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American Cities Conference urges national commission on cities.

"We will never solve the problems in Philadelphia, until we solve the troubles penetrating all of our cities," said Pennsylvania State Senator Chaka Fattah at the "American Cities Conference" he convened in Philadelphia, February 6-7. The meeting resulted in conference participants calling for the establishment of a "Commission on the Nation's Cities."

Fattah who was moved to convene the conference primarily because of the fiscal and infrastructure crises facing the city of Philadelphia. He and conference participants recognize that Philadelphia is just one among thousands of American communities at risk.

The Reverend Jesse Jackson, a speaker at the opening session told attendees of the conference: "In every city in this country, there are more boarded up homes than there are homeless people. Cities have been left undefended and America needs a plan to rebuild, not just to tinker. America needs a plan that corresponds with the magnitude of the problems its cities are currently faced with."

Conference attendees represented a broad cross section of community representatives, including police chiefs, school superintendents, clergy, and business leaders from as far as California. Former mayors Wilson Goode of Philadelphia and Kathryn Whitmire of Houston participated as speakers, as did James Rouse, president of the Enterprise Foundation.

Fattah, in opening remarks, talked about why nearly 200 participants from as far away as California and Texas had journeyed to Philadelphia for the American Cities Conference. "Currently, there is no American policy for the streets and neighborhoods that overflow with more Americans and more American interests, then anywhere else in the world. If as a nation, we can hope and dare to turn around Zagreb, Moscow and Kuwait City, then as a nation, we must hope and dare to turn around Detroit, Atlanta and Los Angeles."

Rouse told a plenary session audience that the country was in a desperate condition and that any "new world order" that we participate in, must begin at home. "We need an army to serve America," Rouse said.

In plenary and roundtable discussions, conferees addressed the all too familiar issues of drugs and crime, homelessness, AIDS, crumbling infrastructure, jobs, education and transportation. What was perhaps more refreshing about these discussions was their focus on "solutions," rather than simply bemoaning the problems.

U.S. Conference of Mayors Executive Director Tom Cochran chaired a panel discussion on solutions. Dr. Ramona Edelin, president of the National Urban Coalition stated that conditions today were very similar to those in the 1960s which gave birth to the Coalition. The Coalition has proposed that its "Urban Life Campus" concept become a national prototype.

Senator Fattah sought and obtained the endorsement of conference participants for the creation of a "Commission On The Nation's Cities." If established, the commission would be jointly appointed by the President of the United States and the Congress and would be comprised of mayors and other local officials, corporations, universities, businesses, community and religious organizations and organized labor. The Commission would serve as a forum on behalf of the nation's cities and would conduct studies and public hearings on ways to restructure national priorities to provide for a greater investment in programs to save America's cities.

Fattah expressed hope that "this conference will signal the beginning of many more of these conferences in cities throughout the country."
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Author:McCloud, Thom
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Feb 17, 1992
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