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Local officials look ahead with guarded optimism.

Optimism reigned as a leading theme among conference attendees as they expressed in workshop after workshop and in luncheons and plenary sessions a belief that the new Clinton administration will play close attention to the needs of cities.

Part of the optimism came from the fact that the Clinton transition team includes current and former elected officials, including former San Antonio, Tex. Mayor and NLC Past President Henry Cisneros, and Little Rock, Ark. Director Lottie Shakelford. Further, Cisneros and Shakelford have kept their promises to be a voice for the city in planning the new administration's national strategy.

Close to 8,000 attending the Congress of Cities (COC) in New Orleans and took full advantage of the COC emphasis on information sharing. Avenues and Bridges, Great Ideas for Community Leadership was the theme for the 69th annual conference. Each registrant was given a great ideas notebook to keep information in an organized planning book for when they return. City officials were encouraged to swap successes and failures with each other. Workshop presenters provided written ideas to add to the workshop.

Thousands attended a great ideas networking session, which was broken down under the three plenary themes: Resources and Relations, Governance and Management, and Development and Design.

Workshops were also organized based on the plenary themes which provided the avenues and bridges. On Sunday, conference attendees got a chance to attend the pre-conference training seminars. The seminars were very attractive, with full day and half day sessions.

During the "Leadership Through Visioning" workshop, delegates broke into small groups to answer the questions: What are the leadership obstacles they face and what they consider qualities for the most successful urban leaders?"

Many of the officials agreed that trust plays a major factor in how big a community problem can become. If leaders are trustworthy then constituents are more willing to give them time to work through community issues and believe and support their strategies.

"Unfortunately, citizens don't elect leaders. Sometime you just have to be popular" said Irma B. Reiss, City Councilmember from Glendale, Colo. The other city officials at her table agreed that, electing based on popularity instead on quality can threaten the quality of leadership.

"We are products of our environment. I come from a business environment. I come from learning to build something from nothing," said Bowling Green, Ky. Mayor Johnny Webb.

Beyond having management skills, leadership is broad and it includes leading citizens and employees, said Rosemarie M. Ives, mayor of Redmond, Wash. "Just because a person has management skills doesn't make them a leader. We have to be willing to be inclusive. We're not going to put up a wall. We have to influence the entire organization, to impact the person who is one the bottom line in the sewer plant."

The COC, said Ives is important, to help strengthen those leadership skills, so that those who get elected without strong management and leadership backgrounds can "at least do things to improve that quality.'

At the opening general session began with the sound of upbeat drums, horns, and precision steps by the St. Augustine High School Band of New Orleans, the alma mater of New Orleans Mayor Sidney J. Barthelemy. The rendition of an old football stadium song "March Grand De Oso" wa timely in setting the stage of camaraderie and a spirit of optimism for the conference.

NLC President Glenda Hood talked about community collaboration, citing several projects in her Orlando, Fl. community that have been successful because government turned the people and solicited their help in solving crisis like homelessness.

"Our challenge is to reweave the community fabric. Community owned government is government that empowers all that is serves," said Mayor Hood. She said she believes the new administration represents a new age for this nation with cities playing a major role in how that new age will take shape.

Keynote speaker Economist William Freund had no problem with expressing his optimism, a characteristic he is know for. He told the audience that he believes this country will recover from the recession, but he warned that it may not happen for one year after Clinton policies are in place and that the new administration will have to resort to deficit spending at the beginning. He also stated that productivity in America rests heavily on education reform.

A special highlight of the opening session, was the NLC President's Award being presented to Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, who will retire as an elected official by not seeking re-election when his term expires in July 1993. Bradley has been mayor of Los Angeles since 1973.

"When one is honored by his peers that is the highest accolade one can receive," said Bradley in accepting the award. "I've seen NLC grow over the years. I've seen tremendous changes. You have selected a board that truly reflects what this nation looks like and what it ought to look like. All we have to ask of any administration in Washington is to give us a fair chance to be a partner. When were send taxes to Washington, we would like to get some of them back."

At the opening plenary on resources and relations, led by McNeil/Lehrer Correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault. Panelist were asked to pretend they receive a collect telephone call from President-elect Clinton and had to give an on the spot recommendation for inclusion in his state of the union address. The topics included human issues, like drugs, gun control, gang violence and education.

The panel and the audience pushed for more emphasis on giving funds directly to cities so that current limited resources can be strengthen and successful programs that have been struggling against economic hardships can begin to serve more families, provide more treatment and alternatives to incarceration, help more youth and offer and more enhanced curriculums to students.

Delegates were more open about he issues of diversity and cultural differences, as various related workshops experienced packed rooms and frank audience interaction. In "The Politics of Diversity," Tyler, Tex. Councilmember Gladys Square talked about how important it is to keep the channels of communication open among her constituents. As a African American, it is important that she not allow her self to be labeled as being elected to serve only black constituents. "You don't have to be a puppet. The name of the game is strategy."

In "Methods for Educating Children on Diversity," panelists shared information on how by concentrating on giving respect, encouraging self esteem, and demanding students to excel, officials have the basic principles for teaching students to accept cultural differences.

In the "Can't we Just Get Along" workshop, Cerritos, Calif, Mayor Sherman Cappe said he is in "a unique racial situation in an upscale community of L.A., where whites are now a minority in an area where they were once a majority. Therefore, the racial problems are a little different. Although there is not outward hostility there is a deep seeded resentment for the different cultures that now make up their community." Cerritos is now about 45 percent Asian, 35 percent white and the rest a mixture of African American and Hispanic.

On the lighter side, Delegates were bustling through the exposition hall. Delegates were weighted down with promotional materials, including basketballs, and assortment of pens, flashlights, brochures, individualized signs and posters, and engraved tote bags.

At the annual business meeting, many of the delegates were quite informed about the issues and were again optimistic about the chances that their policy decisions would be considered by the new Clinton administration. There was heavy emphasis on policy accuracy, terminology and a push to get NLC to take strong stands on city and town issues. This was especially evidenced in policies dealing with energy and environment, and human development.

Delegates elected the new officers and board. NLC will be led in 1993 by Minneapolis Mayor Don Fraser, as President; NLC First Vice President is Newark Mayor Sharpe James, and the NLC Second Vice President is Atlanta Councilwoman Carolyn Long Banks. Current President Glenda Hood will become immediate past president.

During the NLC Board meeting, city officials presented Clinton transition team members with its economic strategy for the new administration, former San Antonio, Tex. Mayor Henry Cisneros, Clinton team Deputy Economic Advisor Gene Sperling, and Little Rock, Ark. Director Lottie Shakelford gave the board encouragement and support of the plan. The plan of economic stimulus strategies, encourages the administration to provide direct funding to cities and prioritize the federal budget for investment and deficit reduction.

In workshops like "Survival Skills for Local Government Officials," attendees were told they have to rediscover or find local officials "commonly misplaces items" including "humor, time, stable quotas, and middle management." They were also given the primary dividing lines between officials who don't succeed and those who have long lives at being local leaders:

Some sense of altruism in their lives provides a gratifying sense of service to others, said workshop presenter C.W. Metcalf, author of "Lighten Up: Survival Skills for People Under Pressure." Metcalf told his packed workshop to humor is the ability to have a sense of absurdity in self, events or institution and develops flexibility and sense of control. His third principle is that local officials need a sense of community, a sense of belonging, trust and bonding that nurtures hope and supports good health.

Whether from big cities or small town, delegates and their staff gathered in New Orleans in hopes of sharing and receiving information on what works and what doesn't and to sharpen their leadership skills so they can return home with fresh approaches or with new encouragement to try their own ideas.

For first-time attendee the Village of Oakwood, Ohio Council President Shirley Stevens, the COC provided a chance to find support and ideas on how to cope with changes in her community of 5,000.

"In Oakwood Village our way of life is changing. With industry coming in we are faced with bigger city problems. We have to face issues like crime and drugs," she said. "We're no longer a bedroom community. It's frightening to senior citizens. We have a McDonalds where we never wanted a McDonalds."
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Title Annotation:National League of Cities
Author:Baker, Denise
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Dec 7, 1992
Previous Article:Transition team members meet with NLC board at Congress of Cities.
Next Article:An economic recovery plan; offered by the nation's cities and towns through the National League of Cities.

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