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A call to fight back for America: NLC pushes campaign for reinvestment in cities and towns.

National League of Cities President Sidney J. Barthelemy set the tone and the feel of the 68th Congress of Cities last week at the opening general session with a call for city and town officials to join in a campaign to "fight back for America."

Sign up sheets were given to all of the nearly 5,000 delegates to commit toward working for five priority issues approved by the NLC Board.

1. Cutting defense spending and using the savings to reduce the national debt and to invest in human and public infrastructure. NLC recommends 60 percent of savings be used to cut the deficit and 40 percent for domestic needs.

2. Real federal action to fight the war on drugs by providing direct assistance to cities and towns.

3. Reauthorization of the nation's housing and community development laws and rejection of HUD proposals to condition any federal housing and community development assistance upon HUD's preemption of municipal land use planning and zoning ordinance, permits and regulations.

4. Enactment of the Local Partnership Act of 1991 to provide targeted fiscal assistance to the nation's cities and towns.

5. Opposition to middle income tax cuts until the federal government has met itsresponsibility to balance its own budget by eliminating fiscal, human and physical deficits.

Bathelemy's call to "fight back for America" was bolstered throughout the five-day meeting by the NLC Board, Advisory Council, in numerous panel and workshops sessions, by speakers and by a commitment by President George Bush to meet with NLC leaders to discuss the domestic agenda.

Bush in a televised address from the White House told delegates his State of the Union address after the first of the year will focus on America's interest and will ask Congress to enact a commonsense series o economic growth measures. He also committed in an answer to a question by Mayor Willian Hudnut of Indianapolis to meet with a delegation of NLC leaders to hear their ideas on the domestic agenda.

Incoming NLC President Glenda Hood of Orlando, Fla. immediately accepted the president's invitation.

The economy and/or the recession and how they were playing out in cities and towns throughout the nation both in human and physical needs were focal points of nearly every session of the conference.

U.S. Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander chanlleged the mayors and councilmembers of America's cities and towns to create atypical schools and "break the mold" in the way they educated our youth. He spoke at the opening general session. Alexander met with a delegation of NLC leaders following his talk to further review his proposals and to hear NLC views.

A panel discussion by two governors and three mayors moderate by former NLC President Charles Royer, now director of the Institute of Politics for the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, found state and local governments are often at odds about which direction to go, but face a common dilemma--a demand for increased services and lower taxes. Members of the panel were Gov. George Sinner of North Dakota, Gov. Robert Miller of Nevada, and Mayors William Hudnut of Indianapolis, Cardell Cooper of East New Jersey, and Florence Shapiro of Plano, Tex.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who addressed the closing general session as well as a special meeting of his Rainbow Coalition, pounded at a "past ten years of public policy that have been driven by a set of false assumptions and attacks on our real economic strengths."

He decried a 75 percent reduction in federal funding for urban programs and loss of three million manufacturing jobs over the last three years.

He said America could be rebuilt by the investment of 10 percent of the trillion dollars in public pension funds--that's $100 billion--with workers approval and by cutting the military budget in half.

"We could cut the military budget in half without cutting our defense. Let's go get the money," he said.

Focusing on the concept of diffrence and diversity as positive forces in our communities and places of employment is the key to creating productive work environments in the 90s and beyond, Dr. Judith B. Rosener, a University of California, Irvine researcher on cultural diversity and women in the workplace, told the delegates.

Economist Rudi Dornbusch, University of Massachusetts professor, in an address at the Delegates' Luncheon said the United States must seek export markets in Latin America, forge a new trade policy with Japan and increase investment in education to build a competitive economy.

The chief executive officer of the Bank of America, Richard M. Rosenberg, told delegates at the luncheon that cities and towns and banks share the same community interests and must work together to meet the needs of the citizens.

"Banks can only be as successful as the cities in which they do business . . . and cities cannot grow and prosper without the resources of strong, health banks," he said.

And the NLC Advisory Council released it Futures Report on "Diversity and Governance" and set into action its theme for 1992 --"Families and Neighborhoods.

Barthelemey, the mayor of New Orleans, in his presidential address, cited the many times that as "understanding partners," local governments watched the deficit grow as domestic programs were cut by the federal and sometimes state governments.

He cited the buildup of the military to protect world peace; the forging of a budget agreement that limited domestic spending while a new category of spending called off-budget spent "billions and billions and billions" of dollars on S&L bailouts, bank bailouts, Desert Storm and the many other emergency problems.

"Now we are to be understanding once again while Congress and the President attempt to solve the problems of a recession, a recession that could have been caused, maybe, because we failed to address our domestic problems.

"Maybe the recession happened because we failed to realize that you cannot spend $150 billion outside of America without weakening the economy of America. . . ."

Barthelemy said he was proud of NLC because we started saying many years ago that if you let cities and towns of America deteriorate, you let America deteriorate.

"We said you can't ignor the infrastructure of America cities and towns while you build the infrastructure of foreign nations and other towns of the world. We said you will make America non-competitive if we don't build our infrastructure and build others' infrastructure.

"So what has happened now is that we see America losing jobs, America losing industries to our foreign allies," Barthelemy said.

He said the escalating crime and drug problems in our cities and towns can't be ignored while America becomes the policeman for the rest of the world.

"The time has come for us to stop being understanding. The time has come for us to say: 'We warned you; We said these days were coming, and you didn't listen.'

"The time has come for us to say to Congress and the President of the United States: 'Stop what you are doing, because you will only make matters worse. Stop, listen to us for a change. Listen to us who are watching half of the children in America drop out of schools, and lead meaningless lives, and wind up in our prisons. Listen to us for a change.'"

He told the delegates they could take the politically safe road by following the course that seems to be in the works--cutting taxes--but it doesn't make much sense for the federal government to have a $300 billion deficit and cut taxes.

"Don't you think we need to invest in America, . . . to invest in our cities and towns . . . to create jobs to give people hope to reinvest in America?" he said.

"I ask you to think, to join with me . . . It it time for a change.

"It is time to change a budget agreement that does not work, that only puts domestic programs in jeopardy.

"It is time, truthfully, to address the domestic agenda . . .

"It is time to provide houses for our homeless, it is time to provide health care for our sick senior citizens.

"It is time for us to start fighting for our cities and the people who live in them.

"It is time to enact a local partnership . . . it is time because our patience has run out."
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Congress of Cities; National League of Cities
Author:Dick, Raymond G.
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Dec 16, 1991
Previous Article:Congress, White House push to wrap up session.
Next Article:Newcomers to NLC congress learn the 'pieces of the puzzle.' (National League of Cities' Congress of Cities)

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