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Ohio league meeting explores new agenda for cities.

Michael Keys, the mayor of Elyria and president of the Ohio Municipal League (OML), welcomed nearly 600 municipal officials to Cincinnati last week to the League's 41st annual meeting to hear about presidential politics, the cost of unfunded mandates, and the role of American cities in the future.

As cities and towns in Ohio anticipate reduced local revenues from a slowing economy, the meeting focused on issues and directions for the future. Fred Barnes, a weekly TV journalist from the New Republic magazine and nationally recognized urban scholar Richard Nathan, provost of the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy, were the keynote speakers. Nathan is the author of an NLC-OML book, A New Agenda for Cities, and a participant in a leadership effort by the Ohio League to address directions for cities in the future.

The meeting featured a special session on the pioneering efforst of the City of Columbus to help translate the cost and impact of unfunded federal mandates to the grass roots level.

Barnes, in his convention opening session, spoke about an issue which he said was transfixing Washington, but not the rest of the--presidential politics.

Mixing his analysis with humorous anecdotes, Barnes noted that under the lead of new White House Chief of Staff James Baker, the President had finally set forth a coherent, domestic agenda intended to contrast his positions from the challenger, Governor Bill Clinton. Barnes said he would not say how this agenda would affect cities. And he was clear that the President's new domestic agenda faced two serious problmes: performance and credibility. He said that to the extent voters examined the President's domestic performance rather than his promises, Bush would suffer. He said the President's violation of his "read my lips" pledge undercut Bush's credibility on any new promises.

Barnes outlined Bush's new six point domestic agenda as follows:

* cut taxes by $130 billion.

* makes $130 billion in unspecified cuts in spending.

* reduce federal regulations

* reduce international trade barriers

* offer school choices, including federal subsidies for parochial schools, and

* legal reform

Barnes noted, particularly, the contrast between Clinton's proposal to increase spending in cities and towns against the deep, but so far non-specific, cuts presented by Bush, to say that he did not know how city officials felt about this agenda.

He said he believed Bush had about a 30 percent chance of getting re-elected. But he said, in his view, the stakes were much lower than in prior presidential election years.

Expressing the irony of how much of the presidential campaign debate was focused on Clinton's draft status of 25 years ago, Barnes told the municipal audience that the removal of the nuclear threat to the nation reduced the stakes of this year's election compared to previous elections.

Nathan was scheduled to make his keynote address after the Weekly went to press.
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Author:Shafroth, Frank
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Sep 21, 1992
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