IT Issues Central in 'State of America's Cities'

America's cities are more prosperous and working better than ever, but problems such as racism and what to do about taxing Internet sales taint the picture, according to a survey released Wednesday by the National League of Cities.

According to the 16th Annual "State of America's Cities" report put together from an October 1999 survey of 389 municipal leaders, 93 percent of respondents were positive about the general direction in which their city is heading. And 90 percent of the city leaders ranked their levels of service as "good" or "very good."

However, National League of Cities officials pointed out in a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., that 43 percent of city leaders say race/ethnic relations are a "major" or "moderate" problem in their city. And National League of Cities Executive Director Donald Borut called the possibility that online sales could remain untaxed "the No. 1 most critical issue for cities."

"This is clearly the most critical issue as it relates to action by the federal government right now," Borut said.

Asked about what would most affect their cities in the new millennium, most city leaders named the local education system. The second most popular response was limited or restricted local revenue-raising capacity, followed by the "new" economy, specifically high-tech, information and services industries and globalization.

Survey respondents listed health care, social security, public education and changes in the federal tax system as the most important issues for the 2000 presidential campaign.

"There is a broad sense of optimism," said Bob Knight, mayor of Wichita, Kan., and the League of Cities president. "But we must not lose sight of the inequities and vulnerabilities in society."

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