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Pelosi: You Keep America Strong by Ensuring Its Cities Remain Our Nation's Places of Hope and Opportunity

Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered the keynote speech at the National League of Cities' annual conference this afternoon.  Below are her remarks as prepared:

'Thank you for that kind introduction, President Cynthia McCollum.  Your service to the Madison City Council has strengthened your community; under your leadership the National League of Cities is strengthening our entire nation. 

'I join you in offering deepest condolences to the city of Kirkwood, Missouri, and especially to the families and loved ones of the five public servants senselessly killed at the City Council meeting. 

'Local leaders are the unsung heroes of America's communities.  I know that you gather here today as representatives of 225 million people, relied upon by almost every American for the public services that make modern life possible. 

'Your work is guided by progress, not partisanship.  As you say, 'there are no Republicans or Democratic potholes to be repaired - just potholes.'

'In that regard, I come here today to reaffirm our partnership to keep America strong. 

'To keep America strong, first we must be safe. 

'America's first responders are also our first preventers.

'I come here today with the commitment of Congress to make first responders and the security of America's cities a priority in our federal budget. 

'Once again this year, President Bush is proposing to slash critical Homeland Security programs for first responders.

'For example, the President proposes slashing State Homeland Security Grants which fund first responders by 79 percent, Firefighter Assistance Grants by 46 percent, and he proposes completely eliminating the $190 million SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) program, which helps localities hire needed fire and emergency response personnel.

'The Democratic budget we will pass this week rejects all of these cuts, and will continue to work with you to provide the resources America's cities need to keep our citizens safe.

'To keep America strong, we must create new, knowledge-based jobs as we tackle every major challenge: promoting better health for all Americans, rebuilding our infrastructure, addressing the climate crisis and global warming, and strengthening our economy.

'To keep America strong, America must be healthy.  By promoting better health for all Americans, we can create jobs and strengthen our economy.  

'This year, we will spend about $5.5 billion on total cancer research, or the cost of about two weeks of the war in Iraq.  Yet every year, cancer kills 560,000 Americans - 1500 people per day.  A healthier America means making major investments in basic biomedical research, while ensuring universal access to its discoveries.

'A healthier America means a common electronic medical record for every American from birth on-- to reduce mistakes, lower costs, and improve health care, while protecting confidentiality and privacy.

'A healthier America means personalized care: every American should get care customized to their needs that reduces the disparity in care. 

'A healthier America must contain a strong component of prevention.

'As NIH Director Elias Zerhouni told me, our health care system is structured to deal with the effects of poor health - not to ensure and maintain good health.  It is as if, he said, in the 1950's we had decided to treat polio by creating the best iron lung, rather than a vaccine.  We need to focus on diet, not diabetes, and prevention not amputation. 

'None of the success we want to have in health care is possible without trained, highly skilled personnel.  By investing in nurses, doctors, and other health care providers, we can have a healthier America and, by creating jobs here at home in your cities, a healthier American economy.

'To keep America strong, we must renew America's infrastructure and rebuild it in a way that keeps America growing while making America greener.

'That means reinvesting in our crumbling highways, levies, dams, and bridges and renewing our commitment to mass transit.  These solutions create jobs for America.

'Tomorrow, House Democratic Leadership is holding a forum with national experts on infrastructure.  Foremost in our minds will be your role in this debate, as state and local governments own and operate the vast majority of our nation's transportation infrastructure, including more than 75 percent of the four million mile highway and road network, 90 percent of transit systems, and close to 300,000 bridges.

'The federal share for investment in infrastructure has declined over time.  This places your communities in an increasingly difficult position.  Congress and the Administration must step back up to the plate, recognizing that infrastructure is a long-term and ongoing investment.

'In the next Congress, we will take up the reauthorization of the Surface Transportation bill.  We must produce a robust bill that strengthens our economy, reinforces the transition to a low-carbon economy, and increases the safety of the traveling public.

'Investing in infrastructure in the 21st century also means expanding broadband access across America, and particularly to rural communities.  In this regard, you are in the lead.

'For example, the citizens of Lafayette, Louisiana, under the leadership of their forward-thinking municipal leaders, approved the sale of $125 million in bonds to enable the city to put the infrastructure in place to provide for the broadband needs of the community.  Lafayette is moving forward with providing telephone, cable television, and high-speed Internet services at a rate 20% less than local cable companies.

'Similar initiatives are happening in Fort Wayne, Indiana; Tacoma, Washington; my home town of San Francisco, California and coast to coast. 

'Again, in solving our infrastructure challenge there is job-creating opportunity--to reinvigorate the American economy. 

'To keep America strong for future generations, we must address the climate crisis now. 

'At the end of last year, our landmark energy legislation boosted fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks for the first time in 32 years.

'Last month, we built on that success with the 'Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act.'   It invests in clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency, lower energy costs, strengthen national security, reduce global warming, and grow our economy and create hundreds of thousands of good-paying green collar new jobs.

'In my travels as Speaker, I have seen this firsthand.  For example, when a particular steel plant closed in Pennsylvania, many Americans lost their jobs.  But today, one thousand of those men and women are back to work on the site of their former steel mill - building wind turbines. 

'Just last week in Trenton, New Jersey, I saw young people receiving vocational training to make solar panels.  Yesterday, I visited Stanley Elementary, a green school in Boston.  Students in green schools have been shown to have 20% better test scores. 

'In your own cities, I know you have similarly cutting-edge greening efforts happening right now. 

'In the budget the House will pass this week, we make a strong commitment to renewable energy with funding $1.2 billion above the President's request for energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives - including energy efficiency block grants. 

'In our clean energy revolution, we have the opportunity to create green jobs for Americans and reinvigorate our economy.

'As you hear every day, Americans are feeling great economic uncertainty, and the increasing challenge of balancing the ballooning expenses of gas, health care, and groceries. 

'With those concerns in mind, Congress passed bipartisan economic stimulus legislation to provide tax relief of up to $600 per individual and $1200 per married couple, plus an additional $300 per child. 

'132 million households will receive these recovery rebate checks, including 35 million families who work but make too little to pay income taxes. 

'In my home state of California, for example, 14.7 million people will be receiving rebates worth a total of $12.4 billion. 

'But that is just a first step.  We must address the sub-prime crisis, and deal with the collapse of credit markets.  We must tackle how that affects localities and hits home for American families. 

'As we move forward, we will work to develop a plan to assist states and localities so that you can continue to provide the services your constituents rely on, particularly during an economic downturn.  While the details have not been worked out, there is a case for providing different levels of assistance to different regions of the country based on the help that is needed. 

'When Americans are feeling economically insecure, you are the first to know, hearing straight from your constituents in what President McCollum calls 'tap on the shoulder' moments.

'You have all had these moments - at the grocery store, at your child's soccer game, in the doctor's office - when you feel a tap on your shoulder by a constituent with a concern. 

'These are constituents who are worried about crime in their neighborhoods, or schools for their children, or economic opportunity in their city. 

'And when they tap, you get to work to keep America strong by ensuring that America's cities remain our nation's places of hope and opportunity.

'Thank you.'