Press Release


LOCAL LEADERS SEE UNTAPPED MARKETS FOR DEVELOPMENT; MAYORS, COUNTY LEADERS, HUD AGREE TO HOLD "BRIDGING THE DIVIDE" SUMMIT TO FOCUS ON REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT CHALLENGES

National Survey Shows Broad Agreement on Needs and Challenges
Across Central and Suburban Cities and Counties

New Orleans, LA (June 12, 1999) Local government leaders across the nation are in broad agreement on the existence of significant untapped economic potential in their communities and on the need to approach the challenges they face at the regional level, according to a survey released today in New Orleans by The U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National Association of Counties. The mayors' organization is in New Orleans this week for its 67th annual conference.

U.S. Housing and Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo said HUD will host a "Bridging the Divide" summit between members of the Conference of Mayors and National Association of Counties later this year to discuss steps that communities can take to increase regional cooperation.

The survey, which includes 173 cities and 32 large urban counties, found 81percent of the city leaders agreeing or strongly agreeing that significant untapped economic potential exists in their neighborhoods. In addition,

High levels of agreement on these issues existed among mayors in both central and suburban cities. In counties, over a third of the officials said the scarcity of retail outlets near consumers= homes poses a challenge for them, and 84 percent said they are challenged by the difficulty area businesses have in finding workers.

Asked to gauge the seriousness of the challenges most often encountered in their cities, mayors in both central and suburban cities most frequently cited training the workforce to stay competitive in a changing economy (90 percent of survey respondents), cutting traffic congestion (86 percent), reducing crime and associated problems (83 percent), meeting the need for infrastructure (82 percent), and protecting the environment as the community grows (also 82 percent). All of the county officials responding to the survey saw either major or minor challenges in meeting the need for infrastructure, protecting the environment and cutting traffic congestion on their roads and highways. All but a few in the counties saw challenges in limiting the negative effects of sprawl, reducing homelessness and reducing poverty.

Assessing the growth of major challenges over the past 10 years, most city officials said increases in challenges relate to cutting traffic congestion (70 percent in central cities, 74 percent in suburban cities), training the workforce to stay competitive (85 percent in central cities, 53 percent in suburban), and meeting the need for infrastructure (64 percent in central cities, 68 percent in suburban). Eighty-one percent of the county officials reported increases in challenges related to limiting the negative effects of sprawl and in cutting traffic congestion; 72 percent saw increases in meeting the need for infrastructure and protecting the environment. Relatively small percentages of officials saw decreases in challenges over the same period: One-fourth of both the city and the county officials said the challenge of reducing crime had decreased. The largest group of county leaders (42 percent) reported that the challenge of consumers having few retail outlets near their homes had decreased.

Nearly all of the officials B 97 percent in both city and county groups B saw the challenges, any or all of them, as regional in scope.

The survey presented city and county leaders with a set of eight statements describing keys to managing growth and controlling sprawl in metropolitan areas. Responses to these statements showed strong B in many instances, almost total B agreement among officials. Those in 98 percent of the cities and 97 percent of the counties, for example, agreed that "it is a prudent strategy for the nation to develop brownfields as an alternative to developing previously undeveloped greenfields." All of the county officials and 97 percent of the city officials agreed that "expanding housing and homeownership opportunities in the urban core of our region would benefit the entire nation.@

There also was nearly universal agreement among the officials with a set of eight statements describing various aspects of regional cooperation. For example, all of the county leaders and 97 percent of the city leaders agreed that "the long-term health and vitality of our region depends on greater cooperation among cities and suburbs," that "business leadership is important to building more city-suburb cooperation in our region," and that "there should be more city-suburb and central city-county cooperation.@

Commenting on the survey=s findings and the HUD meeting that will bring together the mayors and county officials, Cuomo said: "Leaders of cities, suburbs and counties recognize that they can accomplish far more by cooperation than competition. HUD will work in partnership with communities to help them bridge the divide separating them, so they can expand their regional economies and build better futures for all their people.@

Mayor Charles Box of Rockford (IL), a Trustee of the Conference of Mayors, said the survey pulled together what local leaders in his region believe is most important in preparing for the future. "It=s clear that across cities and counties, we=re in general agreement on what needs to be done to take full advantage of the opportunities that the current national economy is presenting," said Box. "It=s also clear that what needs to be done must be approached by all of us at the regional level.@

The President of the National Association of Counties, Wake County (NC) Commissioner Betty Lou Ward, echoed Box=s views. "None of us is surprised that nearly every official surveyed sees the challenges as regional in scope," she said. "The survey results simply underscore how consistent the central city, suburban and county officials are in their perceptions of the importance of regional cooperation. Our individual long-term interests truly are tied to the futures of our regions.@

CONTACT:

At U.S. Conference of Mayors, Katie Cullen, (202) 293-7330
At National Association of Counties, Tom Goodman, (202) 942-4222
At HUD, David Egner, (202) 708-0685

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