Executive Director

Washington, D.C.
May 12, 2000

Urban Parks, Thank You Victor

In a most unusual bipartisan spirit, the House approved an urban parks bill yesterday that will earmark millions of dollars generated annually from offshore drilling fees.  This is a major victory for the nation's mayors and local officials in metro areas.

No one in our organization or elsewhere worked harder for this victory than Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe.  He has trumpeted this issue long before he became mayor when he was Executive Director of the President's Commission on Outdoor Recreation.  In 1994, when Mayor Ashe became our President, he, Tom McClimon, Senior USCM staffer, and I walked the halls of Congress advocating more federal support for urban parks.  Mayor Ashe's rallying cry was and still is, "the most important park is the one down the street in your neighborhood." 

Mayor Ashe's Presidency of the Conference came at the time when the Newt Gingrich revolution took place.  The Gingrich crowd were all brainwashed on their "contract with America" and urban parks did not make their priority list.  One day we went to see a senior Republican.  After the niceties, Mayor Ashe started in on him like a bulldog.  The Congressman flat out told us their would be no money for urban parks and told us in a matter of fact way that he had to stay with the Newt Gingrich manifesto which supported national parks in remote places that many urban voters will never see.  After the Congressman said no about six times, he looked at his watch and in so many words told us to leave.  Tom McClimon, Mayor Ashe and I huddled outside in the corridor and before I could say anything, Mayor Ashe looked at me and said, "well, Tom that meeting didn't go so well."  I agreed but that didn't stop Mayor Ashe, he kept walking until he walked his socks down in his shoes that day all over Capitol Hill.  And he has come back year after year on this issue; he has championed it among the most powerful in Congress and nationally and his support pushed the urban parks agenda to yesterday's floor debate in Congress when the historic House vote took place.  We thank Mayor Ashe.  In the old days, if Lyndon Johnson were in the White House, he'd name the bill the Ashe urban parks bill.  That was another day back then when Congress and the President set aside certain issues to be bipartisan.  With the acrimony we have here in Washington, it is politically essential for Republican leaders like Mayor Ashe to lead the charge on this and other Conference priorities. 

Yesterday, the Republican leaders could not hold their troops together against the bipartisan coalition supporting this legislation that Tom McClimon has helped to develop on this issue.  We must also note that it was Larry Naake, Executive Director of the National Association of Counties who took this issue to the Large Urban County Caucus of NACo.  The urban county elected officials joined with us in rallies, meetings and political education supporting urban parks.

We thank also Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu for her hearings in the Senate and New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial for his incredible energy on this issue.

Conference President Wellington Webb maintained from day one that parks must be a part of the 10 point plan we have in the Webb Plan we will take to the Presidential candidates this fall.  Go to Denver and you can see how parks help make that great city so great.  Mayor Webb took us to Red Rocks last September, a park for performing arts owned by the City of Denver that is not adjacent to the city; instead there are square miles of land in between the city to the magnificent natural wonder of an outdoor concert site called "Red Rocks."

The urban/metro parks issue is one more issue where we find local elected officials lined up with the American people-and particularly American people who have the responsibility of raising their children.  We need to take special political note of this vote today.  Republican and Democrat Senators, and yes, senior people in the Clinton Administration need to understand that in a surplus era where money is sometimes spent inefficiently, money to keep a kid off the street while automatic weapons or handguns are killing people in churches, zoos and schools is indeed a wise investment.  But some people just still don't get it.  Yesterday the Republicans and Democrats in the House listened to the common sense heartbeat of America.  Yesterday was a vote for kids, our only hope.  And yes, yesterday was a vote for the soccer moms and all the people who shepherd our children.  It was a vote of hope; it gives us something for the kids to say "yes" to.  Now we must keep the momentum going as we head to the Senate to try to pass this worthy legislation.  The historic bipartisan vote in the House will help our cause.  Let your Senators know how you feel.  Quote Mayor Ashe and remind those Senators that the best park for his or her constituents is the park in his or her neighborhood. 

Webb/The Millennium March on Washington for Equality

Denver Mayor Wellington E. Webb, President of the Conference, came to Washington to address the Millennium March on Equality.  His presence is another example of his leadership style and his commitment to human rights and to people.  On basic rights for gays and lesbians, he is not a newcomer.   As reported by The Denver Post, as a legislator he supported gay rights legislation in the Colorado Legislature in 1975.  Mayors have been in the forefront on this issue and we will continue to be there because mayors like Mayor Webb understand that basic human rights go beyond what others may say or think.  It was interesting that as controversial and bothersome as this political movement is to some of our leaders, the fact is that they were asking for the right to marry and to join the Boy scouts, not making new appointments to our Committees, not exactly unusual demands.

Seattle/Nominating Committee

Three Mayors have expressed their interest to serve as Chair of the Advisory Board, and as your President of your Conference of Mayors in the term year June 20 - to June 20.  They are in alphabetical order: Mayor Sharpe James of Newark, Mayor Tom Menino of Boston and Mayor Meyera Oberndorf of Virginia Beach.

There are two Trustee openings and five Advisory Board member openings.

As mentioned earlier, there's so much talent in our organization many mayors will not be selected for these eight (8) positions.  Remember this as incoming President of the Conference, Boise Mayor H. Brent Coles will be making new appointments to our Committees and task forces and there is plenty of work for a mayor who wants to help him as he goes through a historical transition, leading us as we help  form a new federal government.  So if you don't make it this year to one of the elected positions, be not ye dismayed because Present Brent Coles will be calling on you to keep the Webb agenda alive.  He has some new exciting initiatives in store for us as we leave our meeting in Seattle.

Governor Bush/Seattle

Mayors have called and the press is interested to know if Governor George W. Bush, the Republican nominee for President, is coming to Seattle. The answer is that the Bush staff are working on his schedule and we have a letter saying just that.  We believe he will be there because so many of our issues, public schools, brownfields initiatives, etc., are his issues too.  In the meantime, we want to nail our Seattle schedule down. Last week I sent a letter to key Republican leaders of The Conference asking for their help in urging Governor Bush to come to Seattle.  Democrats and Republican mayors should contact the Bush campaign or Governor Bush himself.  Let him know that there's a lot we have in common and we can all win if he is there with us presenting a bipartisan political statement to support our cities, our metro economies, and above all, the working people of America.  Those who live in cities and counties do not want political differences to affect basic services and daily quality of life of issues in our nation.

Help us welcome Governor George W. Bush to Seattle.

As mentioned earlier, Vice President Gore has confirmed he will be with us at the 2:00 P.M. Friday, June 9th plenary session.  We'll put Governor Bush anywhere on our schedule.  We are agile and mobile.  We just want him there.  Help me Rhonda!

Happy Mother's Day and Happy Million Mom March

This week, I along with DC Mayor Anthony Williams, Gary Mayor Scott King and Million Mom March founder Donna Dees-Thomases unveiled the Conference of Mayors "Wall of Death" showing 4001 dead in 100 cities since Columbine.  As US Mayor goes to press, mayors across the nation will be involved in this gun safety initiative sponsored by the Million Mom grassroots organization.  Our "Wall of Death" will be on the mall on Mothers Day and thousands will come to Washington for this event.

Some mayors will stay home and sponsor events in their home cities.  No matter where you are, hug, call or thank your mother, mom or mama or maybe another person who was your mentor.  Someone said when it comes to children, mayors, and moms have one thing in common.  They are out there every day for kids.  And when the Million Mom March is over, we will still be there because mayors know that our children are our future.

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