[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1997, Book II)]
[December 10, 1997]
[Pages 1733-1737]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks to the Bronx Community in New York City
December 10, 1997

    Thank you. Carmen was great, wasn't she? Let's give her another 
hand. [Applause] I thought she was great. Thank you. Thank you, Genny 
Brooks, for your vision and for your persistence. Thank you, Paul 
Grogan, for your vision and your persistence. The whole approach of LISC 
was years and years and years ahead of Government, and what we have 
essentially tried to do is to get all of our Government

[[Page 1734]]

policies to follow the model that LISC was based on all along, and we 
thank you.
    I'd also like to acknowledge the presence here of three people from 
the city of New York who are very important now to the future of 
America: our brilliant HUD Secretary, Andrew Cuomo; the Administrator of 
the Small Business Administration, from Brooklyn, Aida Alvarez; and the 
Assistant to the President for Public Liaison--I don't know where she 
is, but she's from the Bronx--Maria Echaveste. Where are you, Maria? 
Thank you.
    I also want to join in congratulating my good friend, your borough 
president, Freddy Ferrer, on Bronx being an All-American City. Stand up. 
[Applause] Thank you. I want to thank the deputy mayor for being here, 
and Senator Rosado and Assemblyman Diaz and the other members of the 
assembly and city council who are here. I'd like to thank the Boys and 
Girls Club--the boys and girls of Clara Barton School. I think they made 
this for me, and it's quite beautiful, isn't it? [Applause] And I thank 
the Madison Square Boys and Girls Club for hosting us. I want to thank 
all the financial institutions who have helped, who were mentioned 
earlier. I understand that Frank Duma, the chairman of Bankers Trust, 
and Walter Shipley, the chairman and CEO of Chase Manhattan, are here.
    I'd also like to say--you know, I got my little tour of Charlotte 
Street on the way up here and it was--to show you what a small world it 
is, it was given to me by the current president of the Mid-Bronx 
Desperadoes, Ralph Porter. And I want you to know that--to show you what 
a small place this is, he will probably have to testify about this now--
[laughter]--we grew up in the same town in Arkansas, and his wife worked 
with my mother for many years in the hospital there. And when he came 
here, he decided to pitch in--instead of walk away--like the rest of 
you. And I appreciate that, what all of you have done.
    Let me say, more than anything else I want to begin by thanking the 
people of the Bronx not only for the example you have set here but for 
the support that you have given to me and to the First Lady and to the 
Vice President so that we can continue to work to try to make this 
example real in the lives of people all over this city, all over this 
country, because my one message here is: Look at where the Bronx was 
when President Carter came here in despair. Look at where the Bronx was 
when President Reagan came here and compared it to London in the Blitz. 
And look at the Bronx today. If you can do it, everybody else can do it. 
And we are determined to see that it be done.
    What we have got to do is to take what you have shown us works and 
help more neighborhoods all across America do it. And we have seen that 
this did not happen by accident. It happened, first and foremost, 
because of visionary, committed, determined leadership at the local 
level--people who just wanted a good life. Citizen leaders like Genny, 
citizens like Carmen said, ``This is not complicated; why shouldn't I be 
able to get married and have children in my hometown? Why shouldn't 
people be able to work there? Why shouldn't people be able to live in 
decent housing there? Why shouldn't our children be able to walk the 
streets there? Why shouldn't our children be able to go to decent 
schools there? Why? There is no reason why.''
    They started by asking the right questions. And over time, they got 
the right answers. This didn't happen in a year or two. No single person 
can claim credit for it. But over time, you got it right. Now we have to 
take what you have done here, show the before and after--if I could have 
any wish out of this, it is not that my speech would be reported tonight 
on the evening news or in the press tomorrow; I would just like one 
thing. I would like for every single American to see before and after. 
And they would know.
    And then I would like for them to say, ``How did this happen?'' and 
tell your story. Because what I have tried to do relentlessly for 5 
years is to reorganize the National Government, to reinvent and 
reinvigorate it so that we would be organized in a way that would 
support what you have done.
    When I became President, I had been a Governor for 12 years in a 
State that had a lot of the same problems that the South Bronx had. We 
never had an unemployment rate under the national average the whole time 
I was Governor, for 10 years, until I started running for President and 
a lot of things we had been working on began to manifest themselves.
    But I know what it does to people, good people, if they think they 
can't live in decent housing, in strong neighborhoods, and grownups 
can't get up and go to a job that makes them proud in the daytime, and 
the kids can't get up and go to a school that makes them proud

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in the daytime, and they're scared going to and from work and school 
anyway. I know what that does to people, and it doesn't have to be that 
    And the debate that was going on in 1992 when I first came to the 
Bronx--and President Ferrer and I were reminiscing about it today--the 
debate that was going on in the country was a crazy debate. The debate 
was, one side said the Federal Government should do more just like we're 
doing it, give people money, but we know how in Washington they should 
live and what they ought to do, and put a lot of strings on it, have a 
lot of rules and regulations, set up a bureaucracy, and just pat people 
on the head and tell them we would take care of it. That didn't work 
very well. Then there were other people who said the Government has 
messed it up so much, the Government is the problem; if we would just 
get out of the way and go home, everything would be hunky-dory. No 
money--this is really not a money problem at all.
    One of my rules of politics over more than 20 years has been, if you 
ever hear a politician say it's not a money problem, he's talking about 
somebody else's problem. [Laughter] Then when you see a politician 
interested in an issue, all of a sudden it becomes a money problem when 
he's interested in it, or she is.
    I say that because that was a phony debate. You can't have 
Government in Washington dictating the solution; you can't have 
Government in Washington sitting on the sidelines. Government has to be 
a partner and has to get it right. And what is getting it right? Getting 
it right is saying, there is nothing we can do for you you won't do for 
yourselves, but if you're willing to do for yourselves, we will give you 
the tools and help to create the conditions so that you can have the 
power to change your own lives. That is the right message.
    And that is what we are trying to do. And we've worked at it hard 
for 5 years. That's what we've tried to do with HUD under Secretary 
Cuomo. That's what we've tried to do with the SBA under Aida Alvarez. 
That's what we've tried to do with our whole approach to law 
enforcement. And it is producing results, not by creating programs that 
foster dependency and not by looking the other way but by giving people 
the tools to create their own lives through empowerment and investment.
    Now, that's what Charlotte Gardens represents to me. That's the 
picture I want America to see; that's the message I want America to get. 
There is an urban renaissance occurring all across America today, but we 
know we need to do more. Unemployment is still higher in many inner-city 
neighborhoods than it is in the country as a whole. Only a small 
percentage of the new jobs which have been created in this last boom--
nearly 14 million now--only a small percentage of them have come in the 
inner-city neighborhoods.
    That's why we want more empowerment zones like the one we have in 
Manhattan and the South Bronx, and why we want more of them around the 
country, why we want more enterprise communities where if people will do 
what you've done here, we will give them more help.
    And we're trying to do our part. We have reformed the Community 
Reinvestment Act, which basically says what guidelines there ought to be 
for reinvesting in areas that have been underinvested in; that brought 
$270 billion in commitments from financial institutions to help people 
in distressed areas improve their communities. This is a little-known 
action of the Federal Government, the way we've changed the Community 
Reinvestment Act. That act has been on the books for 20 years. Seventy 
percent of all the money loaned under the Community Reinvestment Act in 
20 years has been loaned in the last 5 years--7 times as much, on an 
annual basis, as before. I am very proud of that. And that's just as 
important--in fact, it is more important than the public tax dollars 
coming in.
    We have got to get the private sector to look at people like you all 
over America and say, this is an opportunity. If people are 
underemployed, if they're underhoused, if we are underinvesting in them, 
that's where America's growth can come. That's where America's future 
is. We don't have a person to waste. We don't have a community to waste. 
We're trying to get the unemployment down more and the growth up higher. 
Go look for the people who have growth potential. That's what happened 
here, and that's what we have to do everywhere else in America.
    We're helping to fund community development financial institutions. 
That's a fancy term for community banks that loan money to people that 
otherwise might not be able to get loans

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but are good risks and honorable people and have good ideas for 
businesses. Your country has spent lots of money setting up these kinds 
of banks all over the world--all over the world. We spent money to try 
to help poor village women in places like Bangladesh get loans--hundreds 
of thousands of them--and yet there have only been a few communities in 
America that have aggressively adopted this philosophy. If it's helping 
to revive people in countries that are a lot poorer than the South 
Bronx, then we ought to make those same kinds of institutions and that 
same kind of capital available to the American people to give them a 
chance to revive their fortunes.
    Secretary Cuomo is modernizing HUD's Federal housing administration 
to make homeownership a reality. We now have two-thirds of the American 
people in their own homes for the first time in the history of the 
country, and we want to do better, and we can.
    We did, as Genny said--one of the things that really has helped here 
is the low income housing tax credit. It gets people to invest for a tax 
credit to make housing more affordable and more available than it would 
otherwise be. Finally, in this last budget we made it permanent. You 
don't have to worry about whether Congress is going to do it now year-in 
and year-out. It is now a permanent part of the Tax Code, so that 
investors can know if they stake their future in neighborhoods like this 
one, that will be there. They know what the economic rules are and they 
don't have to worry about someone changing the rules in the middle of 
the game. And that has made a big difference as well.
    One other thing I want to say--we also have to recognize that our 
country is going through a period of economic transition that every 
wealthy country in the world is facing, where there are relatively fewer 
low-skilled, good-wage jobs; relatively more low-skilled, low-wage jobs; 
but many more higher-skilled, high-wage jobs. Now, the most important 
thing we can do is to set up a system of lifetime training to give 
everybody access to continually improving their skills.
    I live in Washington, DC. It breaks my heart when I drive around 
what is now my hometown and I see people who don't have work, and then I 
pick up the newspaper and read that in every county around Washington, 
DC, there is a vast shortage of technical workers. And businesses are 
constrained in their growth because they can't hire people because there 
is not anybody available that knows what they need. So we need to do 
that. And in the meanwhile, we need to do what we can to improve the 
incomes of people who are working hard every day and doing their best.
    That's why we raised the minimum wage; that's why we lowered income 
taxes on working families with incomes below $30,000 and we doubled the 
earned-income tax credit--it amounts to about $1,000 a year, a family, 
for a family with two kids with an income of under $30,000. That's why 
we are doing what we can to expand health insurance to 5 million 
uninsured children in the last balanced budget bill, and why we provided 
a $500-a-year tax credit per child to help working families on modest 
incomes actually raise their incomes by having the Government take less 
and provide more help to them for their children's health care. These 
things are important.
    In the welfare reform bill--now, we had the welfare rolls go down by 
3.8 million, but we left people with the guarantee of health care and 
nutrition for their kids, more money for child care. And now we've 
provided $3 billion to cities like New York to try to make sure that 
there are public funds available for work for people if they're required 
to go to work and there are no private sector jobs.
    All this is to help people through a transition, but the goal is to 
have everybody living in a place like this place, with a job and a 
neighborhood and a house and a school you can be proud of.
    Finally, let me say--I was so glad to hear it mentioned earlier by 
Mr. Grogan--we can't get investments in the places that people don't 
think are safe. You cannot get people to invest money if people don't 
think it's safe. I'm trying to get people--I'm trying to make peace in 
the Middle East. You know, I've spent a lot of time on it. And you can't 
make--in the end there won't be any peace if those people don't have 
something to do. And 5 years ago, or over 4 years ago, I assembled 600 
Arab-American and Jewish-American business people that said, ``We will 
invest there when it's safe.'' Because there is no point in putting 
money in if it won't produce any result. Everyone understands that in 
the context of foreign policy. We must understand that here at home.

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    That's why we have--again, our whole law enforcement policy is a 
community empowerment policy. The crime bill we passed in 1994, in 
effect, was written by police officers and community leaders and 
prosecutors and others who said this is what we can do to lower the 
crime rate: put 100,000 more police on the street; give the kids 
something to do after school, give them something to do to stay out of 
trouble; take assault weapons off the street; don't sell guns to people 
with a criminal record. And we've had 5 years of declining crime in the 
country as a whole, the lowest crime rate in 24 years in the United 
    It has to be that way in every neighborhood. The lower you get the 
crime rate, the higher the investment will be, the more jobs there will 
be, the more opportunity there will be. I say that because we still have 
work to do. There are still too many of our kids getting in trouble. And 
I won't rest until we know that every single child has someplace to go 
and something positive to do when they get out of school. Most of the 
juvenile crime occurs after school.
    Now, we have more to do. Let me just say a few things that I can say 
today that will affect the people in this room and throughout this city. 
We are going to release $96 million to help create affordable housing 
here in New York through the Innovative Home Program, the same HUD 
program that helped to stimulate the revitalization we're celebrating 
    Second, Administrator Alvarez and the SBA have approved the Bronx 
Overall Economic Development Corporation as the first certified 
development company in New York. Here's what that means. It means that 
over the next 5 years, the Bronx Overall Economic Development Company--
or BOEDC, I guess, is the way you say it--will make $50 million worth of 
fixed-rate loans to small businesses in the Bronx to help them make the 
investments in building the machinery they need to succeed. Most of the 
new jobs in this country are being created by small business--$50 
million coming into the Bronx to help these folks stay in business, hire 
more people, and grow the economy right here in your backyard.
    The third thing I am doing is to put $45 million more in my next 
budget to expand the Community Development Financial Bank, so we can 
make more loans to individuals who can start their own businesses or 
hire people to create an economy where very often there isn't one.
    And, finally, let me say I am very pleased that LISC and the 
Enterprise Foundation have gotten another $250 million in corporate 
investments to help build affordable housing in New York City over the 
next 3 years. Thank you all very much.
    Now, what does all this mean? I'll say it one more time. There is 
nothing that can be done for any neighborhood that people will not do 
for themselves. But people who are willing to do for themselves deserve 
a hand up; they deserve a partner; they deserve a Government committed 
to giving them the tools they need to succeed. That's what empowerment 
is. A lot of people think it's a buzzword; it is not a buzzword. Come to 
the South Bronx if you want to see empowerment. Go down these streets if 
you want to see empowerment. Look at the Mid-Bronx Desperadoes if you 
want to see empowerment. That is what it means. It is not some funny 
word; it's about people taking control of their lives and building a 
better future for their children. That's what we're going to do 
    Thank you, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 11:47 a.m. at the Madison Square Boys and 
Girls Club. In his remarks, he referred to Charlotte Gardens resident 
Carmen Ceballo, who introduced the President; Genevieve Brooks, deputy 
president, Borough of the Bronx; Paul S. Grogan, president and chief 
executive officer, Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC); Deputy Mayor 
Randy M. Mastro of New York City; New York State Senator David Rosado; 
New York State Assemblyman Ruben Diaz, Jr.; and Ralph Porter, executive 
director, Mid-Bronx Desperadoes, a local community development