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Coordinated action plan needed to end violence in cities.

To stem the rising tide of violence that plagues our nation, an action plan is needed to create a combined state, local and community-based effort that concentrates less on prisons and more on building healthy families, children, schools and neighborhoods, according to a results of a two-year study by the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA).

A press conference on the findings, held by the GMA at its Atlanta headquarters, was carried live via NLC's Municipal Government Teleconference Network (MGTN) to four remote locations: NLC headquarters in Washington, D.C., the League of Minnesota Cities and the Michigan Municipal League. Staff from the leagues, including Minnesota's Executive Director Donald A. Slater and NLC Executive Director Don Borut participated in the event. The teleconference reached members of the media, city leaders, state leagues and crime prevention advocates.

The study is the result of the GMA Task Force on Violence, a coalition of local elected officials, city managers, department heads, community leaders and social service advocates. The task force, led by its chairman and Lumpkin Mayor Ed Cannington, held the press conference in Atlanta with the support of GMA Executive Director James V. Burgess, Jr.

Mayor Cannington highlighted a list of recommendations, including stronger gun control legislation. The recommendations are being forwarded to local governments, Georgia Governor Zell Miller and members of the state's General Assembly.

The recommendations concentrated on improving the underlying issues that encourage and feed violent behaviors among youth and adults. As a result, the recommendations were delivered in three categories including Criminal Justice which was presented by Atlanta Councilmember Carolyn Long-Banks. Long-Banks is also president of the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials and chairs the NLC Task Force of the Future of Youth in American Cities. Youth and Education; and Community and Local Government represent the other categories of the study.

Savannah City Manager Don Mendonsa presented statistics and provided an overview of the cases and issues the task force studied to develop their plan of action for the state.

"What we are finding is that children are being born into environments which by nature are violent," said Mendonsa. "We cannot keep mopping up the problem (with prisons and punishment) because every time we look around there will be more to mop up."

The press conference received major media attention including a segment on Atlanta CBS-TV Affiliate WAGA. The GMA segment followed President Bush's tour in the South. WAGA stated some of the GMA recommendations and described the recommendations as possible resolutions for cities in the wake of the Rodney King trial verdict.

"The Task Force reached the conclusion that, in the face of past failures, there was a need to change the focus of current efforts to control violence. (Our) report contains recommendations outlining strategies to address violence. The strategies are expected to encourage changes in the criminal justice system, promote prevention programs and provide models for local communities," Mayor Cannington said in his opening statement.

"Communities need the opportunity to own and address the problems of violence," task force member Cynthia Tucker said during the presentation of the Community and Local Government recommendations. Tucker is the Acting Deputy Director, Operations for Georgia's Department of Human Services, Division of Public Health.

The teleconference led to a discussion among the leagues, via MGTN, on the controversy of establishing sentencing guidelines, defining violent and non-violent offenders, and assuring public safety. Mendonsa made an interesting analysis that supports the need for communities, where violence is prevalent, to take a strong stand against violent behavior.

"The people who complain about crime are the people from the middle and upper classes because its begining to effect them. The people who are most affected by the violence accept it as "their" way of life," said Mendonsa.

From the audience at NLC, officials from the National Crime Prevention Council, of which NLC is a member, offered to assist Georgia, other state leagues and cities in developing and implementing anti-violent strategies.

The National Crime Prevention Council has three publications available "Preventing Violence: Program Ideas and Examples," Creating a Climate of Hope: Ten Neighborhoods Tackle the Drug Crisis," and "Given the Opportunity: How Three Communities Engaged Teens as Resources in Drug Abuse Prevention." Single copies of the publications are free. For more information, contact Janet Quist at NLC at (202) 626-3020.

In other MGTN news, NLC Center for Policy and Federal Relations Director Frank Shafroth gave a legislative briefing from Washington, D.C., via the network, before the North Carolina League Board of Directors, including Executive Director David E. Reynolds.

MGTN is a pilot program of NLC to be used for training, workshops and meetings between the leagues without the time and monetary costs of travel. Seven leagues including California, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina and Texas are currently participating in the network. MGTN has the capacity to link all 49 state leagues.
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Author:Baker, Denise
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Jun 1, 1992
Previous Article:'Doing what it takes' to help cities.
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