Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered opening remarks at the 78th Winter Meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors this morning at the Capital Hilton. During the three-day session, more than 200 mayors, city officials, private and public sector leaders join together to discuss job creation and other key priorities for the nation. Below are the Speaker's remarks:
"Thank you, Mayor [Elizabeth] Kautz. Congratulations on becoming president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. And congratulations on your 2010 Metro Agenda for America. I know that your personal leadership is responsible for this great initiative. I will study it carefully as I did several years ago -- stronger families, stronger cities, stronger America. And we took our lead from that, and I will with your more recent initiative.
"Let me say how happy I am to be here. As the daughter of a mayor, sister of a mayor, I always feel very at home among mayors. I recognize that you have a very special place in American society -- in the political or governmental arena. There are no buffers between mayors and their constituents.
"I'm so pleased to be here with your Executive Director Tom Cochran as we all welcome you to Washington, D.C. As I said to you before, and I say it to you again, for personal reasons, for official reasons, and because of the important role that you play -- please know that you have partners in Washington, D.C.
"Public safety is our first responsibility as elected officials -- to protect the American people. Their safety at home, in their neighborhoods, in their communities, in their cities and towns. Nothing else much can be accomplished for them than a way that they feel safe.
"And that's why in our recovery package, we made it a priority to have funds for our first responders -- for police and firefighters. It wasn't just about jobs. It wasn't just about stabilizing the budgets of cities. It was about the safety of the American people. That's why too, in that legislation, we had the funding for education. Not just about teachers' jobs, which are important -- it was about the education of our children. And that neither the safety of our people or the education of our children could be further undermined by the further decline in our economy. And that all, of course, was about jobs, jobs, jobs, and jobs. Not only for safety and also for education, but also because all of these people are consumers -- and consumers are the strength of our economy. The strength of our middle-class and the middle-class is the strength of our democracy.
"So we're all connected in all of this; again, being on the front lines as you are, we appreciate your being very outspoken and about your priorities and how not only the priorities -- but how the resources can be distributed.
"I've heard what you've said about the energy efficiency and conservation block grants. We certainly intend for them to be annual and more forthcoming in our budget. [Applause.]
"Exactly one year ago today, our President stood on the steps of the Capitol and he called for action -- swift and bold -- to turn our economy around and to restore economic growth. And in his budget he sent out subsequent to that he called for deficit reduction, lowering taxes, creating jobs -- and doing so in a way that stabilizes our economy. He had three pillars for job creation and economic growth: investments in education, jobs for the 21st century -- innovation begins in the classroom with investments in education as well as investments in energy -- energy and green jobs for the future and first among equals -- investments in health care. And to provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans as a right, not a privilege. And we will do that. [Applause.]
"Cities and towns across America are places where people go for opportunity. They are the centers of commerce, of hope, of opportunity. They are places that must be recognized for contributing to the vitality of our society and the vitality of our economy.
"Throughout our history, they have stood on the front lines of progress and prosperity, security -- and they reflect the best hopes, the deepest values, and our highest aspirations of our nation's future. To endure tough times, workers and businesses look to local leaders. To secure our homeland, our firefighters and first responders and police officers are our first line of defense. To care for our families, local governments provide medical care, affordable housing and education. In short, when Americans face our toughest times as well as our best times, they turn to mayors for answers.
"In this time of deficit reduction -- and clearly the election results last night spelled out that we have not been as clear about our deficit reduction measures as we can be, and that will change. But as we get fiscally sound and we go forward, the competition for funds becomes even keener. And that's why this proposal is so important to progress. That's the plan. It's a plan on how to get jobs done for the American people to a place where they look for hope and opportunity in our cities and towns.
"The President's agenda is one that we will continue to push forward for the creation of jobs. As I said, health care, again, heeding the particular concerns of the voters of Massachusetts last night, we heard the people and hopefully we will move forward with their considerations in mind. But we will move forward in the process. [Applause.]
"But let me talk for a moment about the Recovery Act because, we pulled the country back from the brink of a deeper recession. And with investments in energy efficiency and conservation block grants, we provided billions of dollars to help cut emissions, reduce energy use, and create the clean energy jobs of tomorrow. And we put community health centers at the forefront of our efforts of our medical care system in that bill.
"But before I leave the energy efficiency [inaudible], I want to salute Trenton Mayor Douglas Palmer, because I have visited him in his city. And he has been just on the forefront of this issue. Taking jobs to high school where children can learn about putting in solar panels that will reduce the cost of energy in their schools and teach them a trade and be part of these jobs for the future. We welcomed those kids -- I invited them when I was there to come visit the Speaker's office and they did. And they want to know what we are going to do next. But for sure you can tell them that the block grants will be continued. [Applause.]
"We did inherit a situation that required much addressing of those concerns. And as we address that we are going to go, as they say, into the future. We passed the jobs bill that the Mayor mentioned in December, which we hope we will see action in the Senate. All of these initiatives -- the jobs creation, the recovery package, the budget package that the President -- all of these initiatives have been about job creation. Our jobs initiative was called the Jobs for Main Street Act, and it was important to name it that way because so much has been said about how actions and recklessness on Wall Street have affected joblessness on Main Street. And we want our focus to be Main Street. [Applause.]
"That's why we passed a regulatory reform bill that says to Wall Street: never again will you have ability to nationalize the risks and privatize the gain of your investments so that American workers pay the price of losing the home, their jobs, their pensions, their savings for their children's education. So we have a situation where we go from here. One year ago the President spoke. His initiatives have been, as I say, about the future.
"It was quite a sight to see him this past week in Washington as we were negotiating the final terms of the health reform bill, to see a President so visionary, so knowledgeable about it, such good judgment about decisions that needed to be made. And with all that focus and all that attention, at the same time taking the leadership in what is happening in Haiti, which affects us all very deeply. He was a person very saddened by what happened, he was Commander in Chief deploying our troops, he was the President of the United States communicating with other heads of state to talk about how we would work together.
"And I understand that you have a mayor who is Haitian American who will stand. The mayor of North Miami, Andre Pierre. Please stand. Any way that you see that we can be helpful with Haitians that are coming to America and with your leadership as to how we can be helpful with Haiti please let us know and we can all be part of the partnership. I assigned House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina as the head of our task force on that subject.
"I know my own mayor from San Francisco is here, Mayor Gavin Newsom. I know he is here right now. He is taking the lead on green jobs. Many gathered in San Francisco when the mayor had his conference of mayors there from all over the world to sign a pledge as to what they would do to contain global warming, to reverse that climate crisis but in fact to create jobs in the meantime as we go into the future.
"So we have a shared agenda about the education of our children, the creation of jobs for the future in doing so per the President's great agenda: education, health care, and energy. To do so in a way that is fiscally responsible and that we can compete more fairly that we can work together so that your priorities become the priorities of the American people in that regard.
"The President has said: "We will measure our success by the progress that is made by America's working families.' You are in command of America's working families in a very direct way. Our partnership is important to their success.
"This week we observe the birthday and the national holiday, commemorating the birthday of Reverend Martin Luther King. And he said something so important at this time and so many people in our inner cities and rural America are suffering from the downturn in the economy. He said this over 40 years ago, as you know, and it remains true today. He said then the time has come. The time is long overdue. But his quote is: "The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct, and immediate admonition of poverty.' That's what he said.
"And again, as we see hunger in America and we see the challenges that people have economically; we know that a great deal of that is taking places in the cities and towns of America. Reverend King's last speech was about jobs. It was about jobs. , he said and he remembered the spirit and hope of his last campaign, quote "to secure jobs or income for all.' Today we should follow the lead of Dr. King, especially in this week and this conference -- the call for work and opportunity and let that be our inspiration. Let us resolve to build a cause, build a cause of justice and jobs everywhere in America. It is the answer to every challenge that we have: jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. [Applause.]
"If we work together to secure our future, we can achieve our goals in a very positive way. And we can realize the dreams of a better tomorrow. You have given us your blueprint. We have learned from you before. We will, you will see this reflected in public policy and I thank Mayor Kautz for her tremendous leadership and being a force to put this together and thank all of you for what you have brought and are doing. This is not about the next election, this is about the next generation. I have an appreciation for what you do. And don't forget, you have a friend in the Speaker's office.
"Thank you very much, U.S. Conference of Mayors."