Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

NLC Members Take Cities' Message to the Congress

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

NLC Members Take Cities' Message to the Congress

Article excerpt

NLC President Carolyn Long Banks, NLC First Vice President Greg Lashutka, and NLC's officers and leaders carried NLC's 1995 Action Agenda to Congress, along with thousands of municipal elected leaders last week. Meeting with the key Senate and House deficit reduction and public safety leaders, the NLC leadership began a national effort to influence the changes Congress is considering affecting the future of the nation's cities.

The municipal leaders urged a united effort to confront the critical issues of public safety, federal deficit reduction, unfunded federal mandates, welfare reform, and getting cities on the information superhighway.

Banks told Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM) that city leaders are prepared to sit with state and national leaders to put together an equitable plan to eliminate federal deficits and mandates:

"We have a job to do: to ensure the peace and safety of our neighborhoods, to make government work more effectively and efficiently for the people, to rebuild a sense of community, and to build a more secure future for our children. We are ready to join you, to make the commitment, to dare, and to challenge conventional practices."

Noting that NLC had adopted a five-point 1995 Action Agenda that set deficit reduction as the number one priority--and the one critical to restoring trust in government at all levels--NLC First Vice President Lashutka told Domenici and House Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich (R-Ohio) that NLC was prepared to be a full partner in facing issues that require hard choices. He committed NLC to a grass roots effort to educate citizens in every community to the importance of the federal deficit and national debt to the country's future, and the key role that federal entitlement spending plays in the escalating national debt:

"These deficits, human and fiscal, require us to change government--at all levels. They require Congress to put every part of the budget on the table. We can make a difference; we are prepared to make a difference--but not alone."

"That's awesome!" Kasich responded, clearly surprised at the commitment of city leaders across the country to focus on the hard choices necessary to eliminate federal deficits.

But while Domenici and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.) welcomed a partnership with municipal leaders, and the call to put every part of the federal budget on the table, Kasich said:

"I don't think, quite honestly, that you can be at the table this year ... the infrastructure is not here for us to really talk face to face." Kasich also made clear that the House was unwilling to put Social Security spending or taxes on the table, and indicated the House would increase defense spending, rather than scrutinize it for cuts. But Kasich promised huge cuts in federal aid to local governments.

Noting that changes under active consideration in the House could fundamentally alter the relationships among federal, state, and local governments, NLC Second Vice President Glenda Hood, mayor of Orlando said:

"These changed relationships must serve, not hurt, the nation's cities and towns and the residents of home town America. Local governments and their taxpayers should not bear a disproportionate share of the burden of federal deficit reduction efforts."

Both Domenici and Hatfield agreed. Domenici offered early help to address current federal mandates, and stressed the importance of preventing abrupt cuts in vital municipal programs critical to public infrastructure.

Mayor Paul Helmke, of Fort Wayne, Ind., the chair of NLC's new Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy Committee, urged both Domenici and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) to oppose the rescissions bill, HR 1158, the retroactive federal spending cuts legislation the House was set to vote on last week, warning that the cuts would endanger public safety in communities and defund current federal mandates, violating the intent and spirit of S. …

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