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Constituency leaders link local efforts to NLC priorities.

NLC's six constituency leaders have spent this year individually involved in a variety of local efforts that are closely aligned with NLC's leadership and policy-oriented priorities.

The leaders are:

* Gordon Quan, mayor pro tern, Houston, and president of the Asian Pacific American Municipal Officials (APAMO);

* Cathy Woolard, council president, Atlanta, and president, Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Local Officials (GLBLO);

* Evelyn "Mimi" Woodson, president, Hispanic Elected Local Officials (HELO);

* Cynthia McCollum, council president, Madison, Ala., and president, National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials (NBC-LEO);

* Eric Olson, councilmember, College Park, Md., and chair, University Communities Caucus (UCC); and

* Rita Sims Franklin, council president pro tem, Selma, Ala., and president, Women in Municipal Government.

NLC constituency groups have been established at NLC since the early 1970s. In recent years, they have increased their opportunities to collaborate jointly on NLC workshops at the March and December NLC conferences with topics that have focused on importance of our dories' diverse population needs; affirmative action, health care, hate crimes, immigration, and workplace opportunities for women.

Innovative Local Government

Under the leadership of the various groups' chair, they have been able to strengthen their relationships with NLC and develop their groups' future work plans in alignment with NLC's agenda. Constituency groups have also expanded their cooperation with national organizations with a focus on public policy issues relating to multicultural and diversity-related topics. Following are an array of examples where constituency group leaders are engaged at the local level in NLC priority areas of racial equity, building quality communities, homeland security and strengthening leadership for governance.

Turning Animosity Into Admiration

Quan of APAMO shares information about an important program that the City of Houston is implementing--the Circle of Unity Project--a program designed to create better communications and understanding between largely African-American neighborhoods and newly immigrated store operators.

Following a tragic rash of convenience store robberies and killings, the City of Houston undertook a program to not only catch the assailants but also to work at developing store safety.

A component of the Circle of Unity Project focuses on educating merchants and customers. The Houston Police Department, along with community organizations, helped to develop a 10-minute videotape for use by retail clerks on techniques to make their stores safe. This videotape is part of the Store Safety Kit, which also includes safety checklists, useful information and tips and a doorframe height marker. Thanks to a grant by Silver Eagle Distributing, an Anheuser Busch Company, the Store Safety video will be dubbed in languages spoken by most of the convenient store owners and operators.

The other component of the Circle of Unity is the opportunity for community leaders, residents and business owners, of different racial or ethnic backgrounds, to dialogue with and learn from each other.

Each month, at the Northeast Police Station with the support of HPD and city officials, Korean and Vietnamese store operators meet with African-American ministers and civic club leaders to discuss issues common to them: They have agreed upon a set of Values and Practices, which will be signed by store operators.

The last component of the Circle of Unity is a project aimed at youth. The Youth Cultural Exchange Project (YCEP) seeks to give youth an opportunity to learn about different cultures, faiths and geographic areas of town. Exchanges are held by institutions of diverse faiths and cultures to give youth a chance to learn about the religion and culture through discussions, foods, dress and traditions.

For more information, contact Gordon Quan at (713) 247-2013 or send an e-mail to atlarge2@cityofhouston.net.

Back to the Future with the Belt Line

Woolard of GLBLO reports that she is working to help the City of Atlanta answer its transportation and air quality problems. This answer may lie in kudzu-covered, unused rail lines that date back to the post-Civil War period.

Those mostly abandoned rail lines form a 22-mile loop from Piedmont Hospital on the north, the Carter Center on the east, Atlanta Area Tech on the south and the Wren's Nest on the west.

The old Belt Line is being proposed and studied as a future transportation link that puts Atlanta back together after being quartered by the construction of the Downtown Connector and Interstate 20. Woolard imagines that bicycle and pedestrian paths can be a part of engaging diverse parts of the city. More than 4,000 acres would be redeveloped with the Belt Line proposal and nearly 100,000 new residents could be accommodated with a short walk to this proposed environmentally friendly transit system. The project is designed to bring historic neighborhoods together.

"Over the last half century, metropolitan Atlanta overlooked neglected but valuable urban land in search of easy development in surrounding forests and farmland" Woolard said. "More recently, negative effects of urban sprawl have led to new development in intown Atlanta. But without providing an adequate transportation system for the increasing intown population, the resulting congestion and pollution are diminishing Atlanta's cherished quality of life."

For more information about this proposal, log on to www.cathyatlanta.com or contact Council President Woolard at (404) 330-6035.

Helping with Homeland Security

HELO's Woodson is working with her City of Columbus, Ga., to implement a security plan. According to Woodson, the Columbus Metro Emergency Response Team was developed in 1996 as a mutual aid group of local, state and federal public safety employees whose main focus was to respond, mitigate and investigate explosive devices.

Since then, the focus and direction of the team changed drastically due to the increase in the use of incendiary and explosive devices as well as the potential use of weapons of mass destruction especially biological and chemical. The Home Security Plan for the City of Columbus introduced a proposal earlier this year to select a core group of officers within the Columbus Metro Emergency Response Team to work full time on criminal activities connected to terrorism. The core group is to act on the city's behalf as liaisons between state and federal agencies in the resolution of threats.

Elements of the plan include intelligence, intervention, interdiction, training, mitigation, investigation, prosecution and equipment inventory. The command staff of the Columbus Metro Emergency Response Team's Special Operations Team deals with responses to calls, arrests for terrorist threats and acts, mutual aid requests from nearby counties and special assignments related to special city events.

For more information about this program, contact Councilmember Woodson at (706) 653-9869 or send an e-mail to mwoodson@columbusga.org.

UCC Chair Eric Olson reports, "The City of College Park, Md., sent a letter of support for federal legislation on homeland security to release funds for local police, the fire department and emergency response teams to address public safety in the wake of September 11."

College Park worked actively to reopen College Park Airport, the world's oldest continuously operating airport and other local airports, which were closed for many months after the rest in the nation were reopened. The city also worked for emergency federal funding for these small airports as well, since they were hit especially hard by September 11.

In addition, Olson reports that the City of College Park and many of its residents reached out to the Al Huda Islamic School in College Park in the days after the September 11 attacks because the school had received threats. There was also overwhelming support from the city and residents to express to the school that it is an important part of the community.

For more information about the City of College Park, contact Eric Olson at (301) 864-3770 or send an e-mail to eolson@ci.college-park.md.us.

Reaching Full Potential

McCollum, NBC-LEO president, recently graduated from Leadership Alabama, a program that gives established leaders exposure to the broader fabric of the state. It develops a network of relationships and provides a structure for this network to seek mutual understanding of' problems and priorities for Alabama's future. Its expectation is that its members will act, individually and in concert, to move Alabama forward to help the state reach its full potential.

Qualifications for the program, founded in 1990, include a personal commitment to the state and improving its future; a history of leadership in one's community and the state; success in a chosen field; and expectations and potential for greater leadership.

McCollum was selected as one of 50 accomplished leaders to participate in this year's program. "It has truly been a wonderful and worthwhile experience to be a part of the Leadership Alabama program," she said. "I have gained so much since I began the program, and I heartily recommend it to other Alabama municipal officials and NBC-LEO members who would like to experience a program that will expand their leadership horizons."

Leadership Alabama includes six bimonthly symposiums addressing important issues facing citizens. These programs present the many social, economic and governmental complexities associated with an issue to stimulate inquiry, analysis and avenues for involvement. These issues are education, diversity, developing human capital, economic development and politics and government.

For more information about this program, contact Leadership Alabama at (334) 265-2297, or visit its web site at www.leadershipal.org.

Rising Above Domestic Violence

WIMG President Franklin supports the efforts of SABRA Sanctuary Inc., an emergency, temporary shelter for victims of domestic violence. Its mission is to provide a safe haven, intervention services, life skills education and transitional assistance to victims of domestic violence. It also promotes community awareness and education on domestic violence and helps to maintain the support and assistance of the local community, area, state and federal agencies. Its further mission is to acknowledge that domestic violence is a social issue, not an individual pathology.

SABRA believes that everyone is entitled to a safe and non-violent existence and that no one deserves to be abused or exposed to useless pain and violence, particularly within their own homes. It strives to provide an alternative for people living in a violent home.

Alabama has 18 domestic violence shelters that can provide immediate and safe refuge for victims of violent attacks. At the shelter, victims and their children receive safe, temporary housing, food and counseling, as well as assistance with legal, medical and judicial issues. Opportunities for education, temporary or permanent safe housing, job training and placement are also available and help establish a groundwork for a stable and non-violent lifestyle. SABRA serves Dallas, Perry and Wilcox Counties.

"This program is of great value to our citizens," Franklin said. "It has helped countless numbers of individuals and their families in their times and crisis and great need. We are proud of their work."

SABRA maintains a confidential safe house for victims with nowhere else to turn. It also offers emotional support and referral to other agencies skilled in dealing with victims of abuse, neglect or domestic violence.

For more information about SABRA Sanctuary, call (334) 877-4645.
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Title Annotation:National League of Cities: services for local governments
Author:Gordon, Mary France
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 18, 2002
Words:1802
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