President Bill Clinton introduced a city-friendly agenda to 200 of the nation’s mayors at the White House on Friday.
The president accepted a friendly nudge by the delegates to the U.S. Conference of Mayors representing cities of 30,000 or more - to take part in a national summit on schools. He also made a $400-million proposal to open more businesses in America’s inner cities.
“The urban revitalization is one of the most extraordinary successes of the past five years,” Clinton told the mayors at the White House on the last day of the group’s meeting.
“Today, thanks to your leadership, there is truly an urban renaissance taking place all across America - from New York, where crime has dropped to record lows, to Detroit, where the unemployment rate has been cut in half, to Long Beach, where the downtown is once again bustling with shoppers, and students in school uniforms are learning more in safer environments,” Clinton said.
The national meeting on public schools will likely take place in the spring, according to members of the mayors’ conference. The group wants to share ideas on how cities might duplicate the experience of Chicago. There, a 1995 state law permits Mayor Richard Daley to oversee day-to-day operations of the troubled school system. Since intervening, Daley has helped balance the budget, removed several principals and tightened academic standards.
“In every city, the mayor should be involved in the schools,” Clinton said. “I am thrilled you’re going to have a conference on public schools. I thank you for your invitation and I expect to be there.”
The $400 million Community Empowerment Fund will be included in the balanced budget Clinton will introduce on Monday. The fund would provide capital for businesses to open and operate in the inner cities. The plan was devised by U.S. Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo and will be run by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“This is the right way to help our cities,” Clinton said. “It is not a handout. It will bring new credit, new jobs and new hope to the people.”
Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, a Democrat, said he also is enthusiastic about the education initiatives that were part of Clinton’s State of the Union address on Tuesday. The president proposed hiring 100,000 new teachers and offering tax cuts to modernize 5,000 public schools.
“I’m saying this president is good for cities and good for America,” Denver Mayor Wellington Webb said outside the White House.
Fort Wayne, Ind., Mayor Paul Helmke, president of the mayors’ conference, praised Clinton’s remarks: “That’s an agenda we like. That’s an agenda we support.”
In addition to the education and investment plan, Clinton also proposed hiring 1,000 “neighborhood prosecutors” to clear drug dealers and other troublemakers from neighborhoods and hiring at least 160 new federal agents to go after gun traffickers.
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