election. We are going to do what mayors and what this organization are known for - getting things done. We want to make those 10 points a reality and no matter who is President, and we will do it. I also know we cannot do it all at once. So, I have tried to identify some pieces of the agenda for us to focus on this next year," Coles added.

Coles said, "I am excited about this, because I know what mayors are best at is getting things done. Tom Cochran says this organization isn't a think tank - it's a do tank. And he's right. So, I would like to share with you some of the goals of the 10-point plan that I think we should work on in the next year."

In further defining his agenda as President, Coles said, "We can strengthen and maintain the growth of the 'New American City' by focusing our attention on four areas: 1) The well being of the family; 2) The livability of communities and neighborhoods in which we live and work; 3) Educating the workforce of the new millennium; and 4) Building infrastructure to connect metro economies. Following are the highlights of the Coles agenda.

1) The well being of the family
Strong, healthy families are the foundation upon which vibrant, livable cities are built. Mayors play an active role in assuring that families have the necessary resources available to them. Cities are key partners in the effort to meet the needs of 21st Century families.

Drug Control/Public Safety - The USCM will continue to take an active role in supporting policies and programs to prevent crime. Mayors will pursue policies to enhance drug treatment, prevention, and enforcement programs. The Conference will actively pursue recommendations from the CASA report "No Place to Hide" and will support demonstration projects to specifically address the problems associated with methamphetamine use and production. The USCM will actively pursue drug treatment programs in prisons, including pre-release drug tests for prisoners.

Human Dignity - The USCM will foster the values of civility, tolerance, and respect in families, neighborhoods, the workplace, and in city hall. In advancing tolerance and diversity, the USCM will affirm that there should be "no reason to hide" for any American. School Programs Supporting Families - Mayors will support efforts to develop before- and after-school programs, especially where there is a single parent or both parents are working. Partnerships will be encouraged between cities, school districts, churches, and local non-profit agencies to create and operate these programs. An asset approach will be emphasized by the USCM.

2) The livability of communities and neighborhoods in which we live and work
Because cities are the engines that drive our nation's economy, generating 86 percent of the nation's economic growth between 1992 and 1997, careful attention must be given to assure the continued livability and vitality of cities. In particular, mayors must apply 21st Century solutions to the issues facing the New American City. Smart Growth - The USCM will continue to support Smart Growth techniques as a way of assuring the sustainability of cities and to limit the impact of urban sprawl. Efforts toward regional coordination and cooperation will be emphasized.

Technology - A Smart Cities Initiative will demonstrate how cities can build partnerships to assure the development of technology infrastructure necessary to meet the needs and challenges of the 21st Century. Incorporating the latest communications technology and broadband capability in newly developed or redeveloped areas is critical to the continued economic health of cities. The USCM will also support efforts to bridge the digital divide and make technology available to all citizens, especially the most vulnerable: children, seniors, and those with disabilities.

Parks and Open Space - The USCM will actively support the creation of partnerships and coalitions to invest in parks and open space. The Conference will support legislation to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Urban Parks and Recreation Recovery Program and calls on federal and state governments to be more accountable for these funds.

3) Educating the workforce of the new millennium
Attention to technology advancements is vital for the New American City. The continued health of the economy will rest, in part, on developing a 21st Century workforce. Mayors must work in partnership with the public and private sector to assure that all our citizens have access to computers and the Internet.

Technology in Schools - Mayors will work with local school districts, federal and state governments to assure that all classrooms in all schools are equipped with up-to-date technology including Internet/Intranet connections and that teachers are appropriately trained.

Technology Training - The USCM will support programs to provide training and internships to prepare minorities and low-income workers for information technology jobs. Cities will be encouraged to provide basic technology training to their employees to expand computer expertise and workplace literacy.

4) Building infrastructure to connect metro economies
Metropolitan and regional economies will stagnate if we do not maintain the ability to move goods and services readily between cities and regions. Mayors will take the lead in developing a broad national rail policy for commerce and commuters.

Rail System Restoration - Mayors will support efforts to restore or develop rail lines to move goods, services, and people between and among the regional economies. The USCM will support legislation to finance the use of rail for both commercial and commuter use.

Airport Viability - Mayors recognize the vital importance of airports to link metro economies in the U.S. and abroad. The USCM will support legislation and partnerships to strengthen and assure the viability of airports.

To work on these issues, Mayor Coles announced that he will form the following teams to address critical issues facing the nation's mayors in 2000-2001. The teams will work with the presidential campaigns to educate them about issues of concern to the Conference of Mayors. The teams will work over the summer and report and make recommendations at the September Leadership meeting in Boise/Sun Valley. They will also assist in the planning of best practices sessions to be held during the next year.

  1. Drug Control/Public Safety
  2. Human Dignity/Human Rights and Diversity
  3. After School Programs/Youth Assets Development
  4. Smart Growth (brownfields, transportation, environment, housing)
  5. Smart Cities/Technology Infrastructure/Digital Divide
  6. Parks and Open Space
  7. Technology in Schools
  8. Workforce Technology Training
  9. Rail System Restoration
  10. Airport Improvements
Mayor Coles asked for mayors to indicate if they have an interest in serving on one of these transition teams, and said that he will be making his appointments quickly.

In concluding his remarks, Coles said, "This is a great organization. You are great leaders. I look in your faces and I see your commitment and concern for your city. It is my great honor to serve alongside you this next year. I am humbled to follow mayors like Wellington Webb and Paul Helmke and Richard Daley. I look forward to learning from each of you.

"I look forward to making sure that those serving at the highest levels of the federal government clearly understand our message. "I thank you for your confidence in me and commit to give you my all during the next year."