The environment, transportation, housing, helping the homeless, AIDS and child-care issues are top priorities of the National Association of Counties for the 1990s, says newly elected NACO President D. Michael Stewart.
In remarks prepared for NACO's 55th annual conference in Miami BeachTuesday night, Stewart, a Salt Lake County commissioner, called on the 5,000 delegates from across the nation to look to the future."America cannot afford caretakers in government. It needs leaders excited about problem solving who want to forge a future," Stewart said. "While some aspire to make a heaven of the earth, we know our job will be well done if we succeed in keeping it from going to hell."
NACO represents more than 2,000 county governments in the United States. Stewart's term, which officially began Tuesday, runs through July 1991.
Stewart dedicated NACO to "an ambitious program" addressing clean air, water and waste-disposal issues.
"This is a major chore. Clean-air problems are accentuated by Longfellow's verse: `I shot an arrow into the air, it fell to earth, I know not where.' It might well be: `I shot an arrow into the air - and it got stuck."
Stewart pledged the association to fighting for use of gas taxes for restoring the nation's deteriorating highways, bridges and transportation infrastructure, "not to reduce the federal deficit."
The new NACO leader also called for increased efforts to bring about such long-standing goals as affordable housing; enterprise zones for community and economic development; and "solutions for indigent care and AIDS."
NACO seeks the continuance and restoration of private sector tax initiatives for public and private sector partnerships, Stewart added.
"We have a continuing deep concern when well-intentioned candidates for Congress and the legislature succeed in placing their concerns into law, but forget to consider the resultant cost to citizens back home," he said.
County governments have been at the core of America's development in the past, and "have a charge to make the future happen," Stewart said.
"We design the future and make dreams come true," he said.
County governments can play a big role in providing local financial stability, strengthening the family unit, encouraging citizen service and volunteerism and providing jobs to the idle poor, he said.
It is also at the county level where federalism can best be undergirded by commissioners working to maintain their power as a partner in the county-state-federal government triad, Stewart said.
He also supported NACO sponsorship of debates on controversial environmental issues ranging from acid rain and ozone depletion to global warming.
"I share my profound faith in leadership. Inspired, energized and enthusiastic leadership has made the difference in this organization and in world events," Stewart said. "We can make things happen."