Webb Builds Support for New Agenda at NLC Meeting Conference President Receives Enthusiastic Response from City Delegates
By Jubi Headley and Ed Somers
President Denver Mayor Wellington E. Webb stood before thousands of local
elected officials gathered in Los Angeles for the National League of
Cities Congress of Cities on December 3 to issue a challenge to the 2000
presidential candidates: embrace a sweeping 10 point agenda designed to
"transform the relationship between the federal government and local
municipalities throughout the country."
NLC meeting, which celebrated the organization's 75 years of service to
Americas cities and towns, was presided over by President Clarence
Anthony, Mayor of South Bay, Florida Webb described the current
relationship as "structurally flawed" and one that has not
significantly changed in more than 20 years. Webb added that the whole
concept of devolution has been "nothing more than a popular
phrase" used by Washington politicians - a sentiment shared by the
NLC members judging by their strong applause.
Webb reminded the Presidential candidates that the American economy is not
being driven by the federal government or the 50 states for that matter -
but by local economies. He pointed to a recent study completed by Standard
and Poor's DRI for USCM and the National Association of Counties that
found that 317 "metropolitan economic engines" - comprised of
core cities, neighboring suburbs, surrounding counties and the businesses
within them - are driving the national economy. These metro areas
accounted for a staggering 89 percent (over $2 trillion) of the nation's
economic growth for the period 1992-1998, and represent approximately four
out of every five Americans.
economies quite often exceed entire state economies," Webb said.
"And it is the mayors and local elected officials that are the CEOs
of their cities - they are the ones promoting economic development,
building arenas, enticing businesses and creating jobs."
challenged the candidates and the federal government to take meaningful
steps to ensure the continued strength of the metro economies, and to see
that funds reach those they are intended to serve.
also expressed continued concern that despite the current era of economic
prosperity, people and places are still being left behind, and stressed
that federal, state and local policies must promote investment in the
nation's untapped domestic markets.
states have been given authority [by the federal government] for the Child
Health Insurance Program to provide health care for kids who can't afford
coverage and aren't eligible for Medicaid, but they just let that money
sits in state coffers while millions of kids go without, I say give it to
the cities-we can provide the care our kids need," Webb said.
Webb added, "If states want to let TANF [Temporary Assistance for
Needy Families] money pile up, while we could use it to support the
working poor in our cities, I say send the money to us-the people who need
it are in our cities."
like to use a military metaphor" in describing the relationship
between Congress, states and cities Webb told the crowd. "The states
are like the navy, worrying about protecting their borders, making sure
nobody infringes on them.... . The Congress is like the Air Force,
dropping bombs on our cities without understanding how they affect those
whom they hit-bombs like unfunded mandates," Webb quipped.
local elected officials are the infantry-the foot soldiers. You are the
ones that defend your cities and towns to assure their safety. You are the
ones that when tragedy or unrest occur, the people turn to. You're where
the rubber hits the road," Webb told the audience.
address the needs of these metro economies, The U.S. Conference of Mayors
has developed "A New Agenda for American Cities" - a 10 point
plan which calls on the next administration to:
Agenda also calls for a new federal domestic policy advisor who has
sweeping authority over the federal agencies to promote the economic
well-being of the metro areas and provide regulatory flexibility to local
governments to meet critical local needs, and to help cut across
bureaucratic boundaries and reduce federal mandates. A draft copy of the
10 point agenda can be found at http://www.usmayors.org
. The final version of the plan will be released at the 68th Winter
Meeting of the Conference on June 25-28, 2000.