Remarks by Vice President Harris at the 90th Annual Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors
The Peppermill Resort
12:52 P.M. PDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. Good afternoon. Good afternoon. (Applause.) Please have a seat. Good afternoon.
Thank you, Mayor Suarez, for your introduction, for your work. It is good to see you again. You have been an extraordinary leader not only for your city, but in our country. So, thank you.
Mayor Schieve, thank you for hosting us. It is so good to be back in Reno.
And to everyone, it is my honor to be with you this afternoon.
You, our mayors — you are leaders not only for the constituents that elected you, but, I think if weren’t clear before the last couple of years, it is clear to everyone now you are not only local leaders, you are national leaders who show such courage, conviction, and fortitude during some of the most difficult times.
And so, I’m here, most of all, to thank you all for what you do, what you have been doing, and what you are committed to do.
As many of you probably know, I spent the first 20 years of my career in local government. And throughout the years, I have partnered with mayors in every public office I’ve held — from my time as the elected District Attorney of San Francisco, to being Attorney General of California, and a United States Senator, and, now, of course, as Vice President.
In fact, since first becoming Vice President a little over a year ago, I have met with — as I have counted it, roughly — so far, I’ve met with nearly 60 mayors.
All that to say: I know what you all do and I know how important it is. And I know how personal it is. As a mayor, your work does not stop at the end of the day when you walk out of City Hall. Your work is full time.
It finds you at the grocery store — I know — (laughs) –when a retiree may come up to you to tell you about that streetlight that’s out on his block. (Applause.) I know. (Laughs.)
Your work finds you at your child or your grandchild’s basketball game when the assistant coach wants to know when his neighborhood is getting high-speed Internet. (Laughter.)
Your work finds you at your place of worship when a young mother will ask you how to get guns out of the wrong hands.
People look to you to solve problems. And because you are so present where you work and lead, you often have the experience of people literally searching your eyes to figure out if everything is going to be okay — even when sometimes you may not be sure. But you still keep getting up and getting out there and making it work.
And that is why President Joe Biden and I are honored to partner with America’s mayors to continue to build our nation.
When we took office, as many of you remember, our economy and the pandemic — well, things weren’t looking good; in fact, in many ways, heading in the wrong direction.
But our administration worked with you to get our country back on track. We worked together to help millions of people who, at the time, were facing eviction to stay in their homes.
We worked together to make sure families had enough food to eat. We worked together to help small businesses stay open or reopen their doors and retain their employees.
And because of our work together, since the President and I took office, we have seen record job creation, record declines in unemployment, and a record increase in labor participation. (Applause.)
Just yesterday, in fact, we learned that the long-term health of our Medicare and Social Security programs is stronger than it was a year ago. And, of course, the jobs report that came out today proves that we continue to move in the right direction.
Last month alone, we added 390,000 jobs, which is tremendous progress — (applause) — and happening as we see a shift from recovery to sustainable economic growth.
All together, we have created nearly 9 million new jobs since taking office, which is a record-setting pace of job creation. Unemployment is down to 3.6 percent. And small business creation is growing at an historic rate — which means, of course, at a local level, more folks are starting a new business in your community than ever before.
The backstory on this is that, within our first month in office, many of you will remember, the President and I asked you all to meet with us and to meet with us in the White House. It was virtual, but it was a meeting in the White House; you were there. (Laughter.)
And we asked you — there was a reason for that meeting, and those meetings, because there were many. We asked you what you needed. Because, you see, as many of you know, the President and I, as I said — I did and he also started at local government. So we know you all are — are — you — you got your finger on the pulse. You’re right there on the ground. So we knew you, our mayors, were some of the folks that could be most informative and helpful to us to ensure that we would do the right thing.
And through those meetings, you told us exactly what it would take to help your communities get through the pandemic. The result of that and that work together, that partnership was the American Rescue Plan. (Applause.)
The ARP — you know I’ve spent time in D.C.; we now got a lot of acronyms — (laughs) — so I’m going to say “ARP,” but it’s the American Rescue Plan. One of the things that we talked about with you and we knew has, in many policy initiatives, been an issue and we needed to deal with it — the ARP dealt with one of these issues, which is the need to make sure there would be direct funding to cities. (Applause.) So we did that.
And we did that because we also knew why it is important. It is important because then you all, at a local level, could put that money to work immediately, which you did. Because after the ARP passed, you used this money to get people vaccinated. You used it to support frontline workers, to keep small businesses open, to address crime and keep communities safe, to re-open schools so that children could return to the classroom and parents could return to work.
None of this would have happened without your work to craft and implement the ARP. And so, I’m here to say, for so many reasons, again: Thank you. Thank you for all you have done to enable the progress that we have made.
Together, we are heading in the right direction — toward steady and stable growth. But while our economy has recovered faster than anyone thought possible, it is also a fact, as we all are living and know, that supply has struggled to keep up with the demand for new goods and products.
We have seen the global supply chain slow down because of the pandemic. And we have seen the economic impact of Putin’s unprovoked war in Ukraine ripple across the world.
Both of these factors have resulted in rising costs. And people in your cities, in your towns are feeling the pinch and seeing higher prices from the pump — gas pump to the grocery store.
The President and I are doing everything in our power to lower the cost of the things that matter most for American families, and that includes the work that we still, together, must fight to achieve, such as bringing down the cost of childcare. (Applause.)
We believe strongly if we are to have a strong workforce, we must recognize that we must support working parents and their ability to parent. So we have been fighting to say that for parents making a certain income and less than a certain income, they should not have to pay more than 7 percent of their income in child support.
We are fighting for eldercare and affordable eldercare — bringing down the cost of eldercare. And we are for fighting to make sure that we lower the cost of prescription drugs like insulin, which we should cap at $35 a month. (Applause.)
We are fighting to lower the cost of gas, including an historic step to blunt the increase in gas prices by releasing 1 million barrels a day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
We are already lowering the cost of high-speed Internet. In fact, just last month, I announced that nearly 40 percent of American households are now eligible to receive a discount of $30 off their Internet bill each month. (Applause.)
And I will note that this happened, getting that in the infrastructure law happened because you all joined our fight to include bipartisan work around having high-speed Internet and affordable broadband in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. And in so doing, you all helped put real money in the pockets of Americans.
As a mayor, you understand how much rising costs impact members of your community because, again, you are deeply connected to the day-to-day lives of your constituents. You see firsthand how these costs create uncertainty about the future for many people.
This uncertainty is made worse by the existential challenges that societies around the world right now are grappling with.
As Vice President, I have met with dozens of world leaders and have traveled to many places to sit down and meet with our allies and our partners. And I can tell you this: There is a sense among all that we currently live in an unsettled world.
We see this most clearly in Ukraine, where the long-established principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity now rest on shaky ground, and we also see it here at home. We also see it here at home where we are once again forced to defend fundamental principles that we hoped were well established. Principles like the freedom to vote; the rights of women to make decisions about their own bodies — (applause); even — even questioning what constitutes the truth.
The American people are grappling with these issues at a time when they also face immediate concerns about safety and security and about attacks on their communities that keep happening again and again.
Mayors, you step up when horrific acts of violence shake us to our core, and you see firsthand how the hate that fuels these acts is manifesting itself in our communities. There’s a through-line from what happened at Tops Market in Buffalo to what happened at those spas and parlors across Atlanta, at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Our country is facing what might be considered an epidemic of hate where people are being targeted just because of who they are — because of their race, because of their ethnicity, their gender, their religion, their sexual orientation.
This then is a moment that requires all of us — as leaders, as citizens of a society — a civil society — to stand up and say: Enough is enough. (Applause.)
And we must speak truth and be honest as mayors — because your work does not allow you to be anything but practical. No. Well, we must speak honestly about what is happening and agree that the hate we see is — is not new. There have always been those who see diversity and inclusion not as the strength we know it to be, but as a weakness.
But we also cannot deny that this moment feels different and that data shows us, in the last couple of years, more hate incidents have happened now than at any other point in the last 20 years.
Our interconnected world has now meant that bad actors can find each other online. It has given space for hate to flourish and provided demagogues with a megaphone to inflame these tensions.
Let us not allow those who are motivated by hate to separate us or to make us feel fear. (Applause.) Let us not allow that.
Instead, as we all know, it is a time to renew our commitment to fight for unity; to remind our communities that we all have so much more in common than what separates us; that if we are to maximize our strength as a nation, we must find a way to commit to come together with a principle that includes believing that a harm against any one of us is a harm against all of us and, therefore, that no one should be made to fight alone.
To combat hate, we cannot be silent and we must have the courage to speak truth about what fuels these crimes as we work to come together as a society.
And so let us speak out. No 86-year-old should fear for her safety to go to the grocery store. No nine-year-old should be afraid to go to school. And no 18-year-old should be able to buy a weapon of war. (Applause.)
So, the President — the President spoke last night, and he said — and I think many of us know and agree: We need to pass commonsense gun safety laws — common sense. (Applause.)
We need to take action. And we know it is even more clear this day, just after the massacre of those 19 babies in Uvalde, after the killing just two days ago in Tulsa of 4 people, and after the countless lives lost to gun violence every day on streets across America.
So, it’s clear that we must renew the assault weapons ban. We must expand — (applause) — background checks. We must repeal the liability shield that prote- — protects gun manufacturers. And we must pass — (applause) — red-flag laws to prevent people from possessing firearms if they are a danger to themselves or others. (Applause.)
And finally, the United States Senate must confirm a permanent Director to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobi- — Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives — ATF. (Applause.) Because it’s been a long time, guys, since there’s been a permanent director there. And that organization knows best how these steps will protect our communities.
So here’s the thing. The U.S. Conference of Mayors has been a strong advocate on so many of these issues — on sensible gun laws, by my count, for well over half a century.
And so, again, I thank you. And, in conclusion, I ask you: Please continue to make your voices heard. Please continue to use your bully pulpit to fight for safer communities, for more economic opportunity, and for all the things that you so uniquely understand and know that our families need to succeed and to thrive.
And I know that each of you is up to this challenge, because you are “The Mayor.” (Laughter and applause.) You deliver each and every day, and you always get the job done.
God bless our mayors. And God bless America. Thank you.
END 1:14 P.M. PDT