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Concurrent sessions promote peer idea exchanges.

Concurrent workshops at the 68th annual Congress of Cities were informative and well attended. Here are highlights of a few.

Your Community's Money:

Keeping it Safe and Working

Community reinvestment does not cause bank failure, according to Kathryn Tholin, vice president of the Woodstock Institute, a Chicago-based not-for-profit which designs programs to increase private investment in moderate-income and minority communities.

Tholin, speaking at the workshop, "Your Community's Money: Keeping It Safe and Working," attributed the recent rash of bank and savings and loan insolvencies to speculative lending.

With a few exceptions involving fraud and embezzlement, very few highly-rated banks have failed, sail Earl Hoenes, director of cash management services for the bank rating firm, Shesunoff Information Services, Inc., and former Austin, Tex. city treasurer.

Hoenes and Seattle treasurer Lloyd Hara, who moderated the session, concurred that the establishment of new banks in a community is a positive sign and such institutions are safer because they are subject to stricter federal regulation, such as higher required capital ratios.

Rebirth of Downtown U.S.A.

Communities cannot be first class town unless they have first class downtowns, economic revitalization expert Doyle Hyett told attendees at the "Rebirth of Downtown, U.S.A." workshop during the Congress of Cities.

"It's the identity of the community--period," said Hyett, a principal in the Washington, D.C.-based firm, Hyett-Palma, Inc.

Hyett encouraged officials to be strategic and see beyond their next term of office, as well as look to small, less costly measures that complement bigger undertakings.

He said new markets are a key ingredient to the rebirth of downtowns.

New Technologies for Better Communities

Alternative fuels offer the potential for significant long-term cost savings as the supply of gasoline dwindles, Portland, Ore. Commissioner of Public Affairs Mike Lindberg told delegates at the "New Technologies for Better Communities" workshop during the Congress of Cities.

Lindberg noted cities may be required to use alternative fuels by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency if they are located in severely polluted areas. Cities that convert fleets sooner than required by EPA or convert more vehicles than mandated can receive pollution credits in return.

The greatest problem, according to Lindberg, is creating the infrastructure, such as fueling stations, necessary for alternative fuel use. He said Denver has developed computer software for fuel conversion decision-making.

Lindberg, who chairs the Energy Committee of Public Technology, Inc.'s Urban consortium, said U.S. Department of Energy funds are available to cities through PTI for demonstration projects.

PTI is the research, technology transfer and commercialization arm of NLC, the International City/County Management Association and the National Association of Counties.

The Urban Consortium offers information exchange among communities of 400,000 and greater population.

Reconnecting Citizens and Politics

Officials should reach out to citizens informationally where they already gather, advised Richard C. Harwood, president of The Harwood Group, Bethesda, Md., at the workshop "Reconnecting Citizens and Politics" during the Congress of Cities.

Harwood told officeholders to look less at campaigns and elections are more at what goes on in between. Then, he said, there might be more citizen involvement in politics.

He rejected the notion that Americans are turned off by politics, suggesting the wrong gauges, like voting and newspaper reading, are being used to measure interest.

People are turned off by negative campaigning, Harwood said, but that is all they have to choose from. They also feel they have lost their place to special interests and professional politicians and don't see their views aired in debates.

Making the most of your cable services

The courts have always sided with cities against cable operators when the former desire to build their own systems, Minneapolis attorne Adrian Herbst assured delegates at the workshop "Making the Most of Your Cable Services."

Herbst, who says he receives more inquiries about municipal cable ownership than on any other topic, said new technology is making available services such as street light regulation and two-way interaction that cable operators are reluctant to become involved in.

He noted the cost of building a new municipal system is about one-fourth of that of acquiring an existing one, and cited the case of Elbow Lake, Minn., which built its own system to compete with a private operator when the municipality realized it was paying high fees to receive only a few channels.

Coping with Environmental Mandates:

A Small Cities Workshop

An autonomous entity free of political influence was responsible for reducing air pollution in the Denver metropolitan area. Steven Howard, president of the pollution prevention consultancy, Environmental Strategies, told the group's story to delegates at the "Coping with Environmental Mandates" workshop during the Congress of Cities.

With members drawn from a cross-section of the community and a single purpose, the organization targeted the most appropriate decision-making body. Lacking any regulatory power, the group relied on persuasion in working with the media and local governments.

The organization bought school buses that operate on natural gas and lobbied the governor to veto wood-burning legislation. Once area local governments were persuaded to ban wood burning, the state legislature acted in turn.

The regional transportation agency converted its buses from diesel to methanol fuel, making the first such high-altitude use of methanol.

Howard said the model may be replicated in other areas and the approach can stretch available resources without duplicating them.

Debra Bolding, laboratory director of Las Vegas, Nev.'s water pollution control facility, said networking and weekend teleconferences offered by professional groups can help small cities meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Clean Water Act requirements.

She said small city facilities are staffed by persons untrained in wastewater treatment and who have other responsibilities. They may also be unaware of available information or lack the resources to obtain it.

Bolding told how one professional group used in-kind services to small cities as the 25 percent match required for the state to obtain federal funds . . .
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Title Annotation:workshops at the National League of Cities' Congress of Cities convention
Author:Turner, Laura
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Dec 23, 1991
Previous Article:Leadership issues targeted by workshops.
Next Article:White House, press hear NLC message; President Bush is listening.

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