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National Unfunded Mandates Day gains attention, followers.

City, county, and state officials across the country will join together on National Unfunded Mandates Day, Wednesday, October 27, to focus local and national attention on the threat unfunded federal mandates pose to local budgets and local citizens.

From cities as small as Unalaska, Alaska, Everman, Tex. and Rutland, Vt. to Chicago, Columbus and Atlanta, local, county, and state leaders have mobilized to send a loud message to Congress on National Unfunded Mandates Day and to help their constituents understand why this is an important issue.

More than 350 cities and towns have already passed resolutions supporting National Unfunded Mandates Day and vowing to join the effort to inform and work with members of their Congressional delegations to break Washington's habit of imposing, but not funding, programs that must be implemented at the state and local level.

National Unfunded Mandates Day is a joint effort of NLC, the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), National Association of Counties NACo), International City/County Management Association (ICMA), National Governors' Association, National Council of State Legislators, and the Council of State Governments (CSG).

Leaders of the sponsoring organizations plan to come together in Washington tomorrow, Tuesday, October 26, to highlight activities planned throughout the country on Mandates Day and release the results of a joint USCM/NACo survey on the impact of unfunded mandates.

The Government Finance Officers Association, National School Boards Association, National Association of Counties, and National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors, Inc. have also pledged the support of their members to this ongoing public education campaign.

As Nation's Cities Weekly went to press, statewide press conferences involving city, county, school, and state officials were planned in Harrisburg, Pa., Columbus, Ohio; Jackson, Miss; Augusta, Maine; Atlanta, Ga." Denver; Topeka, Kansas, and Abilene, Tex. In Georgia, Tennessee and Kansas, simultaneous regional press conferences were scheduled at multiple sites throughout those states bringing together city and county officials. Scores of other cities across the country have pledged to conduct press briefings and discussions on Wednesday in a show of solidarity.

In Columbus, Mayor Greg Lashutka, chair of NLC's Unfunded Mandates Task Force, plans to raise a red flag on the steps of city hall urging an end to unfunded mandates and then lead the local delegation to the statehouse where they are to be joined by Ohio Governor George Voinovich, former President of NLC and chair of the NGA Unfunded Mandates Task Force.

"We are united in this effort," said NLC Executive Director Don Borut. "As elected leaders from cities, towns, villages, counties, school boards, and statehouses come together on Wednesday, it will become clear that Washington must change the way it does business and establish a new partnership with other levels of government."

Congressional leaders have already responded. The Subcommittee on Human Resources and Intergovernmental Relations of the House Committee on Government Operations was conducting a field hearing today in Harrisburg, focusing on how unfunded federal mandates affect both the state of Pennsylvania and its cities and boroughs. In Washington, D.C. the newly established Congressional Unfunded Mandates Caucus plans to hold a two-hour special session late Wednesday examining the impact of unfunded mandates. The special discussion will be broadcast on C-Span.

During the past few weeks, NLC has received hundreds of letters from city officials expressing their support for this grass roots effort and providing examples of how unfunded federal mandates have strapped already tight budgets and forced shifting of local priorities to meet federal mandates.

Unalaska, Alaska, an isolated fishing community in the Aleutian Islands which has grown from 243 residents in 1970 to its present population of 3,825, described three environmental projects mandated by the federal government that were expected to cost more than $16 million.

"The City of Unalaska has spent tens of millions of dollars in locally generated revenues on projects, including school additions, regional medical facility, road improvements, utility system extensions and upgrades, to mention a few," wrote Mayor Frank Kelty. "The city continues to experience rapid growth with increasing demands for expanded municipal service. Costs associated with some unfunded federal mandates would be devastating to our community."

"National Unfunded Mandates Day is a terrific awareness-generating program that should help Congress realize the damage that is done when they forget that we all serve the same citizens," wrote Mayor Jeff Wennberg of Rutland, Vermont, and vice chair of NLC's Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources Committee (EENR). "When federal and local governments fail to work together, prioritize, and communicate, we fail to responsibly serve."
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Author:Baker, Christine
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Oct 25, 1993
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