While federal officials are just beginning to acknowledge the economy is in a recession, a national survey conducted by the National League of Cities showed Monday that it has been common knowledge among city officials.
The League's annual survey of 269 elected municipal officials found that 22 percent of those polled said their local economic outlook for young people seeking jobs was "poor" and 59 percent said it was only "fair." Just 19 percent felt opportunities were "great.""Local elected officials are, on the whole, perpetual boosters of their hometowns, so when more than one in five is worried enough to say things are bad, you know that there are some real problems facing both our cities and our nation," said Donald Borut, executive director of the League.
Led by the surge in energy prices, economic issues have become a major concern of city leaders, threatening to overshadow the drug problem and undermine efforts to combat it.
In their assessment of conditions in their communities, the municipal leaders reported substantial deterioration in all areas related to economic factors.
Areas of worsening economic conditions and the percent of cities reporting them included energy costs, 70 percent; overall cost of living, 60 percent; housing affordability, 42 percent; rental housing affordability, 40 percent; unemployment, 37 percent; homelessness, 36 percent; overall economic conditions, 36 percent; poverty, 36 percent; availability of low-income housing, 31 percent; and general city fiscal conditions, 30 percent.
While some 88 percent of those surveyed said they increased or maintained local service levels during 1990, many of the problems - such as crime, drugs and homelessness - persisted even as new problems arose.
Borut also said city officials were getting precious little help from the federal government where a "stubborn 'go-it-alone' attitude has come to dominate much of our national domestic policy, and it shows signs of trickling down into state policy as well."