Title: Al Gore at U.S. Conference of Mayors
Author: White House Press Office
Date: January 27, 1995
Remarks for Vice President Al Gore to U.S.
Conference of Mayors
January 27, 1995
Thank you, Victor for that introduction. And thanks
for the work you've done in telecommunications
reform. You played a very constructive role at the
Federal/State/Local Telecommunication summit we
convened earlier this month. We also applaud the
Conference of Mayors for working closely with us as
we address important issues for the future of
(ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS FROM ADVANCE)
At the beginning of this week papers were filled
with reminiscences of Rose Kennedy, and her long,
wonderful, life, intertwined so closely with the
history of America.
When you read about her childhood, growing up as the
daughter of the Mayor of Boston, you're aware of how
different life was in the early days of this
Not everything was different. For example when her
father was inaugurated in 1906 his speech ran 57
Now, THAT'S a long speech!
But many of the things he said remain true today.
Mayor Fitzgerald reminded us that cities could not
be wished away by nostalgia for a rural past. Given
"the tendency of the American people... to live
together in large communities," he said, it was in
the city that "the problems of American self-
government" must be worked out.
Today, almost 90 years later, America's cities are
still the laboratory for this great American
experiment in self-government.
Of course, the federal government is also a place
where the problems of self-government must be worked
That's why President Clinton made the National
Performance Review -- our effort to reinvent
government -- a top priority. As he said so
eloquently the other night: "We have to cut
yesterday's government to help solve tomorrow's
And we've made a great start.
Already we have cut over a quarter of a million
dollars in spending, more than 300 domestic
programs, more than 100,000 positions from the
federal bureaucracy, and saved $63 billion on our
way towards making the federal government the
smallest it has been since John Kennedy was
But we're not done.
Last month we announced the second phase of
reinventing government. We've looked at how
government does it's work. Now we'll look at WHAT
This review has already begun in three departments -
HUD, Transportation, and Energy.
As with the first phase, we will look at states and
localities as models for what works.
And again, one of the major questions that will be
asked during this review will be whether or not the
work we do in Washington can be done better by
states, localities, or private citizens.
This Administration continues to be interested in
providing increased flexibility to states and
Of course, in Washington flexible is a word that can
mean many things - I remember a spokesman for the
Nixon administration describing the White House's
stance on a piece of legislation: "unyielding, but
We're serious about flexibility. This is about
expanding opportunity, not bureaucracy. And we have
made a lot of progress in the last two years...
whether through the use of waivers to provide states
and localities flexibility in managing existing
programs, especially in health services and welfare
-- we have given 24 states the right to slash
through federal regulations to reform their welfare
systems. We've also been involved in an ongoing
effort to consolidate planning requirements for 199
federal grants targeted to children and families in
the states and local jurisdictions of Indiana and
We're moving towards more grant consolidation and
Our National Performance Review has called for
consolidations of related, small grants and proposed
a new concept of "bottom-up consolidation"... giving
states and localities more flexibility in the use of
small pots of federal money. It's an approach that
has already been introduced in Congress by Senator
Hatsfield with bipartisan support.
And in Oregon, a new partnership is testing an
outcomes-oriented approach to intergovernmental
Last month Oregon's governor and numerous mayors
signed an agreement with the federal government to
pilot a redesigned system that will be:
* based on results;
* oriented to customer needs and satisfaction;
* biased toward prevention of problems, not
* simplified and integrated -- delegating
responsibilities to front-line, local-level
We will propose a programmatic version of what NPR
has been doing with Oregon as our major
intergovernmental initiative -- "Performance
Partnerships" with states and localities. It's a
great approach. It merges funding categories,
creates funding incentives which reward risk-taking
and reaching desired results, and reduces
micromanagement and paperwork. Let me give you one
example of these partnerships. It's taking place at
HUD. Secretary Cisneros has proposed consolidating
60 programs into three, flexible performance-based
funds which give "bonus" resources to communities
based on their progress.
This will allow HUD and local and State
administrative agencies to streamline and make more
effective use of resources.
In addition to Reinventing Government there are a
couple of other issues which I'd like to talk to you
Unfunded mandates and takings.
As you know, the President, as a former governor is
sensitive to the burdens placed on states and
localities by the federal government.
And, as he made clear in the State of the Union, we
are committed to the passage of unfunded mandates
legislation that restores balance to the
intergovernmental partnership, that provides
justified relief of fiscal pressures to states and
localities, and that protects the national interest.
The federal government's role has produced many
positive results, but we realize that the existing
top-down, centralized approach is not flexible
enough to respond to the rapidly changing
environments in states and localities.
But as we are working to reduce unfunded mandates
and improve the way government works - cut
bureaucracy, reduce costs and cut red tape - we're
concerned that some proposals on Capitol Hill could
halt, or even reverse our progress.
The Clinton administration has been, and continues
to be, a champion of the rights of the Nation's
landowners. The President firmly believes that
private ownership and the responsible use of
property is a cornerstone of this country's heritage
and tradition -- as well as our economic strength.
If the government takes someone's property, the
government should pay. That's what the Constitution
says. That's what the President demands of his
government. In everything we do, we're working for
middle class Americans.
However, some recently proposed "takings"
legislation could harm middle class
homeowners and their property values. Some bills
could cost taxpayers billions of dollars. They
threaten to create a budget busting bureaucratic
maze. And they could deprive people of a government
that protects the public health, safety, civil
rights and the environment.
Let's think about this for a minute. What outcomes
might follow from some of these initiatives?
Could EPA prevent a chemical company from disposing
of toxic waste near a school without paying the
Not under some of the bills.
In fact, it seems that the government and the
taxpayers would be put in a no win situation --
either pay or let the egregious action go forward.
Could the FDA continue to regulate the use of new
drugs, or the Consumer Products Safety Commission
the safety of our childrens' toys?
Perhaps not, if property is defined broadly -- as it
is in at least one current proposal.
If a state or locality is implementing a federal
program, could some of these requirements apply to
you? Seems so, at least under some of the proposals.
And if applied to state and local governments it
seems that these bills would hamstring zoning laws
and other regulations which protect the quality of
life in your communities. You couldn't undertake
those actions without buying people out first.
I encourage you to take a close look at the
legislative proposals. Reasonable steps can be taken
and we should work on them. But, we won't support a
bill that hurts middle class homeowners or goes
beyond the Constitution and bankrupts the treasury.
Whether it's any of the issues we've talked about --
Reinventing Government, unfunded mandates, or
takings legislation -- our end goal is the same;
getting government closer to the people it's meant
After Mayor Fitzgerald delivered that 57 page
speech, there was another custom he inaugurated. He
held a public reception for the long line of
citizens who wanted to meet and congratulate their
mayor. Before any inaugural dinners or balls, the
mayor met with the people. His first responsibility
was to them.
That's why the Conference of Mayors is so important
- you bring national attention to the problems and
the potential of our cities... and the people in
And that's what has not only brought you here to
Washington, but brought you into public service in
the first place.
Serving the people.
It's a noble cause.
Cities like Boston were where America experimented
with self-government at the beginning of this
century. They still are. Whether it's Victor Ashe's
Knoxville, Norm Rice's Seattle, Richard Daley's
Chicago, or any of the cities you represent so well,
cities will remain the laboratories and models of
self-government as we move into the century ahead.