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Mayors call for mandate relief, new partnership.

On the heels of President Clinton's State of the Union address, more than 200 mayors arrived in the nation's capital last week for the 63rd annual winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM).

Unfunded mandates and the future of the federal-local partnership in crime control, community development, housing, transportation and human services programs dominated the meeting agenda.

During the conference, mayors demanded a "seat at the table" and a voice in plans proposed by both the Clinton administration and new Republican majority in Congress to reduce the size of the national government in areas that affect key municipal programs. Proposed reinventions at the Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Transportation and potential modifications to last year's crime bill received the most discussion.

Mayors got some welcome news on inner-city Superfund sites and incinerator ash from Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner (see sidebar), exchanged ideas about innovations and programs that work in their communities in a special session organized by Chicago Mayor and USCM Advisory Board Chair Richard M. Daley, and participated in a variety of discussions with Congressional and administration leaders on other key city concerns.

To respond to the radical changes in the Washington environment over the past two months, the Officers of NLC and USCM met during the USCM conference to discuss strategies the two organizations could pursue to advocate municipal interests most effectively before Congress and the administration.


Mayors demanded action on unfunded mandates legislation, which has been stymied for nearly two weeks by partisan wrangling and delaying tactics by Democrats in Congress.

"The Congress has debated this enough," said USCM President Victor Ashe (Mayor, Knoxville, Tenn.) at a Capitol Hill press conference. Joining Ashe at the mike were key Congressional supporters of unfunded mandates legislation, representatives of the National Association of Counties, and NLC First Vice President Greg Lashutka (Mayor, Columbus, Ohio), who said, "This is Super Bowl Sunday, we're on the 10-yard line, and we want a win."

Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole (R-Kans.) pledged his full support in the fight against unfunded mandates and for passage of S. 1. Noting that most Senate Democrats favor the legislation, Dole chided them for their delaying tactics. "When I was in the minority, I learned how to delay things I was against, but I never delayed things I was for," he said. Dole spoke of his desire to reinvigorate the 10th Amendment, downsize and decentralize government, and create a national regulatory climate that relaces blind adherence to bureaucratic rules with more common sense and individual initiative.

Echoing Dole was Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.), who said his proposed Local Empowerment and Flexibility Act would shift federal grant conditions from a compliance to a results focus.

Other Key Sessions

Commerce Secretary Ron Brown discussed the critical role global trade plays in the U.S. economy and highlighted Commerce promising that can assist cities who want to expand their international business connections. Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Louis Freeh described how the FBI is expanding the range of police training, crime lab, crime records, and identification systems to help local law enforcement officials, and asked for the mayors' help in crafting a fair and effective law that could deal with powerfully encryted criminal telephone conversations.

Secretary of Defense William Perry highlighted DoD resources available from to help cities with economic adjustment issues relating to base closures.

In a workshop on the major league baseball strike, mayors heard representatives of the players union and the owners offer starkly contrasting points of view about the causes of the work stoppage.

As the Weekly went to press, a closing plenary session on unfunded mandates was scheduled featuring NLC President Carolyn Long Banks (Councilwoman-at-Large, Atlanta, Ga.) and leaders of the National Governors' Association, the National Association of Counties, and the National Conference of State Legislatures. The conference was scheduled to close with speeches by Vice President Gore, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, and HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, followed by a White House meeting between mayors and President Clinton.
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Author:Fletcher, Jeff
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Jan 30, 1995
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