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



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

government does.

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

flexible rigidity."

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

West Virginia.

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

service delivery.

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

remediation; and

* 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

about today.

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

to serve.

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.

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