King County (WA) Council Member Jane Hague Elected New
By Larry Jones
Nearly five thousand delegates attended the 65th annual conference of the National Association of Counties in Charlotte-Mecklenberg County, North Carolina July 14-18. During the 5-day meeting delegates heard from a variety of nationally noted speakers including Vice President Al Gore via satellite, Pulitzer Prize winning author and presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, Neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Transportation Secretary Rodney C. Slater.
Vice President Gore spoke about the accomplishments of the Clinton-Gore Administration, claiming credit for balancing the federal budget and establishing the kind of fiscal discipline that has helped our nation achieve the strongest and longest period of sustained economic growth in history. He told delegates that job growth is up at record levels while unemployment and welfare are down at record low levels. As President, he told delegates he would work to ensure continued strong growth.
Gore discussed where he stood on many key national issues, contrasting his position with that of Texas Governor George W. Bush, the presumptive Republican nominee for President. On Social Security, he opposes a proposal supported by Bush that would allow individuals to invest a portion of their Social Security funds in the stock market. Instead, he said he would establish a separate program that would allow Americans to supplement their retirement savings without risking their Social Security funds. On tax cuts, Gore favors reductions that will benefit middle income earners while he claims Bush favors reductions that will benefit the rich. And on the budget surplus, Gore favors ensuring the solvency of Social Security and Medicare first before spending federal funds on tax cuts.
Doris Kerns Goodwin demonstrated her spellbinding storytelling skills by speaking passionately about her love for baseball, particularly her childhood experiences with the Brooklyn Dodgers and her study of U.S. Presidents. She spoke fondly of her experience as a White House fellow during the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson. While she opposed the Johnson administration's involvement in the Vietnam War, she grew to admire the President and praised him for his positive legislative agenda which led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, War on Poverty and Medicaid.
Kerns also discussed how times have changed with regards to media coverage, pointing out that when Franklin Roosevelt was President, the media did not cover his reported affairs with other women or his paralysis. But today, she expressed disappointment that media coverage about the private life of the President and other elected officials will dominate the airways, magazines and newspapers for long periods even when it doesn't impact the official duties of the office. Goodwin was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1995 for her book, No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. She has also written other best selling Presidential biographies about the Johnson and Kennedy families.
World renowned neurosurgeon, Dr. Ben Carson, made history in 1987 when he led a medical team in the successful separation of Siamese twins joined at the back of the head. He spoke to delegates about growing up in poverty as a youth with divorced parents and the peer pressure to get involved in mischief. With a prayerful mother who carefully watched over her children and placed strong emphasis on making sure they got a good education, Carson was transformed from a failing fifth grade student to a high school honors graduate. He went on to complete college and medical school and at the age of 32, he became the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University Hospital.
Because of his experience, Carson is particularly concerned about the plight of young black males in our nation and he spends a lot of time visiting public schools and encouraging young people not only to be smart but to care about people as well. Dr. Carson has established a scholarship fund that awards $1000 scholarships to youths in grades 4-12 who demonstrate not only superior academic performance but demonstrate humanitarian qualities as well.
Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater commended the NACo leadership and county officials for their involvement in helping to pass both TEA 21 and Air 21 legislation. He discussed the enormous support these two laws have provided for state and local highways, roads, mass transit systems, airports and other infrastructure projects that are being used to fuel the nations booming economy. He also praised NACo and the Conference for the Joint Center on Sustainable Communities, which is promoting city-county collaborations in solving regional problems by identifying best practices and encouraging networking between local leaders. Slater announced that the Department of Transportation recently awarded a $100,000 grant to support the efforts of the Joint Center.
On July 18, the last day of the annual meeting, county delegates elected new officers who will serve from July 2000 to July 2001. King County (WA) Council Member Jane Hague was elected president; Santa Fe County (N.M.) Commissioner Javier Gonzales was elected President-elect; Dallas County (TX) Kenneth Mayfield was elected First Vice President; and Boone County (MO) Commissioner Karen Miller was elected Second Vice President. NACo's outgoing president, Howard County (MD) Council Member C. Vernon Gray, will serve as the Immediate Past President.