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United States Conference of Mayors Remarks by Telephone to the Opening Session of the Conference.

June 13, 1977

THE PRESIDENT. First of all, to Mayor Ken Gibson and to the distinguished mayors who are at the conference in Tucson, let me say that I wish I was there with you.

Last year when the mayors were meeting in Milwaukee, I was able to be there to spell out in some detail what I hoped to accomplish if I should become President. Now that I have a full-time job, it's not as easy for me to attend as many conferences. That's one reason I can't come, particularly this year when we are trying so hard to implement the campaign commitments that I made with your support and with your guidance to me.

I do have great confidence in the representatives that are in Tucson with you from my own administration. Patricia Harris will be speaking to you at lunch today, I understand. Jack Watson from the White House staff is there, also representing me directly. And Secretary of Commerce Juanita Kreps will be speaking to you tomorrow.

I think it's very important that these two Cabinet members and my own staff representative, Jack Watson, serve not only in the capacity of speakers but of listeners. We had a long discussion this morning in the Cabinet meeting about the fact that whenever a new idea or a new problem or a new crisis evolves in our own system of government, the first place that it becomes apparent is under your own administrations, in the cities of our country. Quite often, this new problem arises without having been considered at the State or national level, and there is a time period of months or even long years between the crisis becoming apparent to you and comprehensive legislation being passed in Washington to address a nationwide problem.

So, you are the innovators in working out answers to the most difficult questions that face our own American society. I think this is a good aspect of our system of federalism because it puts the responsibility for searching for answers as near as possible to the people who are involved in the question themselves. But it also puts on a President the additional burden of receiving your advice and your counsel, your support and, on occasion, your criticisms. And I want you to feel that you have an open line into the White House as we deal with problems that affect the people that you and I both represent. All of your constituents are my constituents.

As we face these next few months, I think it's important that we work together constantly in the proper shaping of a new energy policy, the evolution of a new Department of Energy, the reorganization of the Federal Government. I'll be proposing, after close work with you by Joe Califano and others, a comprehensive welfare reform program before the Congress recesses in August. And we also have a need this year to put forward a basic tax reform proposal, which will be done before the Congress adjourns for 1977.

We have many items that are a common problem in certain areas of our Nation. One on which I've devoted a great deal of time personally is how to deal with the undocumented worker or illegal alien problem. We're not only working with the President of Mexico and other leaders, with the Congress and with Governors, but we're also working with mayors whose cities are especially affected.

As we see a growing cooperation, I believe that our own judgments will 'be improved. It is good for you to understand my special perspective in international matters and on a nationwide basis that appear to you to be sometimes quite easy to resolve. And I know that my own judgments will be more effective and more proper depending upon how close and constant a working relationship there does exist between the mayors and the President.

Jack Watson, who's with you, has my full confidence and, of course, my full support. And I hope that every one of you will leave the conference with his telephone number so that if you do have a special need, day or night, you can get in touch with him and, hopefully, he can give you adequate assistance or advice or information. Of course, I'm always available to you if the .Cabinet members and my own staff can't meet your needs adequately.

This is a year when our American people are looking for cooperation and not division between the different levels of government. I think they've responded well to the close partnership that has been formed between the White House and the Congress, and I think that the result of this year's congressional deliberations will be very gratifying to us all. And I want to make sure that at the local, State, and Federal levels of government, we have the same interrelationship that's productive and which demonstrates that our system of federalism can work.

In closing, let me add one other comment. There are going to be a great number of controversies, because many of the issues that I've described to you in the last couple of minutes have been lying dormant for years, decades, sometimes even generations, and have not been addressed adequately.

We have needed an energy policy for a long time. We've needed welfare reform for a long time. We've needed to have the social security system revised and made sound for a long time. We've needed to address the undocumented workers question for many years. And of course, in the field of education, housing, transportation, the needs of our country are very great. We can't answer these questions or solve these problems alone. And I think it's accurate to say that I need you much worse than you need me.

I'm eager to learn. I've enjoyed being President so far, and the reason that I feel confidence in my own self as the leader of our country is because I know that I can depend upon you.

So, work closely with us; don't ever be reticent about either requests or advice or criticisms. And as you have demonstrated so effectively in your own cities and towns, I'll try to demonstrate as President that you and I share the responsibility for administering the affairs of people in the greatest nation on Earth.

Thank you very much. I'm very proud of you and hope that later on I can be with you at one of your future conferences. Thank you very much, Ken Gibson, and all of those assembled.

MAYOR GIBSON. Thank you very much, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. I enjoyed it, Ken. How's it going?

MAYOR GIBSON. Very good.

THE PRESIDENT. Give my personal compliments to all those that have been so close to me and helped me. And I look forward to seeing you often. Goodby, sir.

MAYOR GIBSON. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:05 p.m. from the Oval Office at the White House to the conference, which was meeting in Tucson, Ariz. In his concluding remarks, he spoke with Kenneth Gibson, mayor of Newark, N.J., and president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Jimmy Carter, United States Conference of Mayors Remarks by Telephone to the Opening Session of the Conference. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/243701

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