In this year's Democratic primary we are blessed with the most diverse and talented assembly of presidential candidates ever in the history of our country. But as a mayor who has for nearly two decades witnessed both the potential of our cities and the squandered promise when our federal government turns its back on urban America, the choice of who to support was always clear - Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Within a talented field, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's vision, passion and experience lifts her far above the rest. I am impressed by her longstanding commitment to fighting for children and families, beginning over three decades ago with Marian Wright Edelman at the Children's Defense Fund. I believe America sorely needs her bold plan to provide quality, affordable healthcare to every single American. And I am inspired by her commitment to create a green economy with millions of high-paying green-collar jobs.
But the one thing that gives me so much confidence in Senator Clinton and her campaign has received next to no attention in this campaign. That is her commitment to America's cities.
As I like to say, Senator Clinton is not afraid to use the C-word. On the campaign trail, in front of urban and rural audiences alike, Senator Clinton has presented a coherent, cogent and value-oriented vision for bringing America's cities into the 21st century. She calls it "Leave No City Behind"--a great metaphor for the kind of true federal-local partnerships we need in this country again.
In the 1990s, we in Trenton saw the potential of true partnership. From effective public housing to empowerment zones to summer job and workforce development programs, we were firing on all cylinders, creating jobs, reducing crime and strengthening our neighborhoods. Over the past seven years, we've moved in the opposite direction. President Bush has replaced partnerships with a your-on-your-own approach that has sapped our cities of the resources we need to keep our streets safe and our economies thriving.
Senator Clinton understands what it will take to get our cities back and track and establish true federal-state partnerships that work. She doesn't just talk the talk of leaving no city behind; she is walking the walk with a set of specific, detailed ideas that deserve far more attention among voters trying to decide who to support at the polls.
Hillary has established three big goals when it comes to our cities: renewing our human resources by investing in our people; rebuilding our crumbling physical infrastructure; and encouraging more economic opportunity and investment in our cities. She has laid out detailed policy proposals to address these complex and inter-related challenges. And I am convinced that as President, she knows what it takes to get them done.
A Youth Opportunity Agenda
When it comes to investing in our people, I commend Hillary for shining a spotlight on an issue that too often gets ignored in our political discourse - the struggle of young men of color who are out of school and out of work.
Hillary and I share a deep commitment to providing new opportunities for these young men, and starting a new conversation about their potential. This is a conversation that leaders in our community--from Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums to the Urban League and the U.S. Conference of Mayors--have been advancing. And it is a conversation that as President, Hillary will lead with the American public.
As Hillary said in an impassioned speech to the Urban League in July, "I reject a conversation about 1.4 million young men as a threat, as a headache, or as a lost cause...That is not who these young men are...It is time for America to begin a conversation about 1.4 million future workers, entrepreneurs, tax-payers, community leaders, business executives.... about 1.4 million future husbands and fathers and role models.... about 1.4 million boys who have the God-given potential to grow into strong, proud, loving, decent, productive, accomplished men with our help and support."
And she matched these words with actions, laying out an innovative, comprehensive Youth Opportunity Agenda to bring new hope and opportunity to young people in our inner cities. Her agenda includes smart cost-effective investments like $10 billion in universal pre-k and expanding nurse-home visits for first-time mothers. It highlights innovative approaches like early mentoring and internship programs to keep at risk youth on track. And it takes on the tough issues that too few politicians are willing to prioritize, like second-chance job training, community based re-entry support to close the prison revolving door, and combating ongoing racial and sex discrimination in the labor market. As a mayor who struggles with the challenges of getting illegal guns off the streets, and finding ways to bring ex-offenders back into our communities, I appreciate Senator Clinton's willingness to get specific on these issues. I look forward to partnering with her to make progress on these issues when she is President.
In addition, earlier this month Hillary announced a bold plan to cut the African American and Hispanic dropout rates in half over the next decade. Almost one-half of all African American and Hispanic young people don't finish high school on time. Many never do. Hillary's plan would invest more than $1 billion on innovation solutions, like early college high schools which give people a fast track to college and multiple pathways through high schools that help young people who thrive in personalized learning environments. Once again, on a vital issue that will rarely capture headlines, Senator Clinton is laying out serious, credible solutions that will benefit young people and urban communities.
Rebuilding Our Cities
When it comes to rebuilding our urban infrastructure, Senator Clinton has been no less ambitious. Inner cities across our country are crumbling; housing, mass transit and roads are not being maintained or improved. Senator Clinton has proposed a number of initiatives to address this growing problem. She supports the creation of an urban infrastructure bank to help drive investment in our urban building projects. She is working to ensure a continuing national commitment to affordable housing in urban neighborhoods.
And as part of her energy plan, Hillary has proposed an ambitious green collar job training initiative, which would seek to train more than a million workers in our inner cities to rebuild and retro-fit buildings. In Trenton, we recently launched a Green Initiative to expand green collar career opportunities in our communities. This strategy has incredible potential to not only improve our urban infrastructure but create new economic vitality in Trenton and across the country. With Senator Clinton, we will have a true partner on creating a green economy in the White House.
In addition, Senator Clinton has endorsed the U.S. Conference of Mayors Ten-Point Agenda called "Strong Cities, Strong Families for a Strong America," which provides a framework to rebuild our cities. She supports innovative ideas like creating a new energy and environment block grant program, which would help repair infrastructure improve public transportation, create jobs and clean our environment.
Encouraging Economic Opportunity
Finally, Hillary is committed to encouraging more economic opportunity and investment in our cities. She would start by strengthening CDBG and encouraging more banks and financial institutions to operate in our cities. She would expand microfinance programs and ensure that the Small Business Administration and contracting opportunities once again look to our urban core and putting people back to work.
I know she will be committed to bringing investment to our cities because I know what she's done for over a decade as First Lady and Senator. In the White House, Senator Clinton strongly supported the New Market Tax Credit and the Empowerment Zones/Renewal Communities programs, which seek to give mayors and community leaders the tools they needed top to catalyze business growth in low-income areas. As Senator, she has fought the Bush Administration's effort to cut the NMTC program, and is currently co-sponsoring legislation to extend the program through 2013. In 2004, Hillary successfully pushed legislation to increase the size of New York's "Renewal Communities," in order to encourage private sector equity investment in cities like Rochester, NY. She has also consistently opposed President Bush's efforts to gut the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, which provides crucial support to financial institutions that serve low-income urban communities.
Finally, Hillary has been a tireless advocate of micro-enterprise development, which we know can be a vital tool to help particularly women and minorities start businesses and generate wealth in their communities. In the White House, Hillary helped launch a grant program to help train micro-entrepreneurs, and developed a Presidential awards program to honor excellence in micro-enterprise development. As Senator, Hillary is pushing efforts to expand the Small Business Administration's (SBA) Microloan Program. She has also worked with the Buffalo Area Microentrepreneurs to increase awareness among women about micro business loans.
The Strength and Experience our Cities Need
History will record this election as a pivotal moment for our country. And at this uncertain and tumultuous juncture, I believe that Hillary Clinton posses the unique blend of experience, commitment, compassion, and vision to lead us proudly into the 21st Century. I encourage voters to take a closer look at Senator Clinton agenda to Leave No City Behind. I believe that, after seven years of federal neglect, her vision will help us rebuild vibrant partnerships that ensure our cities and the people who live in them can once again thrive.
And I believe that Hillary has the ability to inspire millions of new voters in our cities across the country to get engaged and inspired by the political process. It's a shame that 5-year-olds can't vote in this election, because Hillary has no bigger fan than my daughter Laila. While visiting Trenton to attend the National Conference of Democratic Mayors, Laila was supposed to give Hillary flowers but instead as a then two year old, she handed Hillary her cheerios. Since that time, Senator Clinton and my daughter have corresponded. On her backpack there is a bumper sticker that reads "I Can Be President." Hillary will give this inspiration to millions of little girls around the U.S. and the world, and will ensure that their moms and dads are inspired just the same.