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The executive director's report to members of the National League of Cities.

For cities and NLC, 1993 was a year of connecting-- connecting with the new Clinton Administration White House, connecting with former local elected officials now serving in key leadership positions in the Administration, connecting with local elected officials across the country around the shared concerns of unfunded federal mandates, and connecting NLC members to one another around issues of common concern.

It was a year that brought hope for our cities and towns with the prospect of change and the anticipation of a national agenda to address fundamental urban issues of crime, housing, economic development, and infrastructure. This hope, however, must be tempered by the reality that the cities' agenda has yet to get the national attention we had hoped for and expected.

This past year has been marked by some notable successes in our continuing effort to focus on key priorities and work in tandem with our membership, the new Administration, and other organizations with which we have common interests.

A year ago, Henry Cisneros, former NLC president and former mayor of San Antonio; Lottie Shackelford, former NLC board member and former mayor of Little Rock, Ark., and Gene Sperling, all members of then-President-elect Bill Clinton's transition team, met with the NLC Board to discuss the national economic recovery proposal developed by NLC's leadership.

This first meeting set the stage for what has been an ongoing and continuing relationship, marked by excellent access, with leaders of the new Administration. In his first month in office, President Clinton reached out to local elected officials by inviting them to the White House. And in March speaking to the NLC membership at the Congressional City Conference, he said "All of you are on the front lines of change. For a long time you've been making tough choices struggling to balance your books, trying to spend less on yesterday's mistakes and more on tomorrow's needs."

In concluding his presentation, the President challenged us, saying, "let's do something, and let's do it now." Through the year, I've participated in regular meetings with the President's intergovernmental staff as they have worked to developed strong ties and a good working relationship with local government.

Connecting For Political Action

The nationwide response to National Unfunded Mandates Day demonstrates most effectively the power of focusing on a shared objective and working directly with the large, diverse and committed membership of NLC.

Thousands of cities across the country participated in events, passed resolutions, wrote their Congressional delegations, and spoke, with one voice against the inequities of unfunded federal mandates. The national day was organized by NLC in cooperation with the National Association of Counties, U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the International City/County Management Association, as well as the state legislators and governors.

National Unfunded Mandates Day brought aggressive attention to the mandates issue. This message clearly got through. At this moment, close to thirty bills are pending in Congress to reduce or eliminate unfunded mandates. A coalition of more than 100 members of Congress are a part of an unfunded mandate caucus.

Representative Jim Moran (D-Va.), former mayor of Alexandria, Va., has more than half of the House of Representatives signed on to an unfunded federal mandate proposal he has initiated, and Senator Dirk Kempthorne (D-Idaho), former mayor of Boise, has more than half of the Senate signed on to a proposal he has introduced in the Senate. Other similar initiatives are being supported by a broad coalition of members of Congress.

When local officials across the country spoke out on unfunded federal mandates, President Clinton signed an Executive Order placing some controls on federal administrative actions which shifted costs to local government.

Connecting With The Administration

The appointments of former San Antonio mayor Henry Cisneros as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and former Denver mayor Federico Pena as Secretary of the Department of Transportation, have created strong ties between city officials and key members of the new Administration.

Throughout the year both have sought to build on ties with their former colleagues at the local level, but they truly reached out to our membership when, at the Congressional City Conference, each addressed a crowded ballroom of local officials. "Like the President," said Secretary Cisernos, "all of us care about our country, care about our communities, about both their promise and their peril," citing specific examples of cities that have experienced turnarounds.

On the critical issues of health care, reinventing government, enterprise and empowerment zones, the Administration has made efforts to reach out and draw on the experiences of local elected officials.

The leadership of NLC early in the term met not only with Secretaries Cisneros and Pena, but also Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, Labor Secretary Robert Reich, and Attorney General Janet Reno to discuss issues of priority concern to cities. As we enter the second year of this Administration, the ultimate measure will be the programmatic response to the priority needs of American cities. However, a strong link has been forged during 1993, and not just between cities and the Administration.

At the same time, the leadership of NLC held a series of meetings with Congressional Leaders. House Speaker Thomas Foley reiterated his desire to meet regularly with the leadership of NLC to discuss specific issues that would be pending before the House.

The great strength of NLC is the diversity of our membership base, representing large, medium, and small cities as well as mayors and members of councils. NLC, through its policy process, is able to speak for consensus of American elected officials on key issues before the Congress and the Administration.

In March, the NLC Board of Directors developed a five-point Action Agenda which provided focus for our legislative program. At the top of the agenda was restoring safety in our cities and towns.

The crime bill, which is on its way to passage, authorizes major funding to address the issue of crime. Because domestic spending is capped for the next five years, however, this initiative could result in cuts in other programs that affect cities including Head Start, community development, housing, and clean water, programs also vital to cities and towns.

The other priorities in this Action Agenda included rebuilding cities--focusing on investment in infrastracture, reducing federal mandates, investing in local economies which in part was addressed to the economic recovery act which includes provisions for the selection of more than 100 cities and towns to be empowerment and enterprise zones. The final item on this Action Agenda is health care. NLC was invited to participate in the many committees that worked on the President's health care plan.

Connecting With Each Other

In 1993, NLC's ability to make meaningful connections went well beyond the Administration and Congress. Perhaps its most significant effect relates to the ties promoted between NLC and its membership.

The Congress of Cities in New Orleans was structured by a committee of NLC members, who made significant changes to the structure and program of the event. The result was a Congress of Cities which won great praise from a member evaluation committee.

The leadership of NLC put a high priority on addressing the needs of children and families this year, an issue of critical concern to NLC President Don Fraser, mayor of Minneapolis. This focus on this issue culminated in a major conference on children and families held in Minneapolis which brought together local officials from around the country who shared approaches and techniques to develop in fundamental programs to address the needs of children in their communities.

Responding to the recommendations of NLC's Leadership Training Committee, we broadened the training opportunities available for local elected officials through pre-conference training workshops and the first stand-alone leadership training summit held in Monterey, California, this past August. These programs not only make available outside expertise to participants, but also provides a critical opportunity for elected officials to connect with and learn from one another.

To meet the needs of our members for timely information on key municipal issues, NLC introduced "Issues and Options," a subscription service providing local officials with practical solutions to local government problems. The response was favorable, with more than 400 subscribers signed on in the first year.

NLC and its members are connecting with the future, too. The yearly futures report, which is the work of the NLC Advisory Council, focused this year on cities in the international economy, a topic selected by NLC First Vice President Sharpe James, mayor of Newark, N.J. Next year's topic, chosen by NLC Second Vice President Carolyn Long Banks, council-woman from Atlanta, is public safety.

The advisory council will examine this issue, which is of great and growing importance to local officials, during the coming year. Preliminary work began on that topic this year when NLC's Second Vice President was able to secure a meeting with noted law enforcement expert, Lee Brown, who has led many big city police departments and is now part of the Clinton Administration.

In concluding this report to the membership, I want to reaffirm my commitment and that of the entire NLC staff to providing professional, responsive, and quality service. Local elected officials can and must demand quality service from their municipal staffs and should demand nothing less from the NLC staff.

In addition to having a successful year programmatically, NLC ended its fiscal year in a very strong financial position, with a strong membership base

1993 will be remembered as a year of change, high hopes, and ups and downs at the national level. NLC took advantage of the opportunities presented by the changes of the past year and focused on developing strong connections with the White House, new leaders in the Cabinet, and members of Congress as well as other state and local interest groups to press and actively promote the priorities of our cities.

While there are still many challenges ahead, NLC's strong leadership, grassroots capability, and committed staff will continue to work together in 1994 to carry out the citiese' agenda.
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Title Annotation:includes related information on the 1993 Board of Directors
Author:Borut, Donald J.
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Dec 6, 1993
Words:1664
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