John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks by Telephone to the Mayors' Conference at Miami Beach.

May 14, 1962

Mr. Mayor, gentlemen:

I'm very sorry I cannot be with you personally today, because I've enjoyed that experience in the past. But I have asked my assistant and your good friend, Brooks Hays, to represent me at your conference.

This conference is a matter of great interest to me and to the National Government, because we have been devoting a good deal of our time and effort to attempt to assist you in meeting the problems of our growing urban areas, an area and an environment where over 70 percent of our people live.

Because of this great national challenge, we have in the past months doubled our urban renewal program to help you in your fights against slum and blight. We've developed a program to broaden the housing opportunities for people of low and moderate incomes in our great cities and towns across the country. And after a year of experience with a temporary program, we now have before the Congress a major proposal on urban mass transportation.

I am confident that the Congress, which is proceeding rapidly in its consideration of this measure, will act on it favorably this year.

We have greatly expanded the water pollution control program in order to join with you in providing adequate supplies of good water to meet urban and industrial needs. And we have recommended to the Congress a comprehensive program in the field of air pollution control.

We have joined in attempting to assist you in the acquisition of much-needed open space land in urban areas, and I believe that last year's enactment of airport aid legislation will assure continuing progress towards meeting the objectives of the national airport plan.

Through the retraining and area redevelopment programs, we are engaged in a pioneering effort to reduce chronic unemployment in many of our communities. And we have recently recommended to the Congress a public improvements program as an additional means of combating unemployment.

I am sure as city officials you've been heartened by the United States Supreme Court decision requiring more equitable representation of our urban areas in State legislatures, because from that I believe progress can come.

Our urban areas, and I think the country, suffered a set-back in our recent failure in establishing a Department of Urban Affairs and Housing, but I believe that this country will come more and more to realize--and the Congress will--the necessity for us organizing those departments of the federal Government which are concerned with urban affairs, in such a way as to provide maximum service to your people.

This is a matter of great challenge to us in the years ahead. In a short few decades we've moved from a rural to an urban way of life, and before long we shall be a nation with a vastly extended population, living in great urban areas in housing that does not now exist, served by community facilities that do not now exist, and moved about by means of transportation systems that do not now exist.

These are the facts of life which affect our people, that make it very necessary to strengthen and improve the machinery through which the federal Government acts to help you meet your urban problems.

This development and these problems are tied up to all of our other great national challenges. It is, for example, the remarkable success of agriculture in increasing the production of food that has made our urban growth possible. Conversely, the welfare of our urban areas is essential to the prosperity of our farm families. Thus, it seems to me, we should approach the matters which concern you from a national rather than merely from a sectional or regional viewpoint.

I have been interested in the matter of our city areas for many years. I have enjoyed your hospitality on other occasions, and I want this Conference of Mayors to know that we believe that you, representing on the most intimate level millions of Americans, will continue your efforts to make our Nation's cities a better place for all of us to live.

And you can be sure--you can be very sure and confident--that the federal Government will also continue to work with you in achieving this great and worthwhile objective.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, and I wish you great success in your conference. And I appreciate this chance to talk with you.

Note: The President spoke from the White House to the opening session of the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, Fla. His opening words "Mr. Mayor" referred to Mayor Haydon Burns of Jacksonville, president of the conference.

John F. Kennedy, Remarks by Telephone to the Mayors' Conference at Miami Beach. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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