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Working together for the public interest.

The public has a right to be outraged by the inability of their leaders in Washington to develop an agenda for action and break the persistent gridlock.

It's time to start working together. It's not impossible. In fact, I'd say it's healthy.

Finding common ground, collaborating, and working toward consensus was the motivation behind November's election results.

There's a great example right here among the public interest groups, and NLC is a part of it.

The close and unified workings of the local government public interest groups, NLC, the U.S. Conference of Mayors CUSCM), the National Association of Counties (NACo), and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) is a real-life model of healthy, collaborative, positive relations.

Not only do we share a constituency-local government and its citizens--we also share the recognition that even with some institutional differences, we are closely tied.

The ties that bind us are stronger than any differences that divide us. By recognizing that, we do a great service to our members and our common priorities. We know that working together creates the positive energy to get things done.

A critical case in point is the issue of unfunded federal mandates, a top priority on NLC's Action Agenda and a priority of each of the other organizations. For those who've been dealing with this costly issue since the 1980s, we know it as the "hi& den federal tax," characterized by "pass the bill, pass the buck but not the bucks, shift and shaft federalism."

Alarmed, we see it creeping into the 1990s and have jointly decided to fight that development, marshalling our combined strength and voice.

At a recent NLC FAIR Steering Committee meeting, Committee Chair Greg Lashutka, the mayor of Columbus, Ohio, reported on his model effort to document the cost of federal environmental mandates. For his city alone, the cost by the year 2000 is projected at $1.6 billion--more than $5,000 for every man, woman, and child in Columbns.

Philadelphia's mayor Ed Rendell is calling for some public education on the matter. NLC's FAIR Committee Vice Chair, Rendell dramatically described the consequences of one-size-fits-all mandates on his city and proposed a broad-based local government initiative to educate and inform the general public about the impact of mandates on each and every citizen. Mayors Lashutka and Rendell last week shared the platform at a plenary session of the annual USCM meeting with Sen. Dirk Kempthorne, former mayor of Boise, to address the serious effects of future unfunded mandates.

Lashutka argued that any federal regulation directed at local governments should be based on scientific data using cost benefit analysis; designed to limit risk; avoid a one-size-fits-all approach in favor of flexibility; and allow local governments participation in the process of developing such regulations.

Mayor Rendell has called for a National Urban Mandate Day (NUMD) at which local elected officials around the country would speak out on the consequences of unfunded federal mandates on their communities.

Senator Kempthorne has not forgotten his roots as mayor of Boise. He announced to the USCM conference that the first piece of legislation he introduced was a bill prohibiting unfunded federal mandates.

At the USCM meeting, representatives from NLC, NACo, ICMA, and USCM met to discuss a coordinated approach to addressing federal mandates. Already we are working with the National Governors' Association and the National Conference of State Legislatures on a campaign to target the most expensive federal mandates affecting state and local governments. They are clean air, clean drinking water, storm water, the Fair Labor Standards Act.

NLC's Board of Directors will be acting on a proposal from the FAIR Committee based on the strong recommendation of Chairman Lashutka and Vice Chairman Rendell. The U.S. Conference of Mayors took action at its conference, and the National Association of Counties is expected to reaffirm its position on mandates at its July meeting.

I am proud to report that our alliance is strong and gaining momentum. As well, it is a testament to the ideal that cooperation is better than rigid self interest.

Local governments and their national organizations remain unified in opposition to unfunded federal mandates. We continue working in concert to strengthen and enhance the ability of local elected officials to define priorities, maximize services and govern effectively.

This model of cooperation and its message should neither be ignored nor dismissed by leaders in Congress and the administration.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Borut, Donald J.
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Jun 28, 1993
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