Cuomo: US Must Alter Course
Top priority, more funds should go to solving urban ills, says New York governor. US CONFERENCE OF MAYORS MEETING
UNITED States mayors gathered last week to discuss the country's pressing urban problems and how to make them priority issues for the 1992 presidential campaign.Speaking Friday at the two-day US Conference of Mayors meeting, held in a Cape Cod hotel, New York's Democratic Gov. Mario Cuomo (D) denounced the "New Federalism" of the Reagan and Bush administrations. He said, however, that he would not himself run for president. He criticized the Republican administrations for cutting back funds to state and local governments and for what he termed a regressive tax structure that favors the wealthy. Over the last decade, Governor Cuomo said, the wealthy have made gains while middle class earnings have decreased and the poor are worse off than ever. Americans must see that the country needs to change its course, and this realization is even more important than whom they elect for president, he said. "In effect, the middle class and the working poor of our cities have been called upon to pay for the huge income tax cuts at the federal level," Cuomo said. "Prosperity never trickled down in the '80s, only the tax burden did. And no one noticed it." The popular three-term governor, who some think would make a strong Democratic presidential candidate, said he had no plans to run in the 1992 election. "I don't think my state has ever needed a governor more than it does now, and that's the commitment I'll make," he said. More important, Cuomo said, are getting a strong message out to the people and addressing crucial domestic issues including unemployment, homelessness, drugs, poverty, and illiteracy. "What is important is the message," he said. "If you agree with the message and you think it's a useful message, then there are better instruments for its delivery, I assure you. ... Persona you can get if we agree on the message." Cuomo said states and cities need help from Washington to address the national problems they face. He said the federal government must develop a more equitable tax system so that states don't have to raise their own taxes and compete with each other for jobs and businesses. In addition, he said, the government must address the country's faltering economy, improve public education, and produce a skilled, well-educated work force. In order to get urban issues on the agenda for the 1992 presidential campaign, Cuomo said mayors must approach both the Democratic and Republican Parties. They must also be persistent and keep pressing their issues throughout the campaign, he said. Some noted a feeling of frustration with the Democratic Party. Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn, president of the US Conference of Mayors, said: m very frustrated with both the Democratic and Republican Parties." The top issues facing American cities, he said, include jobs, transportation, housing, health care, crime, and drugs. But he said that unemployment is the most crucial issue. "When you're not working, the most simple issue is the need for a job," Flynn said. "The best social program I know of is a job." At the meeting, leaders of approximately 30 cities also discussed a fall and winter strategy including a request to meet with President Bush and a march in Washington, D.C., on April 4. The march, to take place on the 24th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr., will be held to protest federal cutbacks to cities and in children's programs. The mayors also discussed creating a legislative agenda. The idea is to get Congress aware of issues specifically related to cities, including legislation on crime, transportation, housing, and the Head Start education program. New York City Mayor Dinkins said there is an urban task force in the US House of Representatives and that Senate majority leader George Mitchell (D) of Maine has agreed to form one in the Senate as well. "I think that what's necessary for all of us, Republicans and Democrats alike, is to give the president something to veto. "We need to call upon the legislature," Mayor Dinkins said. Although the mayors will not endorse any presidential candidate, Flynn said that many of those who are Democrats may find Cuomo attractive. "He is well-known and well-respected by the [Democratic] party," said Flynn. "He starts off with a unique advantage of having worked with mayors in New York State."