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Local officials speak out about cities, families and communities.

During the past two weeks, NLC staffer Allyn Finegold has spoken with several local officials around the country to discuss the relationship between supporting families and building a strong community.

'Future Rests With Young People'

"The future rests with our young people. If we afford them opportunities to learn in an effective way, the city benefits. They are the future of San Marcos. If we take care and provide for them, they will contribute back to their communities and to the city." Guerra's words highlight the importance of providing for our families and communities.

An elected official since 1983, Councilmember Guerra believes that the problems facing families are different in 1993. "The social problems are worse and more complicated. Therefore, the role of municipal government should not be to complicate things further, but to enhance the lifestyles of families." Several municipal departments in San Marcos are involved in addressing the needs of families. Guerra says that "many families are dependent on the city for summer entertainment. it's important to provide funding to make sure there are opportunities for kids." To this end, the local university and the city Department of Recreation are working together to provide staffing for a new youth center.

Guerra also believes that the most important issue facing families is balancing work and family responsibilities. He cites the dilemma of "spending time with kids, struggling to try to support each other as members of a family, and making ends meet."

Guerra copes with these responsibilities on a personal level in his own family. "Local elected officials run a balancing act. You cope and do the best job you can as parents while fulfilling your obligations as a public servant," comments Guerra.--

San Marcos, Tex.

'Trying To Do All We Can'

The city of Seattle, Wash., addresses the needs of its families Councilmember Sherry Harris believes that "families are in crisis. We are trying to do all we can at the municipal level."

Harris notes that municipal departments are playing a role in addressing family issues. "In Seattle, the city government is in partnership with the school system. However, the whole burden cannot be placed on the teacher. Society must also be a support system." In addition to the education system, the city's Department of Health, Office for Women's Rights, and the Seattle Housing Authority are addressing the needs of families in Seattle.

As resources are limited in cities of all sizes, municipalities such as Seattle are looking to outside sources for Collaborative efforts with the private sector, non-profit organizations, and foundations are taking place. For example, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation provides funding for the city's Child Health Initiative.

In general, Harris believes that "..relationships must function well. If one family has a difficult situation, it affects the community as a whole. The community should be more of a resource for the family."--

Seattle, Wash.

'Human Beings Are Where its At'

George Goodman says, "Human beings are where it's at. We need to reassess the role of family life. If we strengthen the young and nature the idea of responsibility, it manifests in strengthening our neighborhoods."

"The city is where families live. It is our responsibility to nurture family life in communities and provide an environment where activities for the entire family are available," he continues.

Goodman believes that the supervision of our youth in families with two working parents is a major issue concerning families. believes that we must give "careful consideration to the role of child care as an integral part of developing the workforce and that there exists "a gap in supervision of children which must be filled."

In his travels across the state of Michigan, Goodman has observed the participation of the local school systems in supporting families. "Communities have established neighborhood facilities which offer supervision. Various other organizations, such as the local youth clubs, are also able to fill the gap."--

Michigan Municipal League

Cities As Family Facilitators

Many local government officials stress the important role of the municipality in providing for families through "family friendly" programs and policies. Lara Blakely believes that, "the city should act as a facilitator to strengthen families, providing services that help families."

Blakely described several efforts being undertaken in her community Police and fire departments are becoming more active in community activities, such as the city program to bring recreational opportunities to different neighborhoods.

Blakely views the most important challenge to families as providing alternatives for youths. Faced with the temptations of drug and alcohol abuse, and gang membership, she believes "it is vital to make sure kids are doing constructive things and that municipalities provide these alternatives."

Her philosophy is, "Investing in families is like investing in the infrastructure.--

Monrovia, Calif.

Programs To Meet Needs

A variety of municipal programs are in place across the country that speak to the growing needs of families. In Greenbelt, Maryland, the CARES program, staffed by community volunteers, offers family services such as counseling, crisis intervention, and other assistance to its families and children.

Councilmember Tom White believes this program "provides effective community support for families in the community."

"The problems facing families children include performance in school, drugs, and abuse in the home. It is often difficult for parents to control their youngsters without additional support from the community."

White believes that the issues facing families today have changed since he took office 20 years ago. --


NLC Plans Children And Families Conferences

NLC's ongoing Children and Families in Cities program continues to mobilize local elected officials to meet the needs of families and communities.

As part of this effort, NLC President and Minneapolis Mayor Don Fraser, is hosting "Your City's Families" Conference to be held September 17-19, 1993 in Minneapolis.

Call 202-626-3030 to obtain registration information.
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Article Details
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Author:Finegold, Allyn
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Aug 9, 1993
Previous Article:Let's bring back fairness and accountability: stop the unfunded mandates.
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