(May 20, 2006) -- Addressing the National Press Club as outgoing president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Long Beach Mayor Beverly O'Neill commended America's Mayors and criticized the Bush administration in citing issues she said must be addressed for the country to truly be a strong America: energy, transportation, infrastructure, poverty, and homeland security/crime.
In a written release, the U.S. Conference of Mayors summarized and quoted portions of Mayor O'Neill's 25 minute remarks; we cite salient portions below:
"Mayors are dealing with this energy crisis on the local level...We cannot wait on the federal government; we must do what mayors do best and act now. This crisis is affecting working families in every city and severely impacting and straining city budgets. The people in our communities are making real financial decisions as they deal with the ripple effect of this crisis in our country."
"With escalating gas prices, it is time for this country to be committed to investing in public transportation. Across this nation, people are discovering that public transit provides an affordable, comfortable, and energy-efficient way to get to work and reduce the impact of high gas prices...Today, we are calling on Congress and the Administration to invest in a national initiative for a substantial and rapid expansion of public transportation in our cities and suburbs."
[Re transportation security]. "We must commit to working with the Administration, Congress and state leaders nationwide to make sure that our citizens can get on a bus, step onto a train, and go to work knowing that everything that can be done to keep them safe - is being done."
"The question is -- are we going to improve America’s infrastructure by investing in these areas, or are we going to continue rebuilding other countries and watch our infrastructure needs slide to a failing grade?"
[Conference of Mayors release said Hurricane Katrina unmasked a hidden problem not only in New Orleans, but in this country: the issue of poverty and the plight of the working poor, leads into O'Neill quote:]
"Poverty is all around us, yet no one wants to look at it square in the face...We cannot ignore a poverty index that, unrealistically, says that a family of four can live on $20,000 in this country; nor can we ignore the fact that 3 ˝ million men, women, and children are homeless in this country. The truth is - hard working Americans are still struggling to compete and succeed, and are often times failing. That is why the Conference of Mayors is
committed to moving this discussion from the margins to the mainstream."
"Safety and security impacts every part of a community’s social and economic fabric. But for every mayor in America, the job of ensuring public safety changed forever on September 11, 2001."
[Conference of Mayors release said Mayors have been pushing for equipment, training and deployment resources for police, fire and emergency services personnel to make sure that they have the skills and tools needed in the domestic fight against terrorism; leads into O'Neill quotes]
"We have been fighting to make sure that these funds get to the cities that need them, and are not stuck in state or regional bureaucracies. As we learned following Hurricane Katrina, mayors know that we need to be prepared to help ourselves in the early days, weeks and even months following a devastating attack or natural disaster."
[Conference of Mayors release says mayors must also continue to focus on the ongoing need to address crime; still major problems with illegal drugs and violence; newer problems now emerging including meth and growing gang violence in center cities and suburbs; leads into O'Neill quote:]
"Now you can see why we must never let up in the ongoing fight to keep our streets safe, our families protected, and our nation secure...
Mayors are moving on all of these key issues that I have discussed like transportation investment, homeland security and crime, energy efficiency, infrastructure, and poverty, and are not waiting on the federal government to act. But what about our federal government? Is it acting like a true partner in these efforts?"
[Release said O'Neill highlighted Community Development Block Grants, which [release text] continue on the chopping block; funding for key police and anti-crime programs has been almost completely eliminated; port and transportation security funding is not nearly where it needs to be; and first responder funding is being reduced because it is tied up in state and regional bureaucracies -- just as mayors predicted when they were fighting for direct funding, leads into O'Neill quote]
"These are not the actions of what I consider to be a full partner...Our communities are the backbone of this country. Our industries and businesses help fill the state and federal coffers, and we have the right to insist that now is the time to invest in our communities and give us the tools we need to strengthen America’s economy. Now is the time to reinvest in and rebuild this country, and Mayors are on the forefront leading the way."