National League of Cities: Meeting of Urban Group Is Chance to Learn
Robinson, Theotis, Jr., Nation's Cities Weekly
HAUL IN the ink and newsprint! Rev up the presses! The mayor and several city council members are in Las Vegas to attend a conference. But spare the 40 lashes with a wet noodle. They are obviously masochistic.
Each year about this time, the National League of Cities holds its annual meeting in some forlorn place like Las Vegas. NLC, made up of cities both large and small, seeks to equip officials of its member cities with skills to better represent their constituents and to manage their local governments.
Workshops covering a range of topics are offered. Subjects include how to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1991, effective city budget management and leveraging inner city investment through the Community Reinvestment Act. From youth programs to caring for the elderly, very conceivable problem that could confront a city is discussed.
There are even sessions for the newly elected to help them prepare for the tasks that lie ahead.
Invariably, participation in such events by Knoxville officials draws fire from some quarter. "They're spending taxpayers money when they should be staying home!" Clearly there is no need for professionalism in running city government. That we might be better served while saving thousands of dollars by learning how some other community dealt with solid waste recycling is besides the point. For many the world ends at the city limits.
The perception that travel to such conferences is somehow a non-serious holiday is often facilitated by the way the news media report such trips: "Three elected officials spend $2,000 at a four day conference in Philadelphia." So what? I would be more interested in those who never go anywhere to learn anything.
Most people would rather not receive heart surgery from a doctor who last attended a lecture on cardiovascular operations before graduating 30 years ago. Why then should we satisfied with officeholders who know how to win votes but nothing about managing and developing resources?
It has been my observation that the only "experts" on matters of public concern are never the people elected to office. …