Spotlight Exclusives

Remediating and Reducing Poverty, by Mayor Manny Diaz, Mayor of Miami and President of the United States Conference of Mayors

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The current financial climate in America underscores that entrenchedpoverty and limits on economic opportunity are not only local problems, butAmerican problems. And national problems demand national investments. AsWashington bails out Wall Street, they must also remember Main Street America andinvest in education, infrastructure and poverty remediation measures to ensurethat all Americans have the opportunity to achieve self-sufficiency and aprosperous future.

This summer, as president of the United States Conference ofMayors, I announced five Mayors۪ Action Forums, to convene a discussion on themajor issues facing our nation۪s cities: energy and the environment, crime andpublic safety, reducing and breaking the cycle of poverty, infrastructureinvestment and development, and the economic impact of arts, culture andtravel.  Due to the urgency of theseproblems, we held the first forum on August 5 and concluded the last forum onOctober 3.While it is vitally important for the mayors of America۪scities and metropolitan areas to meet and discuss the problems facing ourcities and arrive at concrete solutions, the reality is that these are nationalproblems. America۪s cities and metropolitan areas make up 85 percent of thetotal population. Our cities and metropolitan areas are where more than 90percent of our national economic growth occurred between 2000 and 2007.Economic activity in our cities and metropolitan areas represent more than 86percent of our Gross Domestic Product. Unfortunately, Washington has ignored the needs andnational growth opportunity of its cities and its people. The truth is that Washingtonhas lost its values and sense of purposeengaging in endless debate andpartisan bickering while people in this country continue to suffer.  In view of Washington۪s continuing neglect of theseimportant issues, the United States Conference of Mayors took the initiative tohold these forums to devise a plan of action for America۪s cities for the nextpresident. The mayors of the country want to seeour recommendations included in the next president۪s proposals to congress, andimplemented in the first 100 days of the next administration.Poverty is at the top of our list.  Statistics show that 1 in every 6 children inthis country lives in poverty, with nearly half living in extreme poverty. In addition,of the more than 140 million Americans employed in 2006, 8.7 million wereliving in poverty evidence that even full-time work is failing to liftworkers out of poverty. Long-term poverty remediation is required.We cannot tolerate such injustices in our midst.  That۪s why, on September 24 in Los Angeles, mayors at theAction Forum on Poverty included the following amongst their recommendations:


    A recalculation of how poverty is measured to accurately determine the true nature of poverty in this country

  • A cabinet-level position to direct and coordinate poverty reduction programs with a special emphasis on early-childhood education and healthcare


  • Tax-code reforms to simplify the process to access benefits and make them available to a wider number of families

  • An expansion of financial literacy programming to promote and enhance financial stability

  • Significant investment in workforce development programs to give students multiple paths to employment

We invited senior advisors to Senators John McCain andBarack Obama, so that no matter who prevails on November 4, America canlook forward to real action on poverty in the coming year.

During my tenure as Mayor of Miami, I have worked to makeour city an example of how we can alleviate and remediate both the immediateeffects of poverty and its long-term causes. I also launched “Helping Hands, Mending Lives,” a 10-year,public-private partnership to end chronic homelessness.  I۪m proud to say that since then we havealready reduced homelessness in Miamiby 50 percent.  In March, afterWashington enacted an economic stimulus, we assisted low and moderate incomeresidents to  navigate  the complicated tax filing process through 25City of Miami-sponsored locations, so they could secure the relief to whichthey were entitledand desperately needed.

Other mayors have taken bold and decisive action onpoverty.  Yet this alone is notenough.  Poverty is a national problemand demands national attention.  The nextpresident must take strong steps to ensure that Washington never again abandons the needs ofits cities and their residents.

I left Cuba at the ageof six, arriving on my mother۪s lap. We didn۪t have a penny to our name, but Igrew up to become mayor of one of America۪s greatest cities because of apartnership between the federal government and the people of Main StreetAmerica.  I believe in the American dream because I am a product of it. This isthe only country in the world that inspires a dream.  Let us not deny America۪s poor and disadvantagedthe same opportunity to dream. 

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