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A friend in White House no guarantee of success.

The Republican defeat of the president's economic stimulus package goes far beyond the specific funding levels for immediate spending in our nation's cities and towns. The attack on the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program questioned the integrity and credibility of our nation's municipal officials.

The Senate's failure to invoke cloture on April 21 was a harsh reminder to municipal officials that a new face in the White House does not guarantee that municipal concerns will necessarily be fully addressed in Congress.

By specifically attacking ready-to-go projects slated to receive funds as "pork barrel" rewards to big city mayors, Republicans have reminded duly elected men and women in our nation's cities and towns that the pattern of name-calling cities and towns as "special interests" rather than public entities, did not end with the November elections.

In making these "pork barrel" allegations, municipal officials continue to be held hostage to the political whims of the federal government.

Incredibly, the attack strikes at a program at the heart of Republican philosophy: minimum federal red tape and maximum local flexibility. The CDBG program was the brainchild of former President Richard Nixon, who created a program to provide funds to meet the needs of local communities instead of the requirements of federal bureaucrats.

In the 20 years of its existence, CDBG has been praised as one of the most effective federal programs in existence. CDBG has enjoyed bipartisan and Congressional support and increased levels of funding during the Reagan/Bush years when other federal programs were severely cut or eliminated.

CDBG funds have paved streets, built and renovated thousands of housing units, started day care centers, initiated revolving loan funds for small and micro enterprises, built recreation centers and other youth activities and has created jobs among its many accomplishments in large and small communities in every comer of the nation.

All projects identified as "pork" were eligible activities under the CDBG program. However, with deft use of the media, a few have a created an image within the public eye that low income neighborhoods in cities and towns are not deserving of the same community improvements available to other neighborhoods.

As municipalities seek to cope with increased demands from residents seeking greater protection from crime and drugs; improved roads and infrastructure; better educational and recreational opportunities for their children; more affordable housing; and industries that will produce jobs, the resources needs to meet these demands continue to diminish.

Mumcipal officials must now look beyond the stimulus package and salvage the CDBG program and their own credibility.

The damage has been done. Local officials must shake themselves from the false sense of security that their friend in the White House can or will take care of their needs by himself.

The President, the House, and the Senate leadership took bold steps to help. They deserve our respect and thanks.
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Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Apr 26, 1993
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