Cities say tech will play key role in future problem-solving
WASHINGTON, D.C. (IDG) -- The nation's city leaders will turn increasingly to technology to solve complex, lingering social problems such as urban poverty and urban sprawl, according to the National League of Cities, which last week released its annual survey on the status of American cities.
NLC's "State of America's Cities" report found that city governments across the U.S. are providing more services to their citizens. Based on a random sample of elected leaders, the survey also found that most city officials generally have positive feelings about the future of their own municipalities.
"Ninety-one percent of those polled say they are optimistic or mildly optimistic about the direction and future of their cities," said NLC executive director Donald Borut at a press briefing on the survey. "However, those same officials stressed that the strong economy and the hum of prosperity must not lull city governments into a sense of complacency."
Areas of broad interest and concern to city leaders include regional planning, which often relies on information systems to plot and manage urban growth. NLC also found that most elected officials were concerned about their relationships with state governments and the federal government.
About one-third of survey respondents indicated that federal and state pre-emption of authority is getting worse, and nearly half complained about unfunded mandates -- cases in which local governments are given a directive but not given the funds to complete necessary actions.
Spreading economic prosperity to the urban poor also was a common theme highlighted in the survey. "Local governments need to focus first on finding jobs for welfare recipients and then on rotating them off welfare, not on moving them off welfare first and then providing job training," said Clarence Anthony, NLC president.
Technology may play an increasing role in municipal welfare-to-work programs, which increasingly will steer training more toward the skills necessary to earn a living in today's technology-based economy, he said.
Technology also will become more of a component in local economic development as cities try increasingly to stimulate local businesses to pursue growth industries such as technology. "A livable community is not just a nice place to live and raise kids. It is also a place where a person can make money," said Anthony, who is the mayor of South Bay, Fla., a rural area situated outside the Florida Everglades with a 40 percent poverty rate.
NLC officials claimed that the association's objectives and survey findings are on par with President Clinton's goals which were spelled out in his recent State of the Union address.
Specifically, Borut said NLC is interested in the details of Clinton's proposed American Private Investment Company which would be modeled after the Overseas Private Investment Company.
"We must do more to bring the spark of private enterprise to every corner of America -- to build a bridge from Wall Street, to Appalachia, to the Mississippi Delta, to our Native American communities," Clinton said. "I ask Congress to support our bold new plan to help businesses raise up to $15 billion in private-sector capital to bring jobs and opportunities to our inner cities and rural areas."
Clinton also mentioned law enforcement technology programs in the Jan. 19 speech, pledging to formulate a new crime bill to harness technology to make communities safer. "Our balanced budget will help put up to 50,000 more police on the street, in the areas hardest hit by crime -- and then to equip them with new tools, from crime-mapping computers to digital mug shots," he said. Clinton also vowed to boost by 28 percent the government's investment in "long-term computing research."
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