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Federal, state levels get poor rating from local officials.

Local government officials think that state and Federal governments are doing a poor job of helping to address the nation's problems. Moreover, Federal and state restrictions are major obstacles to local efforts to address the most pressing community problems.

Given a chance to grade the Federal government on a series of topics, local officials gave consistently low marks. While the lowest assessments were made on financial issues, the Federal government also received overwhelmigly poor marks for its performance on many other issues of concern across hometown America.

Respondents were given a choice of "excellent," "good," "fair," "poor," or "fail" for each issue. For the purpose of analysis, an average on a four point scale is computed by assining four points for "excellent," down to zero for "failing."

The Federal government's average score for all of the issues examined was 1.39 on the Four point scale--between poor and fair.

While the assessment solicited about state governments was not so detailed, officials were asked how tell well their state government was responding to the needs of its municipalities. While 43.1 percent said their state governments performance either was poor or failing, only 2.8 percent rated it as excellent, another 15.8 percent as good.

The overall average for state governments on the four point scale fell just ahead of that of the national government at 1.67

The three issues on which the federalk government performed worst, according to the municipal officials, are financial ones of national scope. For its handling of the budget deficit, the Federal government received more than half failing grades and another third "poor," for a 0.66 average.

Likewise, for its supervision of savings and loans and banks, Washington received a 0.74 average, with more than half of the respondents saying it had failed, almost another third that efforts were poor.

Local official's assessments of the Federal performance on taxes averaged far above those on budget and S&Ls, but still worse than most other conditions, listed at 1.19 on the four point, scale, with almost one fourth of respondents characterizing efforts in this area as failing. It is not clear, however, that there is a consensus on what the Federal government is doing wrong; on another question, 14.9 percent said that federal taxes should be increased while 31.1 percent advocated decreasing taxes.

Local officials also gave the Federal government poor marks on fiscal issues related to local governments. On fiscal disparities, the grades averaged 1.09, with more than two thirds assessing its action as either poor or failing. The average score on mandates was a bit higher at 1.20, but still 61.6 percent characterized efforts on mandates to be either poor or failing.

For a series of issues for which responsibility is mixed between different levels of government, local officials also gave Washington low marks on its share.

Health care prompted an average grade of 1.20 (just above "poor"), with more than one quarter of respondents saying that efforts were failing. Efforts to fight homelessness and poverty each also received marks of 1.29, and each had about 60 percent of respondents characterize Federal action as poor or failing.

Local officials rated the Federal performance in combatting violent crime and drug problems at 1.42 and 1.49, respectively, on the four point scale. For each, about half said the Federal efforts was either failing or poor.

Federal efforts on both solid waste and education fared slightly better at 1.59 and 1.61. On these issues, national leaders in Washington managed to gain a rating of at least "fair," from a majority of the respondents.

Two thirds of local officials gave Washington at least a "fair" rating for efforts in housing and transportation, with averages at 1.78 and 1.84; just below fair. Still, one third characterized efforts as poor or worse.

A plurality of 39.5 percent of local officials rated Federal performance regarding racism and discrimination as "fair."

Another 27 percent said it was good, and just over 30 percent said it was either poor or failing. More officials rated Federal performance in this area as either poor or failing than did good or excellent. The average grade was 1.90, just below fair.

Clean air was the only issue which prompted more positive responses than negative ones, with an average of 2.07. More than 30 percent of respondents were positive regarding federal clean air efforts, although only two percent said they were excellent.

Forty-seven percent regarded these efforts as fair. This does not include an assessment of action regarding other environmental issues such as wetlands protection or offshore drilling.

Specific conclusions cannot be drawn about what the Federal government should do differently to improve these ratings.

Some clues, however, can be taken from the fact that more than three quarters of those surveyed believe that domestic spending needs to be increased. Seventy percent say this increase should come at th exprese of foreign affairs priorities, and another 57 percent say defense spending should be decreased.

This portrays sentiment among local officials as consistent with public opinion polls that say the Federal governement, and especially President Bush, need to reorganize priorities with domestic issues taking a higher place.
TEN CONDITIONS CITED MOST OFTEN BY LOCA
OFFICIALS AS:
(by percentage of responding officials mentioning each
condition)
 MOST DIFFICULT TO DEAL WITH
 DURING NEXT TWO YEARS
Overall Economic Conditions 33.3%
City Fiscal Conditions 33.3
Crime 30.0
Drugs 29.5
Solid Waste Disposal 24.3
Education 17.1
Unemployment 15.0
Water and Sewer 12.1
Health Care 10.9
Cost of Living 10.6
Streets and Roads 10.6
 IMPROVED THE MOST
Streets and Roads 33.8%
Water and Sewer 29.8
Interest Rate on City Borrowing 25.5
Local Mortgage Conditions 22.5
City Fiscal Conditions 21.7
Solid Waste Disposal 20.6
Overall Economic Conditions 16.1
Education 15.0
Affordability of House Prices 14.5
Crime 10.5
 CAUSING MOST IMPORTANT
 PROBLEMS
Overall Economic Conditions 41.1%
Crime 29.0
Drugs 26.5
Unemployment 26.2
City Fiscal Conditions 25.7
Education 18.5
Solid Waste Disposal 18.5
Streets and Roads 13.1
Water and Sewer 12.9
Cost of Living 12.1
 DETERIORATED THE MOST
Overall Economic Conditions 34.2%
Crime 26.9
Drugs 26.6
Unemployment 20.1
City Fiscal Conditions 18.3
Education 15.4
Cost of Living 14.9
Affordability of House Prices 13.6
Solid Waste Disposal 13.1
Streets and Roads 13.1
COPYRIGHT 1992 National League of Cities
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Special Report: The State of America's Cities, Annual Opinion Survey of Municipal Elected Officials
Author:Barnes, William; Dickinson, David
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Jan 20, 1992
Words:1094
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