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'Doing what it takes' to help cities.

Nearly a year ago Rep. Christopher Shays issued a statement condemning the "conspiracy of silence" in the White House and the Congress with regard to municipal distress and disparities. He made a quite commitment then that he would persevere with whatever commitment of time and personal efforts necessary to force the Congress to confront the issues of cities and to respond.

Shays agreed to serve as a co-chair of the Urban Caucus in the House and was the only Republican in the House who made an outreach effort to work with NLC and elected municipal officials: to listen, to learn, to respond and to help.

On May 15, Shays held a press conference in Washington to introduce his "Urban Marshall Plan to Rebuild Our Cities." That plan was the product of a year of determined efforts to explore the roots of community problems, to meet with NLC and community leaders from all parts of the country.

In a meeting with NLC and the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities in Washington in April, Shays noted that he had acquired a reputation during his service in the Connecticut legislature for his dogged determination. He said he intended to develop a similar reputation in Congress for his single-minded commitment to urban issues.

His plan is, so far, the only meaningful and comprehensive effort to assemble a federal municipal policy and to ensure that cities are an integral part of the nation as we approach the 21st century. It is a plan which has been met mostly with silence by the administration and the Congress. It comes with warts and blemishes, and it comes from a member who voted just recently to oppose emergency assistance to families and businesses devastated by the floods in the City of Chicago and riots in the City of Los Angeles.

Told that in trying to introduce such a large and expensive package that he risked his personal credibility, Shays responded that helping cities was his central reason for serving in Congress and that he would stay as long as it takes to make a difference.

He would outlast the sniggers and the silence.

The staff director of a senior Republican in the House who is a former mayor said, in talking about Shays:

"My boss disagrees with him on many issues of importance to cities and towns, but he recognizes his integrity, his willingness to try new ideas, and his commitment to making a difference."

The Marshall Plan

In introducing his plan, Shays warned that "there is absolutely no excuse for inaction:

"We need to rebuild our cities, not bail them out and, in the process, help rebuild the lives of those who live in our cities. Our cities and the people who live in them (particularly, our children) are worth fighting for. "For five decades the United States and the Soviet Union have been fighting the Cold War while Western Europe, Japan and the other Asian rim nations have been fighting an economic war and dividing the spoils. This is the competition of the 90's and we're not going to win this competition if we leave our cities behind.

"I am willing to do whatever it takes to make cities our foundation for the future."
COPYRIGHT 1992 National League of Cities
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes related information on Christopher Shays' urban 'Marshall Plan'; Leadership Profile
Author:Shafroth, Frank
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Jun 1, 1992
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