House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt told the nation's mayors Saturday that an "active and constructive partnership" between the federal government and local leaders is needed to rejuvenate cities.
Federal money should go toward rebuilding infrastructure and reviving old city buildings, said Gephardt, a Missouri Democrat who spoke at the opening of the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting.
"We need to stop throwing away all of the building stock of our large, medium and small cities in America," he said. "We've always had somewhat of a throwaway society."
He also said it's important to redevelop brown fields--mildly contaminated industrial sites--many of which are in urban areas.
Under a bill the Senate passed in April, the government would help clean up more than 500,000 abandoned industrial sites. It would provide $200 million a year for the cleanups and encourage developers to build on the sites by insulating them from future Superfund lawsuits.
"It's time for us to get serious and not just talk about brown fields," Gephardt said.
He also said more federal funds should go to preschools, after-school and summer school programs to "revolutionize and modernize" city schools.
Many of the 300 mayors attending the four-day conference said they were pleased to hear a tone of cooperation.
"He was really saying what we needed to hear," said T.C. Kay, mayor of Pemberton, N.J. "That it's going to be a bipartisan effort between Congress and the mayors of the United States to make it happen."
President Bush is scheduled to speak Monday to tout his plan to give federal funds to religious charities.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors is a nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are about 1,100 such cities in the country.