Thank you. Chairman D'Amato. I also wish to thank Senator Gramm from my home state of Texas for his support and friendship over the past years.
Before I begin my formal comments, I would like to introduce four of the most important people in my life; the people who provide me with the support and strength that I need to be successful. They are my wife Maria Agnes ("Aggie"), my two sons Saul and Joaquin and my daughter Alexis Nicole.
I am deeply honored to have been nominated by President Clinton to be HUD's Deputy Secretary and to have the opportunity to serve with Secretary Cuomo during this time of great change at the Department. Prior to that time, I had been serving as HUD's Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development. Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you and Members of the Committee for the trust you expressed in me by confirming me, this past November, to that position. As Assistant Secretary I began to clearly see the impact that this agency can have in service to our nation's cities.
In February of this year, I was asked by Secretary Cuomo to serve as Acting Deputy Secretary. In this position, in addition to serving as HUD's Chief Operating Officer--overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Department- I have also been asked by the Secretary to "spearhead the implementation of the HUD 2020 Management Reform Plan."
Prior to coming to HUD, I served for a number of years at the local government level in Laredo, Texas-first, as a City Council member for eight years and, then, I was elected Mayor of the city where I served for seven years. During my tenure as Mayor, the city of Laredo underwent an unprecedented period of growth and development, and was literally transformed from a sleepy little border town to a vibrant international trade center which currently serves as the central point for land transportation between the United States and Mexico handling more than a third of all trade between the two countries.
As Mayor I have experienced the problems and triumphs of rebuilding our poorest neighborhoods, while at the same time, addressing the tremendous population growth and expansion which drain existing capital resources and increases the level of demand on city services. While Mayor, I also had the opportunity to serve with several state and national organizations that advocate the needs of America's cities-including the Texas Municipal League and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
As a Board Member of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, I have seen how the linkages between the national economy and national policies impact upon local communities. I have seen which government programs work, as well as those which do not.
By many accounts, cities across the nation are experiencing an extraordinary renaissance. The evidence is everywhere--unemployment is at historic lows, homeownership rates continue to rise, crime is plummeting in most major cities and the fiscal health of our urban areas is improving. Our nation's urban communities are at a pivotal moment in history. We must find ways to ensure that the current positive trends lead to a sustained, long-term resurgence for our urban, metropolitan areas.
At HUD, we are committed to continued improvements in the outlook of America's cities and communities-reaching forward into the New Millennium on many fronts-making welfare reform work, competing in the new high tech., information-based, global economy, managing the growing diversity of our cities, and encouraging cooperation between cities and suburbs.
To accomplish this, we have a plan in place the HUD 2020 Management Reform Plan - a series of bold initiatives designed to empower communities and restore HUD's credibility by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the Department's programs and services. The Plan focuses the Department on two distinct missions-helping communities rebuild, and restoring public trust by protecting the American taxpayer. It combines the new mission with a new structure that separates processing and public trust functions from constituent service operations.
When fully implemented, the Department will have improved tools to further:
We are well on our way in meeting these objectives. I am excited about serving at the new HUD and implementing the priorities that the President and Secretary Cuomo have set for the Department.
If confirmed, I look forward to working with you to carry out HUD's new mission of helping communities rebuild, and restoring the public trust in the Department by eliminating fraud, waste and abuse. I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today and would be happy to answer any questions that you may have.
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