The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

Remarks by the President and the Vice President at U.S. Conference of Mayors Reception

East Room

5:30 P.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, welcome to the White House.  My name is Joe Biden.  I work for President Obama.  (Laughter.)  Best job I ever had. 

Hey, folks, look, there's a reason the President and I like talking to mayors.  You're the one group of elected officials that get things done, in large part because you have no option but to get things done.  (Laughter.)  And also, most of the innovation is coming from you all.

Today, I got further evidence of that when I talked with a few of you about what we can do together on the jobs, skills and workforce development.  We promised, back in 2009, there would be -- we'd be a strong partner with you, and I'm confident in saying that because of the man I'm about to introduce, we've kept that promise.

President Obama understands cities better than most American presidents have in American history.  He knows cities face unique challenges when it comes to building infrastructure and creating jobs, and that’s why he nominated a big city mayor, Anthony Foxx -- he doesn’t have all the money in the world, but he's ready to help. 

And also, I've gotten a chance to work directly with so many of you during the Recovery Act.  The only reason it worked, the only reason there was less than 1 percent waste or fraud -- including with our Republican friends who investigated -- is because of you.  You made it work.  You're used to getting things done on time -- mostly under budget -- and getting answers back to people immediately.  And it never ceases to amaze me the tough political decisions, you guys and women, you make every single day in doing your job -- to save your neighborhoods, to rebuild and balance your budgets, and to bring jobs back to your communities. 

So I'm honored to have you here, we're honored to have you here.  And I'm really honored to introduce the best friend the cities have ever had in this White House, President Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Please have a seat. 

Well, welcome to the White House.  It is great to have you.  For those of you who have been here before, welcome back.  I see a lot of friends and a lot of familiar faces around the room, but I've also already had a chance to meet some newly elected mayors.  So to all of you, congratulations -- and make sure you're shoveling the snow.  (Laughter.)  Just a little piece of advice.  It's been cold. 

We've got more than 250 mayors here from more than 45 states and territories.  You represent about 40 million Americans.  And over the last five years, thanks in part to the partnerships that we've been able to forge with mayors in this room and across the country, we've accomplished some big things on behalf of the American people.

But you know as well as anybody that while our economy is growing stronger, and we are optimistic about growth this year and in subsequent years, we've got a lot more work to do to make sure that everybody has a chance to get ahead.  If they're willing to work hard and take responsibility, they've got to be able to participate in that growth.  And every day, mayors are proving that you don’t have to wait for the gridlock to clear in Congress in order to make things happen. 

Now, Mayor Greg Stanton in Phoenix and Mayor Ralph Becker in Salt Lake City have ended chronic homelessness among veterans.  (Applause.)  In San Antonio, Mayor Castro has launched an early childhood education program designed to reach more than 22,000 four year olds over the next eight years.  In Fresno, Mayor Ashley Swearengin is spearheading projects to develop her city's downtown, including a high-speed rail station that's going to help attract jobs and businesses to the Central Valley.  In Philadelphia, Mayor Nutter is helping young people reach higher during their summers by working with partners across the city to create thousands of summer jobs.  In Tampa, Mayor Bob Buckhorn has gone, in his words, "all in," helping his constituents get covered with quality, affordable health insurance.

So mayors from both parties are a part of the climate task force, helping to make sure that cities have what it takes to withstand changes that may be taking place in our atmosphere in the years to come.  More than a thousand mayors across America have signed agreements to cut dangerous carbon pollutions.  I want to work with Congress whenever and wherever I can, but the one thing I'm emphasizing to all my Cabinet members is we're not going to wait.  Where Congress is debating things and hasn't been able to pull the trigger on stuff, my administration is going to move forward and we're going to do it in partnership with all of you.  I've got a pen and I've got a phone.  And that's all I need.  (Applause.)

Because with a pen I can take executive actions.  With a phone I can rally folks from around the country to help grow the economy and restore opportunity.  And that's what today, hopefully, has been about.  You've met with members of the administration.  You've gotten to know each other, but also, hopefully, they've given you some insight into where we see the most promising programs, things that are working, best practices.  And we want to cooperate and coordinate with you as effectively as we can to make sure that whatever works is getting out there and hitting the streets and actually having an impact on people's lives.  And, frankly, there are a lot of things that folks in this town could learn from all of you. 

And I want to close by personally saying how much it means to me to have you here today.  As Joe mentioned, I know a little something about cities.  I got my professional career started as somebody working in some of the toughest neighborhoods in Chicago.  But I also saw how hard work can transform communities block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood.  And to see the resilience and the strength of people, and the incredible vibrancy that cities bring to not just those who live within the boundaries of cities but entire regions, that's what you understand.  And I want to make sure that I've got your back in everything that you do.

So I want to say thank you to all of you for making sure that your constituents are well-served.  But, as a consequence, America is well-served. 

END
5:38 P.M. EST 

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