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Pelosi Address to the U.S. Conference of Mayors

From the Office of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi

January 27, 2006

Washington, D.C. - House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi addressed the U.S. Conference of Mayors today at their annual winter meeting. Below are her remarks as prepared:

"Thank you for that kind introduction, Mayor Beverly O'Neill. Thank you for your leadership as President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and for your stewardship of this conference to improve the state of America's cities.

"As a Californian, I am especially proud of the 35 California Mayors here: including Mayor O'Neill and also Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, who Mayor O'Neill named to chair the Poverty Task Force. I am also particularly proud of my mayor, Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco.

"As I have followed the work of this conference, I have been impressed by its ambitious agenda, and the work of the Poverty Task Force and so many other initiatives. As you know best, our cities face truly complex issues. I'd like to take a moment to recognize the mayors of the Gulf Coast, who this year are facing the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina.

"I must also recognize the unflagging work of Tom Cochran, Executive Director of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

"Some of you may know that both my father and brother were Mayors of Baltimore, so I come here today with a healthy respect for the close relationship you have with your constituents, and the integral role you play in the civic life of America.

"Just as your theme, 'Cities for a Strong America' suggests, cities are America's centers of commerce - traditionally, they have also been our centers of opportunity, and they must continue to be.

"Today I want to talk to you about an important initiative by House Democrats to ensure that America's cities, and America as a whole, remain pre-eminent in the world. For over a year, House Democrats have been working in a bipartisan way - with leaders in business and the academic community to put together an aggressive plan to maintain America's leadership in innovation, and unleash the next generation of discovery, invention and growth.

"This is our Democratic Innovation Agenda - our commitment to competitiveness to keep America #1.

"Nothing less is at stake than America's economic leadership. The dynamic cycle of investment, leading to innovation, leading to jobs, is what has secured our status as world leader. That status has remained unchallenged, until now. As our competitors copy our blueprint for preeminence - with investments in education, long-term research & development, and cutting-edge technologies - we are departing from it.

"Our innovation agenda begins with a serious, sustained commitment to America's schools. Nothing could be more important than providing opportunity for our children, and to secure America's leadership in the world. In a globalized, knowledge-based economy, America's greatest resource for innovation and economic growth resides within America's classrooms.

"We've pledged to create a new generation of innovators by calling for a qualified teacher in every math and science K-12 classroom and by issuing a 'Call to Action' to engineers and scientists to join the ranks of America's teachers. Along with other Democratic proposals such as the Teach Act and the Strengthen our Schools Act, we intend to make sure young children have qualified teachers and supportive environments in which to learn.

"We recognize that independent scientific research provides the foundation for innovation and future technologies. That is why we pledge to double federal funding for basic research and development in the physical sciences.

"High-speed, always-on broadband will create millions of good jobs. Our agenda guarantees that every American will have affordable access to broadband - within five years.

"We also need to direct America's entrepreneurial spirit and creativity toward one of our greatest national challenges - the need to free ourselves from our dangerous and unhealthy reliance on foreign oil. Americans agree - we should be spending our energy dollars in America's Midwest, not in the Middle East. Only innovation and technology can lead America to energy independence. Democrats have proposed the development of clean, sustainable energy alternatives, such as bio-based fuels, as well as new engine technologies for flex-fuel, hybrid, and bio-diesel cars and trucks. Our economic future and our national security both demand that we achieve energy independence, and we intend to do so in 10 years.

"Essential to our competitiveness is a healthy environment for small businesses, so they can turn entrepreneurial ideas into marketable products, and create good jobs. We propose helping small businesses succeed by providing more financial support and technical assistance, reducing regulation, and helping them overcome one of the greatest challenges they face: the cost of health care.

"Taken together, our Democratic innovation agenda - education, R&D, public-private partnerships, energy independence - is a decision in favor of the future.

"That's what House Democrats are proposing in our Innovation Agenda, a Commitment to Competitiveness to Keep America Number One.

"I am very proud that my hometown of San Francisco is soon to be 100% wired. But in order for our country to be truly innovative, we must embrace broadband from coast to coast, and from home to home.

"That's exactly what Mayor Graham Richard, of Fort Wayne Indiana is doing in America's heartland. Under his leadership, Fort Wayne is the first city in the Midwest to have fiber optic broadband services for nearly 100,000 households, small businesses and schools. He is taking the lead to use high tech, high performance public private partnerships to improve city services and save taxpayers millions of dollars. As he said to you this week - Fort Wayne is 'Wired and Inspired to Compete in a Flat World.' Mayor Richard has made Fort Wayne a national model for innovation, and a strong city for a strong America. Mayor Richard: thank you for your leadership.

"For America's cities to be strong, they must first be safe.

"The 9/11 attacks revealed numerous security vulnerabilities. Nearly four and one-half years after the attacks, too many of those vulnerabilities remain. As Hurricane Katrina challenged the conscience of our country, it also exposed even more of those vulnerabilities.

"At the end of this year, the 9/11 commissioners released a final report card on the implementation of its recommendations - and this Administration received 17 grades of D or F. As you know, they found a lack of attention in areas as diverse first responder communications, sharing of information between government agencies, and airline cargo screening - to name a few. And yet, in his budget request for the current fiscal year, the Bush Administration recommended the following homeland security cuts:

· 10.5% from the Office of State and Local Programs, the main agency responsible for aiding first responders
· 7% from the State Homeland Security Grant Program
· 30% from FIRE Act programs to equip, train, and staff local fire departments
· Eliminate the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention program which assists local law enforcement agencies share information, harden targets do security planning and make communications interoperable.

· 6% from the Emergency Management Performance Grants that help state and local emergency managers improve disaster response capabilities

"These budget cuts make it harder to protect our homeland and our hometowns, and do not represent the priorities of America's cities. We need the help of the U.S. Conference of Mayors to fight for homeland security funding in the 2007 budget that truly addresses the needs of our cities.

"But it is a fight we can win - just like we did last year when the Administration tried to dismantle Community Development Block Grants.

"You - a broad coalition of Republican and Democratic mayors stormed Capitol Hill to defeat this effort, and to make the case that we need CDBG. It is one of the few remaining initiatives that get direct federal funds to our cities, who know how to make the best use of them. You succeeded, but we will have to continue the fight. We can expect more cuts and unfunded mandates when the Administration unveils its new proposals on community development and housing in the next few weeks.

"I know that many of you are facing the complicated problem of affordable housing. But we have an opportunity for a real solution if we enact the Affordable Housing Trust Fund that is now a part of the Government Sponsored Enterprises Reform bill.

"As you know, Congressman Barney Frank has been a tireless champion of building affordable housing in this country. His success in initiating and pushing through the House this important provision could bring the first affordable housing resource created, without using federal dollars, in seventeen years.

"Unfortunately, this program was hijacked at the last moment with crippling language that limits access to non-profit organizations and churches if they offer services that include helping people fulfill their right to participate in their government. But the Senate has not yet acted. If we organize again - working with Senator Reid and applying pressure, the Senate could strike the gag-rule restriction on the trust fund and send the bill to the President.

"Though the challenges we face are formidable, you are a powerful force for progress. We have seen clearly in the budget battles of the past years what can happen when the mayors and local officials of our towns and cities unite on a common cause.

"I look forward to fighting with you for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, for full funding of Section 8 vouchers and the HOPE VI program, for better tools to provide safety in public housing, and for ending chronic homelessness.

"Throughout our nation's history, cities have always been the places where people go for opportunity and new potential. When your cities elected you as mayor, they affirmed their hope in this future, under your leadership. In you, they placed a sacred trust -- that you will help educate their children, keep safe their neighborhoods, and foster an environment where businesses will thrive and create good jobs.

"But you will agree that if there is only new hope and new potential in some of our cities - that will not be enough. We must reach out to each other and work together until this hope, this opportunity, this potential are available to those living in all of our cities - and then to all Americans - all across our country. Let us work together until this dream is a reality. Thank you."




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