History of NUSA Conferences
In The Beginning
Neighborhoods, USA (originally National Conference of Neighborhood Concerns)
was formed by two neighborhood activists: JudyLafoon of Kansas City and
Howard Hallman of Washington, D.C. Mr. Hallman, having received a Ford
Foundation Grant to study decentralization of city services into neighborhoods,
wrote several cities, inviting them to a workshop on neighborhood advisory
councils. Ms. Lafoon agreed to host the sessions in Kansas City and they
organized a three day conference which featured neighborhood tours and
workshops. The fee for the conference was $25.
About 70 people attended the workshop from 4l cities. They heard Howard
Hallman deliver the keynote speech: "The Neighborhood Council Movement."
It was the consensus of those in attendance that there be: l) institution
of an information exchange bulletin, 2) commitment to have another conference
in May, l977, and 3) rather than the formation of a trade or professional
organization, the establishment of a Steering Committee composed of volunteers
whose purpose was to plan the following year's conference.
The conference highlighted neighborhood tours, discussion of the Community
Block Grant Program and citizen participation. Monsignor Geno Baroni was
the keynote speaker. About l50 people attended from 58 communities in
3 states. A new Steering Committee, formed to plan the next conference,
also spent time deciding whether or not to formalize the organization.
l977 Jacksonville, Florida
Approximately 250 people, with strong representation from the west coast,
attended this conference which highlighted neighborhood volunteers. The
high level of participation caused the Steering Committee to realize the
importance of regional conference locations. Portland had received a HUD
grant to produce a videotape of the proceedings to be used as an education
tool in various cities. Joseph McNeely, keynote speaker, address the needs
of low-income residents of the nation's neighborhoods. The Steering committee
dealt later with structure and By-Laws issues
The most important issues addressed were the l980 census, crime prevention,
and the citizen participation process as it impacts decision-making. The
Steering Committee became the Board of Directors, adopting financial procedures
and an annual budget. A definition of membership was achieved after much
discussion. Also, a statement of purpose was adopted and the organization
was incorporated in Washington, D.C. as a non-profit group.
conference was held at the University of Pittsburgh and featured mini-courses
where college credits were given to those wishing it. Action Housing,
Inc. co-sponsored the sessions. There was much discussion of issues such
as unemployment affecting inner-city livability, their house painting
project, and institutional growth issues. A quilt project celebrating
Pittsburgh was highlighted during the Mayor's reception.
The Hispanic and Native American cultures enriched this conference, which
highlighted the neighborhood planning process mini-courses focused on
neighborhood economics and leadership development. Enterprise zones were
advocated by keynote speaker, Jeff Noah. The name of the organization
was officially changed from National Conference of Neighborhood Concerns
to Neighborhoods, USA at this conference.
The largest conference to date was held in this city noted for its southern
hospitality and barbecued ribs. There were mini-courses on economic development
and self-help, and neighborhood tours were conducted. Dr. Roger Albrandt
addressed issues neighborhoods would face under the Reagan administration.
Subsequent Board meetings struggled with this issue as federal funding
cuts impacted larger segments of society.
Partially because of a large turn-out from Birmingham, this conference
was the largest ever. A riverboat cruise was one of the highlights. Neal
Pierce, Washington Post columnist, addressed the group, stating that neighborhoods
are centers of vitality from which change could take place nationally.
A conference report was produced, and a profit was given to NUSA because
of local corporate donations covering conference costs.
Neighborhood of the Year awards were instituted at this conference, at
the suggestion of the conference coordinator. It was decided to make this
part of each NUSA conference because of the positive sharing of community
organizing successes. A boat cruise in the foggy sound and a Native American
celebration were highlights. In subsequent Board meetings NUSA contracted
for it first part-time staff and pursued tax exempt status.
This conference showcased a city attempting to regain its sense of community
after it was racked with riots. The l0th anniversary of NUSA was celebrated
with style. Keynote speaker, Franklin Thomas, President of the Ford Foundation,
stressed the importance of self-help in dealing with urban issues.
This city has one of the most sophisticated neighborhood involvement programs
in the United States and their conference highlighted the many achievements
of citizens in St. Paul and its twin city, Minneapolis. This was the first
conference to include Neighborhood Dinners. Some attendees went to see
one of the last "Prairie Home Companion" shows. the keynote
speaker was the dynamic Ernesto Cortes, Jr., a Mac Arthur fellow. There
was a lively panel of former neighborhood activists, who had subsequently
entered the political area, moderated by Neal Peirce.
A Texas barbecue and river front hotel location contributed to an enjoyable
introduction to this historic city which contains so many nationalities.
Neighborhood tours featured cultural diversity and lively fiesta was enjoyed
by all. Mayor Cisneros gave a powerful address to the group. Workshops
focused on such issues as immigration and cultural integration.
Southern hospitality prevailed in this railroad crossing city in the hills
of western Virginia. With the smaller town setting many personal alliances
were forged and contacts made, both among conference participants and
local volunteers. Neighborhood potlucks were a highlight of this conference,
an important part of all subsequent conferences. The board instituted
the independent publication of "NUSA News" to be mailed quarterly
The Pacific Northwest again welcomed NUSA with Seattle highlighting its
excellent planning and recycling efforts. A city-wide park tour was well
received and salmon was prepared in the original Native American style
in a historic setting. Harry Boyte, the Executive Director of the Commonwealth
Project for the University of Minnesota, delivered an address entitled
"Community Organizations; Regaining the Initiative." The Board
established a new award called NUSA Notables to honor organizations or
people who support the efforts of neighborhood volunteers.
Flooding did not stop the NUSA conference in this western town which still
has cowboys, stockyards, and processing plants. Fort Worth had done several
successful workshops for its own activists, therefore it was well prepared
to share its successes nationally with an enthusiastic cadre of volunteers
planning the conference.
Taking advantage of its rich musical heritage, Memphis sponsored a "Neighborhood
Jam Session" with workshop titles from local hits such as "Love
Me Tender" for a session on neighborhood initiatives. The keynote
speaker, Dr. William Ferris, Director of the Center For Study of Southern
Culture, spoke and sang his way into the hearts of participants. Over
300 people experienced Memphis hospitality which included a trip on a
"Wild about Neighborhoods" demonstrated to conference goers
that even in the wilds of Alaska the same challenges and solutions for
neighborhoods apply. A highlight of the conference was the adoption of
the Neighborhood Bill of Rights by the NUSA membership. Attendees experienced
many varied neighborhoods, cultures and native foods during the neighborhood
dinners and tours. The climax of the conference as the Alyeska Barbeque
and Salmon Bake.
Southern hospitality was everywhere but most evident at Millsaps College,
the l8th Conference Site. Conferees were inspired by a very special welcome
invocation delivered by Dolphus Weary, President of Mendenhall Ministries
and author of "I Ain't Never Coming Back", profiling his experiences
with l960's rural South racism. After workshops, catfish, and a visit
to the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Museum, attendees were invited
to complete their "Southern Exposure" with singing and dancing
in the streets during the annual arts and music festival" Jubilee!
Even an earlier earthquake couldn't stop this host city from sponsoring
"Neighborhoods Achieving Pride From Diversity". Pasadena "Crown
of the Valley", brought together over 550 "neighbors" from
33 states, Japan and Canada to share common ideas and challenges. Highlights
included keynote speaker, Rae Franklin James, Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles,
who spoke about neighborhoods needing to be "building blocks for
developing public policy". also speaking was Michael Josephson, founder
of the Character Counts Coalition who brought an unusual blend of theory
and pragmatism to the issue of ethics & neighborhoods. Pasadena showed
its diversity through 70 workshops, l6 neighborhood pride tours, and the
creation of a large neighborhood mural with one vision expressed"
A neighborhood without pride is one without a future.
In the thirteen years since the last NUSA Conference was held in Birmingham,
the "Magic City" has undergone many positive changes. The theme
of the l995 conference. "Reaching Common Ground Through Strong Neighborhoods",
reflected the progress Birmingham has made through its strong Citizen
Participation Program. Each workshop was carefully chosen to illustrate
the vital role that neighborhood organizations play in the shaping of
their cities' futures. The atmosphere of serious dialogue and exchange
of ideas was balanced with several fun activities, including a trip to
the Birmingham Race Course, neighborhood tours, and a Farewell Gala/Dance.
Many of those attending the conference were first time visitors to Birmingham,
but they promised to come back to sample more of the traditional southern
hospitality combined with a diverse metropolitan environment.
NUSA '96 was an exciting and productive experience for 9l4 conferees who
came from across the nation and the world to meet their global neighbors
in Little Rock, Arkansas on May 22-25, l996. The conference theme, "Neighborhoods,
the Fabric of Our Communities," was "woven" into every
aspect of this 3-day gathering of neighborhood residents, both public
and private sector attendees and others interested in improving their
communities through the sharing of information. Composed of neighbors
and city employees, the LOC spent endless hours in committee/sub-committees
working out details of workshops, tours and exhibits. The hard work paid
off. The quality of speakers at this conference was unsurpassed. The special
attention that was given to detail in amenities and exhibits created a
conference that conformed in all aspects to its theme. Countless compliments
were received on the workshops and tours. Corporate sponsors were outstanding
in their generosity. NUSA '96 was proclaimed by many of its attendees
as the finest NUSA conference ever.
1997 marked the 200th anniversary as the Capital City of New York State.
How fitting to have hosted "NUSA '97: Capitalizing on Neighborhoods"
during Albany's Bicentenary celebration. Rich in history, architecture
and distinct neighborhoods, Albany welcomed over 560 delegates from the
nation. Featured Speakers included two of the nation's foremost authorities
on preserving the environment and Neighborhood geography issues: Donald
J. Borut, Executive Director of the National league of Cities and James
Howard Kuntsler, author and regular contributor to the New York Times
Sunday Magazine. 37 workshops were presented by speakers from all over
the country with such topics as "Rat on a Rat" and "Empowering
Communities through Music and Arts." The highlight of the conference
was the Neighborhood Pride Tours where delegates got a real "taste"
of Albany's neighborhoods and neighbors. Many of those attending had never
been to Albany before, and commented about the city's striking architecture
and presence of history throughout downtown. NUSA '97 was a great experience
for both delegates and hosts.
The great northwest territory became the focus of “Soaring to New
Heights” for more than 1100 participants who converged on the City
of Portland and surrounding communities. This host city insured that everyone
enjoyed themselves with a multitude of diverse workshops; dynamic speakers
like Oregon’s former Governor Barbara Roberts and Charlotte Brandon,
President of the NBA Mothers Association; and an ending gala that all
would remember. The city’s outstanding hospitality was highlighted
in its delightful receptions and the many neighborhood tours and dinners
hosted throughout the region. NUSA ’98 was also the beginning of
a new dimension of the NUSA conference with the establishment of a Youth
Track for those between the ages of 12 and 18. A collaborative effort
was made with youth advisors and others to begin mentoring young persons
in neighborhood issues.
NUSA ’99 Building Neighborhoods Block by Block Conference was a
resounding success attended by over 1250 people. The three-day conference
included 90 workshops and featured conference speakers Greg Watson, Executive
Director of Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative and John McKnight, author
of “Building Communities from the Inside Out”. Participants
attended one of 16 Neighborhood Pride Tours and enjoyed the wonderful
scenery Madison had to offer.
Besides celebrating NUSA’s 25th Anniversary in the Valley of the
Sun, NUSA 2000, From Tradition to Tomorrow, was a unique success in that
it was the result of a number of partnerships. The Arizona cities joined
forces to present a conference rich in Southwestern history and innovative
direction for the future. The widespread diversity of these cities provided
27 outstanding Neighborhood Pride Tours. The conference offered gracious
hospitality and well organized events and featured 50 adult workshops
and a special youth track of 11 workshops. Attended by nearly 1800, the
conference began with presentation of a 25th Anniversary Founders Award
to Howard Hallman. Highlight of the conference was the enjoyment of Southwestern
cuisine at a lively evening fiesta, complete with Native American dancers
in the Phoenix Civic Plaza. Many attendees were heard to comment they
would be returning to these sunny cities for future vacation enjoyment.
1200 neighborhood leaders from across North America, Japan and the United
Kingdom came to Pittsburgh May 23-26. Participants included neighborhood
residents, nonprofit staff and volunteers, public sector officials, private
sector representatives and youth. “This conference was an excellent
opportunity to learn how other communities are addressing common issues
and concerns, as well as to highlight all the great things we’re
doing well in Pittsburgh neighborhoods,” said Mayor Tom Murphy.
The conference opened with a UPMC/NUSA Town Meeting on Sustainable Communities
and continued over the next two days with 70 workshop sessions, 20 Neighborhood
Pride Tours and a chance to “Experience Pittsburgh” on the
Ultra Violet Loop, a community-sponsored shuttle that took visitors to
all of the city’s hottest night spots.
Everything’s bigger in Texas, and the NUSA 2002 conference was no
exception. More than 1,500 neighborhood leaders “Waltzed Across
Texas” through more than 60 dynamic workshops, and more exhibitors
than you could shake a stick at. We showed off real Houston hospitality
with 36 Neighborhood Pride tours – each one demonstrating what makes
Houston a great place to be. While all the classes and events kept our
visitors hopping, they really got on their feet to cheer our Keynote Speaker,
the Reverend Kirbyjon Caldwell. As Senior Pastor of Windsor Village United
Methodist Church, and President of the church’s Pyramid CDC, he
wowed the audience with his VCR principles or urban development: V (Vision)
C (Change) and R (Resources). We send a big ole “Thank You”
to our visitors who gave us a chance to show off our great hometown. And,
a tip of the Stetson to the hundreds of Houstonians who volunteered to
help out, y’all really went the extra mile!
Chattanooga was selected to host the NUSA 2003 Conference on Neighborhood
Concerns based on its nationally recognized strengths in neighborhood
revitalization. The 2003 conference was NUSA’s largest ever, with
over 80 workshops, 37 neighborhood tours, and many special events. Over
1500 people attended. Another NUSA first was the inclusion of two day-long
institutes on community organizing and organizational development. There
were over 60 people serving on the local conference in Chattanooga, a
wonderful indicator of the local dedication to host this event. The conference
in Chattanooga provided an opportunity for people from all locations,
sectors, and levels of society to discuss the pressing issues of the times,
share experiences, and offer encouragement or assistance to each other.
The NUSA Conference venue was the tropical Five Star Westin Diplomat Resort
and Spa located right next to the beautiful Atlantic Ocean. “Bridging
Cultures in Our Communities” was the theme of the 29th annual conference.
Hospitality being a way of living in Hollywood the 942 participants were
treated to a downtown street fair, a rich cultural Mayor’s Reception
and an evening of entertainment and strolling on the broadwalk where participants
from 33 States and Canada networked and mingled with the locals along
side the ocean. In addition, to the numerous well organized social events,
participants chose from 40 different workshops and 20 neighborhood pride
tours that traveled to the tri-county area to showcase south Florida.
Derrick Rose, Keynote Speaker kept the audience captivated with his magic
show as he spoke about such topics as communicating and building good
relationships relating to issues we all face in our neighborhoods and
communities. Thank you to all who traveled to the tropical paradise and
allowed us to share our Hollywood hospitality!
Along with acknowledging NUSA’s 30th Anniversary,
“Celebrating Neighborhood Diversity” was the theme of the
2005 Neighborhoods, USA Conference held in Sacramento, California. The
conference included 60 workshops, 14 Neighborhood Pride Tours. The City
of Sacramento, the County of Sacramento, and the California State Railroad
Museum all provided great venues for their food filled evening receptions.
Keynote speakers at this year’s conference were Lawrence Edward
Carter, Sr., Reverend Alfreddie Johnson, and Beverly A. Scott. The 30th
Anniversary of NUSA was celebrated during the four day event with a memorabilia
booth, 30 year anniversary NUSA pins were made available to all that were
in attendance, anniversary cake was served at the Friday Awards Luncheon,
along with a slide video of past conferences. Participants in attendance
included our neighbors from 30 or so states, Canada and Japan.
2006 Kansas City, Missouri
A trip to the heartland for the 31st Annual Conference on Neighborhood
Concerns, proved to be a worthwhile educational opportunity. In this “homecoming”
event Kansas City, Missouri hosted over 800 conference attendees from
120 cities. Participants from 36 states and including the country of Japan
were represented at this conference. The conference theme “Connecting
Hearts, Homes, and Communities” directly linked with the passion
NUSA members feel for networking and sharing information to preserve a
high quality of life for neighborhoods throughout the world. Just as in
1976, Neighborhoods, USA made history in Kansas City, Missouri with the
first on-site board member elections. It is documented that voter participation
increased by thirty-eight per-cent. Ms Judy Lafoon, a founding member
of this organization, agreed to serve as Honorary Conference Chair and
was presented with special acknowledgements for her historical contributions.
The conference consisted of over 50 educational workshops and 25 neighborhood
pride tours. Attendees were filled with great words, yearning for more
from keynote speaker, John Campbell.
2007 Baton Rouge, Louisiana
This years NUSA Conference
was one to be remembered with the beautiful architecture background of
the south and the surroundings
of the Mississippi
River adding to the congeniality of the host city, Baton Rouge. Participants
from over 30 states will always be touched by the networking, fellowship
and fun in a southern Louisianan locale with authentic Cajun cuisine. This
non-stop conference of festive activities included; workshops, neighborhood
tours and entertainment. Key speakers included Baton Rouge Mayor-president
Melvin L. Kip Holden, Councilwoman Martha Jane Tassin, chair
of the local host committee, Mack McCarter, coordinator for the Shreveport-Bossier
program and Atlanta Falcons running back Warrick Dunn. The
Friday night Taste of Louisiana Block Party was held right
next to the Mississippi River with live Cajun music, dancing, fresh roasted
pork, and crawfish-eating. This conference will always bring a
flavorful taste back to the participants when reminisced. Baton
Rouge you entertained us royally!
2008 Hampton, Virginia
Charting the Journey to Success was the theme of the NUSA 2008 Conference on Neighborhood Concerns held in Hampton, Virginia May 21-24th. More than 800 neighborhood leaders, public sector staff, elected officials, nonprofit staff, business community representatives and youth representing 36 states and the country of Japan charted their journeys through more than 60 vibrant workshops and twenty five enlightening exhibitors, networking roundtable discussions and several well organized special events. Hampton’s hospitality was highlighted with 19 neighborhood pride tours demonstrating what makes the neighborhoods in Hampton and the Hampton Rds. Region places we are proud to call home and the best places to be. The opening breakfast speaker, Bob O’Neill, Executive Director of ICMA and former City Manager of Hampton captivated the audience with his message about the lessons learned & principle components of a successful neighborhood initiative. Janeen “Lady J” McBath, our closing speaker, shared her journey and her passion for contributing to the success of a community as a source of inspiration and encouragement for other neighborhood leaders to continue with their successful journeys. At the closing luncheon, the audience enjoyed a video showing moments captured over the course of the conference. Many attendees highlighted the participation of young people, the well organized registration process, diversity of the workshops, attention to the details, good food (and plenty of it) and the Hampton hospitality as the reasons that the NUSA 2008 conference in Hampton, VA was simply the best!
2009 Spokane, Washington
In May of 2009, Our place became Your Place, as Spokane, WA shared its beautiful locale, unique neighborhoods, and dedicated leadership with NUSA conference attendees. Over 400 neighborhood leaders, elected officials, and concerned citizens made their way to Spokane for this conference focusing on creating healthier, more sustainable communities. Attendees got up-close and personal with the Spokane River, starting the conference with a rafting trip though the heart of downtown. 12 Neighborhood Pride Tours and 44 workshops provided first hand experience, knowledge and ideas. Mayor Verner welcomed attendees with a reception packed with entertainment showcasing the diversity of our arts community. Healthy Meal options were presented at every meal, and the conference wrapped up with the first ever NUSA 5k Fun Run for Healthy Communities, a way for visitors and city residents alike to show their commitment to personal and neighborhood health.
2010 Little Rock, Arkansas
Team NUSA, a volunteer group of neighborhood/community activists, city staff/elected officials, business leaders and federal partners, produced NUSA 2010. The first-time NUSA federal partners included HUD, FEMA, Americorp/City Year, the National Park Service and Clinton Presidential Center. President Bill Clinton was a most welcome keynote speaker who lauded the work of neighborhood groups nationwide. Attendees chose from 62 workshops, 25 of which were presented by the federal partners, 16 Neighborhood Pride Tours on Thursday and five special tours on Friday. A mayor’s reception was held on Wednesday evening at the Clinton Presidential Library. A poor national economy this year kept attendance down to 480 conferees, but all who attended gave the conference high marks in evaluations. Little Rock ’s 189 neighborhood associations benefited by learning to work together to produce an outstanding conference. NUSA benefited by gaining new federal partners and national sponsors, several of whom indicated a desire to continue on with NUSA at future conferences. A this conference the Who’s Who in America’s Neighborhoods Award was presented for the first time.
2011 Anchorage, Alaska
In May of 2011, Anchorage showed us their Great Land and Great Neighborhoods.
They shared Alaska’s beautiful locale, unique neighborhoods, and dedicated
leadership with NUSA conference attendees. A poor national economy this year
kept attendance down for the third year in a row, but all who attended gave the
conference high marks in evaluations. Over 260 neighborhood leaders, elected
officials, and concerned citizens made their way to Anchorage for this
conference focusing on creating neighborhood level solutions. The conference
opened with a keynote address by four-time Iditarod winner Martin Buser and
closed with comments by US Senator Mark Begich and a wonderful keynote speech by
Father Michael Oleksa. Attendees were able to experience 8 Neighborhood Pride
Tours and 45 workshops provided firsthand experience, knowledge and ideas. Mayor
Sullivan welcomed attendees with a reception at the newly renovated Anchorage
Museum of History and Art. Friday evening afforded the attendees the chance to
experience the many cultures of Alaska at the Alaska Native Heritage Center –
experiencing over a dozen outdoor exhibits plus native dancing and games. At
this conference the Neighborhood Newsletter awards were presented for the first
2012 Indianapolis, Indiana
“Communities Building Community” was the theme for the 2012 Neighborhoods,
USA Conference held in Indianapolis, Indiana. Hosted by the Indianapolis
Neighborhood Resource Center, this conference saw the largest attendance since
2008 and also saw a record number of youth attendees. The conference featured a
beautiful Welcome Reception held at the Indiana Statehouse, which featured a marching
band, choir and a parade of flags representing all 50 states. Thursday and Friday
activities included over 60 workshops, 10 Neighborhood Pride Tours and a Friday night
outing to Victory Field for an Indianapolis Indians baseball game. Inspiring key note
speakers included Deborah Hearn Smith (CEO of the Girl Scouts of Central Indiana)
who spoke on youth leadership development, support services for our youth and the
importance of instilling with our youth the idea of community involvement; Paul Schmitz
(CEO of Public Allies) who spoke about leadership and civic engagement and the power
of community, inclusion and collaboration; and Dennis R. Ryerson (Editor and Vice
President of the Indianapolis Star) who spoke on the importance of early childhood
education, student mentoring and community involvement. The conference concluded at noon
on Saturday, which allowed attendees to attend the Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade held
in downtown Indianapolis.
Neighborhoods, USA (1976-Current Year) Conference Host City Listing
l976 Kansas City,
l977 Jacksonville, Florida
l978 Portland, Oregon
l979 Wichita, Kansas
l980 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
l981 Albuquerque, New Mexico
l982 Birmingham, Alabama
l983 Cincinnati, Ohio
l984 Tacoma, Washington
l985 Newark, New Jersey
l986 St. Paul, Minnesota
l987 San Antonio, Texas
l988 Roanoke, Virginia
l989 Seattle, Washington
l990 Fort Worth, Texas
l991 Memphis, Tennessee
l992 Anchorage, Alaska
l993 Jackson, Mississippi
l994 Pasadena, California
l995 Birmingham, Alabama
l996 Little Rock, Arkansas
l997 Albany, New York
l998 Portland, Oregon
1999 Madison, Wisconsin
2000 Phoenix, Arizona
2001 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
2002 Houston, Texas
2003 Chattanooga, Tennessee
2004 Hollywood, Florida
2005 Sacramento, California
2006 Kansas City, Missouri
2007 Baton Rouge, Louisiana
2009 Spokane, Washington
2010 Little Rock, Arkansas
2011 Anchorage, Alaska
2012 Indianapolis, Indiana