Sheffer In Beirut On Local Government Mission

By Arthur Page

Release Date: November 9, 1998 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- John B. Sheffer, II, director of the Institute for Local Governance and Regional Growth at the University at Buffalo, has joined a three-person delegation charged with assessing the structure and needs of local government in Lebanon.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is sending the team to recommend a strategic plan for local governments in Lebanon as that nation -- emerging from a devastating 16-year civil war -- works to reinvigorate its democratic institutions.

Sheffer, a former village mayor, state assemblyman and state senator, is a professor of law and planning at UB. Since 1997, he also has served as director of the Institute for Local Governance and Regional Growth, which focuses on issues of governance and regional cooperation in the Western New York area.

"The strength of local governments in this post-war era will be a critical factor in the rebuilding of Lebanon," Sheffer said. "Successful municipal elections were held this year for the first time since 1963.

"It is a crucial time for the developing Lebanese democracy, and I feel privileged to be a part of the effort to help assess their municipal framework."

Organized for USAID by the Center for Legislative Development at the University at Albany, the two-week mission to Lebanon is a part of a multi-year effort by the center to pursue democratic development activities in that nation.

The team, including Abdo I. Baaklini, director of the center, and James P. Ketterer, the center's project manager for the program, will work with local officials and the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs in Lebanon.

"Our preliminary work demonstrates that Lebanon is making a constructive effort to deal with some of the same issues we face in this country," Sheffer said. "Issues, for example, of governmental efficiency, delivery of public services, environmental stewardship and intermunicipal cooperation are very much a part of the challenge facing Lebanon in this reconstructionist time and continuing to face the United States, including Western New York."

The team will return to the United States the weekend before Thanksgiving and draft its assessment and recommendations during December.

"My own work and the work of our institute at UB will continue to focus upon issues of local governance and regional excellence in the Buffalo-Niagara area," Sheffer said. "This experience in Beirut and throughout Lebanon, however, is an extraordinary opportunity to test some of our models and improve our analysis of municipal issues in our own region, as well as assist in a worthy international program."