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pd25oc99 Statement on Signing Legislation Establishing Black Canyon of the...
million in HUD community development block grants for the counties hit hardest by Hurricane Floyd. These expedited funds, which normally would have been released in January of 2000, can be used by communities now for disaster recovery and for repairs to both homes and businesses--I know this has been a big issue up here--as well as to water and sewer facilities. Last, on Saturday the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced a lump sum rental assistance of up to $10,000 for individuals whose homes were damaged in the hurricane. We will continue to do all we can to help, and I hope that these measures will be particularly helpful. I have been following this very closely. I know there's been a lot of concern up here, particularly from businesses who felt that they needed more help [[Page 2077]] than just the low-interest loans could provide. So I hope this early release of community development block grants will give them the help that they need. Budget Negotiations Q. Mr. President, do you expect Republicans to make any concessions at your budget summit tomorrow? The President. Well, I don't know. What I would like to see is the return to the spirit of working together that we had in 1996 and 1997 and 1998. We had plenty of arguments, but we banded together in all those 3 years to pass good budgets. We passed the welfare reform; we passed the Balanced Budget Act of '97; and we passed the remarkable budget in 1998, that, among other things, contained the 100,000 teachers. In the balanced budget, we had the HOPE scholarships, which have opened the doors of college to virtually all Americans--first balanced budgets, back-to-back, in 42 years. So there has been this year something that I hoped we wouldn't have; there's been a return almost to the spirit they had in 1995. I don't understand that, and I thought that I did everything I could to reach out my hand to them early in the year to try to get the country back together, and I still hope we'll do that. I still think that it's almost inexplicable that we're going through these really good times, and some people see good times as a luxury to indulge in division and diversion. To me, they impose an obligation to make the most of them. So you know, I'm just going to reach out a hand of friendship and hope that we can work together. We've done it on one of these bills, the VA/HUD bill--I think is quite a good bill, based on what I understand of it, and we can do it throughout, we can work through all of this if we just have the right attitude. I'm going to bring my right attitude to the meeting. Vieques Island Q. Sir, have you had a chance to consider the military's report on the Vieques Island? The President. I have not. I think it's just been released. But I do know that Secretary Cohen said that he wanted to have further discussions and to try to talk to the leaders down in Puerto Rico, which is what I think ought to be done. The best of all worlds here would not only reach a good result, but it would reach a good result in a good way, and we would have a process which would restore a sense of trust and partnership between Puerto Rico and the Pentagon. An enormous number of Puerto Ricans have served with great distinction in the American Armed Forces, and to have the whole island, starting with the Governor and Congressman Romero-Barcelo feel estranged from the Pentagon, not only over this but over the way the memorandum of understanding has developed since 1983, I think is a very bad thing. So it may be that something good can come from this, and I think the fact that Secretary Cohen wants to actively reach out to the Governor and to that committee that has been appointed down there and have further discussions with them before making some sort of final recommendation to me is quite a good thing, and that's what I'm looking forward to. Hurricane Floyd Disaster Relief Funding Q. Mr. President, a lot of the frustration of the people in New Jersey over the flood situation is that--a lot of them have said this to me--is that when natural disasters occur, one, they're given grants very quickly, but they're saying. ``Hey, here we are in the United States and we have to deal with loans, SBA loans, and keep waiting and waiting.'' The President. That's why I gave this community development block grant money early. Because this money can be used as grants to do this kind of work. And I've been following this very closely. We spend a lot of money, if you will, in grants in America, but most of it is in repairing public facilities and in helping people get through immediate emergencies, which is about all we can do overseas as well. But under unusual circumstances, we've seen this in other places. In North Dakota, when they had that terrible flood, you remember in Grand Forks, we were able to release some community development block grant funds, which they were able to use not only for individuals but also for businesses who were so devastated that the low-interest loans were not enough. [[Page 2078]] So I'm hoping that this announcement I've made today will respond directly to what I have heard from the people of New Jersey needs to be done. Note: The President spoke at 6:37 p.m. at Newark International Airport. In his remarks, he referred to Gov. Pedro Rossello of Puerto Rico. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks. <DOC> [Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents] [frwais.access.gpo.gov] [Page 2078-2083] Monday, October 25, 1999 Volume 35--Number 42 Pages 2065-2124 Week Ending Friday, October 22, 1999 Remarks at a New Jersey Democratic Assembly Dinner in Elizabeth, New Jersey October 18, 1999 Thank you. Well, first of all, ladies and gentlemen, let me say I'm delighted to be here in Ray Lesniak's humble home. [Laughter] It's a beautiful place; we have a beautiful tent. It's a gorgeous New Jersey evening. When I got out of the airplane at the Newark airport and I looked up in the sky, it was just so beautiful. And I was so glad to be here. I thank Representative Menendez for being here and for his friendship and support and his representation of you in the Congress. I thank Mayor Bollwage for hosting us; and my good friend Mayor Sharpe James, who is the only big city mayor in America who's also in the State Assembly--in the State Senate--it's liable to start a trend-- [laughter]--which if you're a Democrat would be a very good thing to do. [Laughter] So, Sharpe, I think at the next mayors' conference you ought to suggest to all of our other mayors they should run for the State Senate or the State Assembly; it would be a good thing. Chairman Giblin, thank you for your work. Senator Codey, Assemblywoman Weinberg, and to all the other members of the Assembly here, all the other mayors that are here. Mr. Corzine, thank you for being here and for offering yourself for public office. I got tickled, you know, I'm always learning about New Jersey, and I love it. What Ray didn't say was that we had the biggest improvement in our vote in the margin of victory from '92 to '96 in New Jersey of any State in the entire United States of America. And I am so very grateful for that. So here's what I learned about New Jersey politics tonight. Lesniak, the Pole--[laughter]--introduces Bob Janiszewski. Doria, the Italian, pronounces it properly and calls him Janiszewski. [Laughter] Now, that's because if you're not in the family you've got to be politically correct--[laughter]--but if you are, you want to say the guy's name in the way that can get the most votes. [Laughter] It was fascinating, I loved it. Let me say, I met--you know, Bob had me, in October of 1991, 8 years ago this month, to the Hudson County Democratic dinner. And I was hoarse, I could barely talk. I thought, you know, I saw this guy and I didn't know whether he was going to bounce me out of the room or put his arm around me--and as strong as he is, I might not survive either one. [Laughter] And I wanted so badly to make a good impression, I couldn't even talk. Maybe that's why most of the people there supported me; I don't know. [Laughter] But since then, the friendships that I have enjoyed here, the support that I have received from here and the opportunity we've had to work together has meant more to me than I can say. And you've been so good to me, to the Vice President, to our family in the administration. I just can't thank you enough. You might ask--Joe said, well, I'm the only President that ever came here for the Assembly candidates. Now, if I were running for reelection you might understand that. What am I doing here tonight? Well, if Ray Lesniak asked me to empty my bank account--meager, though, it is--fly to Alaska to meet him tomorrow morning, I'd probably do it. I feel deeply indebted to him, and I'm glad his wonderful family is here tonight. But I came here tonight not only out of a sense of gratitude and indebtedness to people like Joe and so many others here who have helped me over the years, but also because I think this is quite important. And I'd like to ask you just to take a few minutes with me and think about where our country has come from, where we are now, and where we're going, and how these Assembly races fit into it. You know, when I ran for President in 1992, it's almost impossible to remember [[Page 2079]] what the country was like. We had high unemployment, stagnant growth, stagnant wages; we had increasing social division, crime was up, welfare was up, all the social problems were up; we had had serious incidents of civil disobedience out in Los Angeles; we had political gridlock in Washington. Our country was divided, and there was no unifying vision that would bring the people together. And it seemed to me that someone ought to run--and at the time, the incumbent President, Mr. Bush, was at over 70 percent approval in the polls, in the aftermath of the Gulf war. But it seemed to me that somebody ought to run and say, ``Look, this country is going through a lot of changes, and we have a lot of challenges and a lot of opportunities. And we're not going to either meet the challenges or seize the opportunities unless we have a vision that will bring us together and move us forward.'' And so I went around the country. I declared--to show you how much frontloaded this process has become, I didn't even declare for President until this month, in 1991. This race has been going on ever since my daughter was in diapers, for--this year I think. [Laughter] And I said, ``Look, I believe we need to bring this country together around a set of simple values and new ideas: opportunity for all, responsibility from all, and a community of all Americans. I believe we need to look to the future and understand that we can get rid of this deficit and still invest in education, that we can protect the environment and still grow the economy, that we can help labor and business. And that all these either/or choices that have been put on us from Washington for years and years and years will not get us where we want to go.'' I also said I thought we needed a new set of partnerships in America between Government and business and labor, and between the Federal Government and the State and local government. We needed to focus on empowering our citizens to make the most of their own lives and challenging them to serve in whatever way they could. All these things were just arguments in '92. And luckily for me and the Vice President, the country gave us a chance. They said, ``Okay, we heard your argument; we'll give you a chance.'' But it's not an argument now. There's evidence; the results are in. And after nearly 7 years in office, we have the longest peacetime expansion in history, 19\1/2\ million new jobs, the highest homeownership ever, the lowest unemployment rate in 29 years, the lowest welfare rolls in 30 years, the lowest poverty rates in 20 years, the lowest crime rates in 26 years, the lowest murder rate in 32 years, the first back-to-back budget surpluses in 42 years. And we've reduced the size of the Federal Government. It's the smallest it has been in 37 years. It's not an argument anymore; we're going in the right direction. And along the way, we proved you didn't have to give up other things--the air is cleaner; the water is cleaner; the food is safer. We've set aside more land and protected it than any administration in the history of this country, except those of Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt. We've immunized 90 percent of our children against serious diseases for the very first time. A hundred and fifty thousand young Americans have now served in AmeriCorps. The HOPE scholarship and other financial aid have virtually opened the doors of college to all Americans who are willing to work for it. And 15 million Americans have taken advantage of the family and medical leave law. Now, the question before America in the elections of 1999 and 2000 is, what are we going to do now? Where are we going now? Are we going to say, ``Well, we're doing so well, we can indulge ourselves in petty politics and meanness and just power positioning of the moment''? Or are we going to say, ``Hey, this is the chance of a lifetime. Once in a lifetime a country is in this kind of shape--a great country, leading the world--and we have to use this once in a lifetime chance to basically build the 21st century of our dreams for our children and our grandchildren and for a safer and more prosperous world''? In order to do that, we have to challenge the American people, and you have to challenge the people of New Jersey to think big and to be big. I know what I think the big challenges are. And when I tell you, you'll see why I'm here tonight. [[Page 2080]] One, we have to take care of the aging of America. The number of people over 65 in this country will double in the next 30 years. I hope to live to be one of them. [Laughter] When that happens, there'll only be two people working for every one person drawing Social Security. So meeting the challenges of the aging of America requires us to do a number of things. Number one, to save Social Security and stretch out the life of the Trust Fund until it encompasses a life expectancy of all the baby boomers. That's worth fighting for. Number two, to save and reform Medicare and add a prescription drug benefit. To let people between the ages of 55 and 65 buy into Medicare, because people who lose their health insurance at that age almost never find another job with the same sort of health care guarantees. We ought to have a long-term care tax credit--that's a tax cut I wish my Republican friends would embrace, because so many families are having to take care of their parents or disabled relatives in long-term care. The second thing we've got to do is meet the challenge of our children. We have more children from more diverse backgrounds by far than at any time in our history, in State after State after State--not just in places like New Jersey and New York and California. My State, Arkansas, is one of the top two States in America in the percentage growth of Hispanic children in our schools. Our whole country is becoming more diverse. And yet, we know that while we have the best system of colleges and universities in the world, we do not give all of our children a world-class education. We need higher standards, and we need more support. If we're going to have no social promotion--which I favor--we also should have summer school and after-school programs for the kids who need it; 100,000 teachers for smaller classes, which gives great results, and every classroom in this country should be hooked up to the Internet. And we ought to build or modernize thousands and thousands of schools. And if my initiative passed, we could help you get that done here in New Jersey. So, the aging of America and the children of America; the third big challenge we have is to help the families of America in an age where almost everybody with children is also working. I think we need to broaden the reach of the family leave law. I think we need to toughen the enforcement of equal pay for equal work--it is still not a reality; women still don't get equal pay, and that is very, very important. I'm the only guy that I know made less money than his wife every year we were married until I became President. [Laughter] This is something I'm doing for the rest of you. [Laughter] I feel very strongly about it. We ought to pass the patients' protection bill. We ought to do more for child care for working families. We ought to raise the minimum wage. These things are important. We ought to expand health care coverage, especially to children of lower income working people. The fourth thing we've got to do, I believe, is to set as a national goal that we're going to make America the safest big country in the world. Yes, the crime rate is the lowest in 26 years. That's good. The murder rate is the lowest in 32 years. In spite of these horrible school
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