Presidential Aspirants Shun Mayors Conference
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
The nation's mayors may be feeling a little slighted, or who knows, maybe relieved. All 18 of the declared presidential candidates were invited to speak at the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Los Angeles.
Just three of the 18 showed up, as NPR's Ina Jaffe reports.
INA JAFFE: All the presidential candidates who spoke to the mayors this weekend were Democrats. Senator Hillary Clinton, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. But even before they open their mouths, they got props just for showing up.
Here's Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez.
Mayor MARTIN CHAVEZ (Democrat, Albuquerque, New Mexico): We know what it means when somebody takes the time to be with us. And how could we think that anybody who won't come see us when they're running for office is going to want to see after they get elected?
(Soundbite of applause)
JAFFE: Chavez was introducing the candidate from his state, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.
Governor BILL RICHARDSON (Democrat, New Mexico; Presidential Candidate): If I'm elected president, you're not going to only have a friend in the White House, you're going to have a partner. And I fully commit to that here today.
(Soundbite of applause)
JAFFE: All three Democratic candidates argued that cities had been neglected under the Bush administration. To find an example of the good old days, when the federal government and cities worked together, Hillary Clinton had to go all the way back to the administration of her husband.
Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York; Presidential Candidate): You know, it seems like ancient history now but when Bill was running for president, a lot of mayor said, you know, we need more police on the street. So we did something about it. And all during the '90s, more police on the streets, assault weapons off the streets, and the crime rates fell.
JAFFE: In fact, during the Clinton administration, the mayors' meetings got a lot more attention. Speeches by the president himself, Vice President Al Gore, visits by numerous cabinet officials, and a number of Republican senators. Congressman Dennis Kucinich, himself once mayor of Cleveland, said he knew why the urban agenda had disappeared from the national radar screen.
Representative DENNIS KUCINICH (Democrat, Ohio; Presidential Candidate): Cities have been shoved aside as our nation prosecutes wars against innocent people abroard and forgets the basic cooperation that holds cities together.
JAFFE: But Pat McCrory, the mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, said there are simpler reasons why at least his fellow Republicans were no-shows.
Mayor PAT MCCRORY (Republican, Charlotte, North Carolina): This is primarily a Democratic organization. There are very few Republican mayors. So I'm sure these presidential candidates are using their time management skills in trying to figure out where to get the best hit.
JAFFE: Well, their loss, said Douglas Palmer, the mayor of Trenton, New Jersey and the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Mayor DOUGLAS PALMER (Democrat, Trenton, New Jersey): The ones that didn't show up, really they missed a tremendous opportunity to talk to American's mayors, who represent 80 percent of the population of the United States of America.
JAFFE: Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums says mayors will just have to work harder to get the presidential candidates to address urban issues.
Mayor RON DELLUMS (Democrat, Oakland, California): Whether that's crime and violence, affordable housing, education, we have to become very active as mayors in challenging all of the presidential candidates to begin to speak to the urban agenda.
JAFFE: They have their work cut out for them. On the same day that Clinton, Kucinich, and Richardson were addressing the mayors, two other Democratic candidates visited Los Angeles; Senator Joe Biden and former Senator John Edwards attended fundraisers.
Ina Jaffe, NPR News.