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Mayors' Tips for Tight Fiscal Times

City officials offer some innovations to meet demand for services in era of slim resources

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CITY government didn't seem to be making a difference in the small, run-down Buffalo, N.Y., neighborhood. Boarded buildings, garbage-strewn lots, abandoned vehicles - signs of poverty were everywhere.

Then one early morning, in the midst of a drenching downpour, the Mayor's Impact Team (MIT) swept into the community. In two days, this city crew - personnel from the Board of Education, the Police Department, Streets and Sanitation, Housing and Inspections, the Sewer Authority, Parking Violations, and Community Development - changed the community dramatically.

``We hauled 36 tons of trash, gave out 25 parking summons, issued 24 letters for building-code violations,'' says Buffalo Mayor Anthony Masiello. ``We recovered three stolen automobiles and a flatbed truck that was reported missing ... 18 years ago.''

This is just one way hard-pressed mayors around the nation, faced with shrinking resources and a growing demand for services, are turning to innovative solutions.

More than 200 city mayors taught each other how to get things done at a recent National Conference of Mayors meeting here. The dream-child of Chicago's Mayor Richard M. Daley, Best Practices in City Government is the first forum designed to help city mayors share problem-solving.

``I can't believe it. I had to come all the way here to learn this,'' said a Californian after Mayor Ellen Corbett of San Leandro, Calif., handed out the city's mini-magazine, ``Three Easy Low Cost Ways to Make Your Home Earthquake Survivable.''

San Leandro, no stranger to temblors, has thousands of homes with foundations that would not withstand an earthquake. So, the city, in tandem with the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) and private industry, developed workshops to train homeowners how to earthquake-proof their homes.

Industry and building experts train homeowners how to bolt down foundations, strap heaters, brace chimneys, and reinforce walls. A lending library provides free tools and materials donated by businesses to anyone who's completed a workshop.

``Building housing for the poor, that's our main problem,'' says Mayor Melanino Bobe of Hormiqueros, Puerto Rico. ``We have so many poor who need housing.''


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