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NLC Board meets to redirect organization's leadership role.

The NLC Board of Directors last week launched an effort to redirect its leadership role in response to economic, political, and social challenges facing our nation.

Meeting in Orlando, the Board was joined by two former NLC leaders, Past President George Latimer of St. Paul, and Past First Vice President Carol Bellamy of New York City who shared their perspectives on critical local and national issues from their current vantage points. Latimer, the former major of St. Paul, is dean of the Hamline University Law School and Bellamy, former president of the New York City Council, is managing director in the public finance department at Bear, Stearns & Company.

The Board's focus on changing leadership was prompted by the civil disturbances in Los Angeles last April, the slow response in Washington, D.C., the continuing lack of any federal domestic agenda, the upcoming national elections, and the changing pressures and problems affecting cities of all sizes and regions of the country.

During its day-long work session, the Board looked back at some of the most fundamental changes that have occurred affecting cities over the last decade and looked forward at what changes city leaders can anticipate over the coming half decade. What emerged was a strong sense of the importance of city leaders and NLC in maintaining healthy communities and serving as strong advocates of the people of those communities. Past President Cathy Reynolds, who chaired the subcommittee on leadership, summarized its recommendations by saying it is time to "bring NLC back to hometown America."

Latimer, who described himself as the "Rip Van Winkle of urbanologists," pointed to three critical changes that have increased frustration among local officials and pushed organizations like NLC to talk about new leadership strategies. Those changes are the collapse of a American attention span which is demonstrated in the way we communicate, and the collapse of economic opportunity "either as it really exists or as we perceived it to have existed."

Despite painting a bleak picture, Latimer said he remains optimistic.

"I'm a dreamer," he told the Board. "I still believe there is a unifying theme of what it takes to be an American. In order to be effective, we've got go reduce the agenda to a few key priorities. As leaders, you need to think hard and have the guts to choose."

Bellamy spoke to the Board about the vast changes in local government responsibility over the last decade and a shift from an emphasis on law making to a focus on dealing with operational and management approaches. "Legislative responses are quite inadequate to the issues we face today." she said. "We need to approach problem solving differently by understanding and dealing with immediate human needs rather than legislating."

Ironically, she noted that having now served nearly half her career in the private sector, she sees enormous strength and effectiveness on the public side. "I'm not one of those people who believes that the private sector knows everything," she said. "In fact, I would hire a good public sector manager anytime over even a good private sector manager to deal with these tough issues."

Both former officials said that one of the biggest differences they had observed that city leaders will have to address is the change from the last decade of managing a city's physical resources to the new and growing responsibilities of managing a city's human resources. They said mayors and council members can no longer simply worry about streets, sewers, and parks. With the issues of drugs, crime, homelessness, and unemployment, city leaders have to learn whole new areas of responsibility.

The Board worked in four subcommittees to develop preliminary action recommendations to respond to the far reaching discussion. Past President Reynolds said her group emphasized the importance of connecting with key groups in our communities.

"We need to bring NLC back to hometown America by being clear and direct about our positions," she said. "If we're going to and we want to have a real impact on Congress and on public opinion, we need to be less timid about our positions. We lose our effectiveness if we compromise too much."

NLC President Glenda Hood directed the staff to prepare a report to the Board within the next week, which outlines the conclusions, presents a short term implementation plan, and defines follow up strategies to involve all of NCL's leadership. Board members will comment on the preliminary report before it is distributed more broadly.

In other action at the meeting hosted by President Hood, city commissioner in Orlando, the Board adopted:

[Subsection] the fiscal 1993 operating budget recommended by the Finance Committee. Executive Director Donald J. Borut told the Board that the budget is designed to "provide a comprehensive program of services on behalf of the nation's cities and towns, while recognizing the significant financial constraints under which municipalities are operating today."

[section] changes to the annual business meeting procedures to clarify the process for nomination and election of officers during the meeting and approved a plan for providing clearer information to all delegates about the business meeting process,

[section] motions to urge Congress to expand the House-passed urban aid legislation to ensure credit and small business financing in all distressed cities and towns, instead of just the 25 urban and 25 rural communities under the House version.

[section] two resolutions opposing unfunded federal mandates.
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Title Annotation:National League of Cities
Author:Becker, Christine
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Jul 20, 1992
Previous Article:'Speak out for our agenda' NLC president tells cities.
Next Article:Rep. Obey mounts challenge to bust budget 'firewalls.' (David Obey)

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