Joe Biden

Remarks by the Vice President to the United States Conference of Mayors

February 20, 2009

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you all for being here today, and welcome back to the White House. (Applause.) Mr. Mayor, my mayor in the city of Wilmington, Jim Baker -- when I got elected, he assumed that he got an office in the West Wing. (Laughter.) But he has a telephone number that is accessible -- hi, Jim, how are you?

Thank you all for being here. It's great to be with so many -- so many leaders who are literally, to use that shopworn phrase, on the front lines where the economy lives and dies, and where people are struggling, and you have to deal with it every day.

You know, in a long career in politics, there's one overwhelming reason why I never ran for mayor, Richie, it's too hard. (Laughter.) They have got your phone number, and they know where you live, and they come and they use it.

Well, President Obama and I are turning that around. We want you to know you can have our phone number, and you know where we live. (Applause.) And we expect you to use it. Already, we've met with you and the Conference of Mayors over half a dozen times.

Too often in the past, America's cities have been neglected, and our mayors haven't had -- haven't been able to be heard on the questions of national policy. That's a story you all understand and know very well. But we know how important cities are -- 65 percent of our nation's population, as you all know, live in our cities. Our cities are the home of seven out of ten American jobs. And when you're talking about the "knowledge economy jobs," the number rises to eight and ten -- eight out of ten. Cities are vital to our economy, essential to our recovery, and haven't been paid much attention to.

Our economy can never reach, in our view, its full potential if we have people who are living blocks away, but worlds away from the bustling downtowns full of opportunity. Our poor transportation systems don't provide mobility people need to get to the job. Or they aren't enough police or firefighters in communities to keep the communities safe.

And that's why the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act President Obama signed this week I think includes unprecedented investment in American cities. (Applause.) Simply stated, that's the commitment made in this law. Now, the hard part in one sense, is up to us. We got to make this work. We got to make it work for our people. We got to make it work for our cities. We got to make work for all our people.

The American people have trusted their government with an unprecedented -- unprecedented level of funding to address the economic emergency we face. In return, we have to prove to them that their dollars are making a difference in their communities. We've already set up a website -- [sic] -- which will show where and how the money is being spent. The public can actually go on a web site and see how we're spending this money.

President Obama has been insistent during his campaign, and from the time we won, on accountability and transparency. All of you know, if we don't meet that minimum threshold, the likelihood of the public trusting us to do this kind of thing is going to evaporate very rapidly. Transparency is vital, and effectiveness is paramount. These investments are a huge opportunity -- a huge opportunity to create jobs today, and strengthen our economy for tomorrow.

We've designed this bill to save and create -- save or create over 3 million new jobs. And we'd like to see it do even better than that. And that's where your efforts come in. You are -- you're the ones who know the areas that give us the greatest return on our investment -- you know it better than we do. You're the ones who know -- you're the ones who know which projects will crystallize private investment and even greater growth in your cities. And the world is watching -- the world is watching to see how well this is going to work. And we need your help -- we need your help in making it work, and work quickly and effectively.

As of today, we're one month into this administration -- although I said to the President in the past, it feels like a little longer than that. But we are one month into this administration. And think what the President has already done -- already signed into laws, there's a Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. We've expanded state health insurance -- Children's Health Insurance Program to cover an additional 4 million children. We put forward -- excuse me -- we put forward a plan to reduce preventable home foreclosures. We've won passage of the largest economic recovery effort since World War II -- in a month -- in a month. (Applause.)

So the results of the President's leadership and your help are already there and clear for everybody to see. But it's been a great privilege to also see how much this President has done behind the scenes to make this happen. I've been here for eight Presidents -- for eight Presidents -- you can tell by my look. (Laughter.) Well, I want to tell you something: The hard choices the President has made, the patient outreach he's done, the firm resolve he's shown -- the results of this work I think speak for themselves. But I'm pleased to speak about the man who made these results happen.

There is so much more to do -- so much more. But already, President Obama has put our nation on the path toward greater recovery -- not only greater recovery, but greater decency, greater fairness, greater opportunity, along with economic recovery. For years, many of us have hoped for such accomplishments. And in just one month, an incredible new President has made this a reality.

So please join me in welcoming the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama. (Applause.)

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks by the Vice President to the United States Conference of Mayors Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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