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Speaker Hastert Calls for Open Lines of Communication with Mayors
Rep. Turner Leads New Cities Task Force

By Katie Logisz
February 9, 2004

Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert (IL) addressed the 72nd Winter Meeting of the Conference of Mayors on January 22 calling for open communication between all levels of government. "The best way to get things done is to work together," stated Hastert. City, state, and federal officials must work together to ultimately achieve what is best for the nation.

Hastert began his speech by giving special greetings to DeKalb (IL) Mayor Greg Sparrow, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, and Washington (DC) Mayor Anthony Williams, saying that he had a special constituency relationship with each of these mayors. Hastert went on to say that city priorities, state priorities, and federal priorities are all tied together. He stated that no one single level of government can get a job done completely on its own. Hastert noted that in all of his years of public service, he has learned that aside from working together at all levels of government and laying out goals, it is also necessary to sometimes look past party lines because, "what's best for your constituents aren't always party issues — they are things that are good for people."

Hastert then went on to document his relationship with the Conference of Mayors, stating that he was first introduced to the Conference by Daley in an effort to curb drug use among America's children and teens. At this time, Hastert said there were approximately 40,000 deaths a year due to drug use and drug related violence. In 2003, 400,000 less teenagers in the United States battled drug abuse than in 2000. This astounding progress is due to the work that was contributed from various groups working together. "We-ve made good strides," said Hastert, "because people have worked together."

The Highway Bill presents a new challenge for cities, states, and the federal government to work together and work for the nation. Cities, states, and the federal government will have to work together on legislation that impacts all three. Hastert pointed out that commercial transportation affects all aspect of the government. Freight moving across the country travels through cities and needs to do so efficiently. Hastert used Chicago as an example of cities effected by transportation across states, and stated the need to work together to pass this legislation because, "If it's good for the nation, it's the right thing to do."

Hastert continued by pointing out the importance of the Conference of Mayors, noting the good ideas that have come out of the organization. According to Hastert, "Good ideas come from people confronted with problems." Mayors must use imagination and strong problem'solving skills on a day to day basis to solve numerous problems regarding many issues. Hastert thanked Conference President Hempstead (NY) Mayor James A. Garner for his leadership of this important organization and thanked the organization for all its work over the years.

Helping cities helps Congress. Hastert described the various types of constituencies found in Congress, and the balancing act that occurs trying to serve all types of communities. However, he noted that when cities are doing well, the surrounding areas benefit. Hastert used his own rural and suburban district as an example, stating that when Chicago does well, all of northern Illinois benefits. These relationships are the "first step." Hastert reiterated the importance of the successes of America's cities being integral to the success of the United States. Everyone benefits when our neighborhoods succeed.

Hastert stated the importance for economic redevelopment in America's cities. With his colleagues in the House of Representatives, he helped to pass the first community renewal act into law, helping with strategies and solutions for removing barriers to economic growth. Hastert stated that cities, states, and the federal government must continue in the same vain to address challenges of today. One avenue for addressing challenges is the new working group, the Saving America's Cities Working Group, headed by Congressman Mike Turner (OH), former mayor of Dayton, OH. There are already twenty-two members on board, and this group plans to work closely with the Bush administration and House committees to foster economic development and redevelopment and streamline government services in America's cities to help them prosper and grow. Hastert asked mayors to join in this open dialogue stating, "Your input is crucial."

In closing, Hastert acknowledged that there are many challenges ahead, including tight budgets and working to balance the budget. However, he reiterated that the best way for government to work is with open dialogue and communication. By "keeping open the lines of communication," Hastert asserted that government will work better for the nation and everyone benefits.