NLC survey cites youth problems as critical
Three out of five city officials say youth crime worsened during the past year, and an array of problems involving youth is becoming the top concern of local government leaders, according to the annual opinion survey of municipal officials conducted by the National League of Cities (NLC).
Youth crime led the lists of local conditions that worsened over the past year, conditions that had deteriorated most over the past five years and conditions that were most important to address in the next two years. Six of the lO community conditions most frequently described as worsening – youth crime (62 percent), gangs (50 percent), drugs (45 percent), teen pregnancy (45 percent), school violence (45 percent) and family stability (38 percent) – were associated with young people.
More than last year’s survey, this year’s detected a higher degree of uneasiness among local officials regarding the delivery of services in their communities and the general direction in which the country appears to be heading. The findings were based on 406 responses by municipal officials in a random sample drawn from cities with populations above 10,000.
In rating the quality of their municipal services, the percentage of respondents answering “very good” declined from 33 percent to 23 percent, and those answering “fair” or “poor” increased from 22 percent to 26 percent.
While 34 percent of respondents indicated that their cities had increased services, and 49 percent said they had maintained local service levels in 1995, the outlook for 1996 found 25 percent expecting to increase services and 55 percent maintaining current services. Seventeen percent said their cities reduced services during 1995, and 21 percent expect to do the same in 1996.
When asked about the general direction in which the country is heading, the survey found respondents split 50-50 between optimism and pessimism. Last year, 60 percent of the respondents were optimistic.
Local officials also expressed growing concern over worsening racial and ethnic relations in their communities, with the percentage reporting a decline in relations rising from 28 percent in 1995 to 43 percent in ’96. Indeed, worsening racial and ethnic relations have moved from the most frequently mentioned issue to the sixth in the past five years.
“Anyone who cares about the future of America should pay attention to the messages that resonate in this report,” says NLC President and Columbus, Ohio, Mayor Greg Lashutka.