WASHINGTON -- Members of Bill Clinton's transition team spent part of last week letting state and local officials know that the President-elect understands their problems and is ready to work closely with them next year.
"You're going to have a friend in the White House," Al From, the transition office's director of domestic policy, told members of the National Council of State Legislatures on Friday during a meeting here.
Earlier in the week, half a dozen big-city mayors met with the transition team's chairman, Vernon Jordan, and emerged from the closed-door gathering with only positive reactions.
"It was like a meeting of old friends," William Althaus, the mayor of York, Pa., told reporters.
"We believe we were not just heard but understood and received very warmly," said Althaus, who is also the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Implied in the mayors' and From's statements is the feeling among state and local officials that for a dozen years President Reagan and President Bush did not take their concerns seriously or attempt to understand what their problems are and how the federal government can help them.
"For so long, cities have been closed out of everything," New York City Mayor David N. Dinkins said after the meeting with Jordan, adding that he was encouraged things would be different with Clinton in the White House.
Similarly, Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson said he was "more encouraged now than I have been in many years."
From told the legislatures group that Clinton is better suited to understand the problems of cities and states because of his time as governor of Arkansas, a position he was scheduled to relinquish Saturday.
Clinton "has been an innovative governor," From said. "We want to encourage, not discourage innovation."
The meeting with Jordan did not go into any specifics on how Clinton plans to help state and local governments, the mayors said, nor did From's speech. Dinkins said, however, he is "confident Bill Clinton will stick to his [economic proposals], which will bode well for New York City and other cities around the country."
Despite all the good feelings that were apparent among the participants in both meetings, the state and local officials said they would be watching Clinton carefully to be sure he makes good on his promises.
Baltimore Mayor Schmoke said he gave Jordan a very blunt message for Clinton: To "stay focused on the urban agenda if he wants to get reelected."