Tuesday, January 12, 1999

We are here today to support America's communities in their goal of smarter growth, while preserving the open spaces that make this nation so special -- and in a minute, I will introduce President Clinton, who will make two announcements to do just that.

It's a special honor for me to be introduced this morning by the great-grandson of one of America's greatest conservationists, Theodore Roosevelt.

We all know Teddy Roosevelt as a great President. To me, he was more than that. He was also a great Vice President.

When Teddy Roosevelt was Vice President, he was once caught in a hotel fire, and ordered down to the lobby with the other guests. A clerk prevented him from returning to his room, and TR said, "but I'm Vice President." The clerk let him go but then stopped him and said, "hold on -- vice president of what?" Roosevelt said, "the United States, of course." The clerk said, "then get back down here. I thought you were vice president of this hotel."

Nearly 100 years ago, Teddy Roosevelt knew that preserving the beauty and natural wonder of this great land was vital not just to the health of our environment, but also to the health of our families, the power of our economy, and the strength of our communities. President Clinton and I have worked very hard the past six years to govern from that same wisdom -- to craft solutions that are good for families, business, and the environment.

Six years later, not only do we have the healthiest economy in a generation -- we have the cleanest environment in a generation. Today, we are preserving our nation's rivers -- by bringing together businesses and communities through our American Heritage Rivers Initiative. We're redeveloping thousands of acres of contaminated land and rundown old factories -- by leveraging up to $28 billion in private investment and creating 200,000 jobs. One day after 1998 was named the hottest year on record, we are working to reduce the threat of global warming -- by working with the Big Three automakers to develop affordable cars that are three times more fuel efficient. We're working to reduce chemical contamination -- through a voluntary partnership with chemical companies. We are proving that we can grow the economy and protect the environment at the same time.

We know: it's not enough just to protect our natural treasures. Many of the green places and open spaces that need protecting most today are in our own neighborhoods. In too many places, the beauty of local vistas has been degraded by decades of ill-planned and ill-coordinated development. In too many places, people move out to the suburbs to make their lives, only to find they are playing leapfrog with bulldozers. They long for amenities that are not eyesores --just as they long to give their kids the experience of a meadow, the child's paradise, standing at the end of a street. Many communities have no sidewalks -- and nowhere to walk to, which is bad for public safety as well as for our nation's physical health. It has become impossible insuch settings for neighbors to greet one another on the street, or for kids to walk to their own nearby school. A gallon of gas can be used up just driving to get a gallon of milk. Too often, if a parent wants to read a child a bedtime story, their only choice is to do it from a cell phone while they're stuck in traffic. All of these add up to more stress for already overstressed family lives.

The good news is that many communities are coming together to craft solutions. In the 1998 election, more than 200 communities discussed -- and most adopted -- measures to enhance livability. They understand: not only is smart growth better for our families, but places with a high quality of life are more economically competitive as well. We have been proud to play a role -- not by telling communities what to do, but to help them do what they want to do.

Yesterday, I was proud to launch our new Livability Agenda for the 21st Century, to help communities get the tools they need to preserve green spaces, enhance economic competitiveness, and improve our quality of life. It includes a proposed $700 million in tax credits for state and local bonds to build more livable communities; new steps to ease traffic congestion -- including the single highest investment in public transit in history; and new steps to promote cooperation and sound planning among neighboring communities.

The message is clear: working together, we can build more livable communities and protect our natural heritage for future generations while sustaining economic growth well into the 21st Century. There is no person who understands that better, no person who has worked harder to protect our resources and preserve our heritage, no person who has worked harder to give our families and communities the tools they need to make their hopes and dreams come true than President Bill Clinton. He is here to tell us how we can build on that progress, and to make two announcements to take the next step toward protecting our open spaces and creating more livable communities. Ladies and gentlemen . . . President Bill Clinton.

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