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Commission notes growing income, racial disparities; reports lack of progress in tackling urban ills.

Twenty-five years ago a presidential commission concluded that America was moving toward "two societies--one black, one white."

According to a report recently released by a national foundation, that conclusion is more relevant now than in 1968.

In its 350-page report to commemorate the anniversary of the Kerner Commission's report on the race riots of 1968, the Milton S. Eisenhower Foundation encourages the nation to invest in its children, youth and urban infrastructure at a level that approaches the investment of countries like France, Germany, and Japan.

The report, which was released in February, recommends that federal policy makers scrap or reform unsuccessful programs, replacing them with programs that have demonstrated success. According to the president of the Foundation, Dr. Lynn Curtis, on the basis of "scientific evalua- tion since the Kerner Commission, we need to replicate what works and toss out what doesn't... (our plan is to) reinvent government for the truly disadvantaged."

Programs that work, according to the Foundation, are Head Start, Job Corps, inner-city programs for youth, non-profit community development corporations in which inner-city residents repair and build houses for the poor, community development banks, vocational apprenticeship training, and community-based policing where officers live in the neighborhoods that they patrol.

Programs that do not work, says the report, are urban enterprise zones, "trickle-down economics that make the rich richer and the poor and middle class poorer," the present federal job training program (JTPA), the "War on Drugs;' and prison building, which the report says "has become our national housing policy for minorities and the poor."

To reorganize these programs the report proposes reorganizing the current focus of our antidrug efforts by spending 70 percent of the $12 million budget on prevention and education and 30 percent on interdiction, reforming the federal job training program "to function more like Job Corps" and encouraging non-profit, inner- city groups, not private developers, to build housing.

Generally, the report suggests that insufficient federal programs have been too rigid and do not allow for "local, neighborhood- based, one-stop shopping for coordinated services..

Reforms suggested by the report will not. come cheaply. In order to reproduce successful local programs and finance education and infrastructure projects in urban areas, the report calls for $30 billion per year in additional funding over the next ten years.

Specifically, the report asks "that the federal government build to a level of $15 billion more per year to invest in children and youth who are disadvantaged and $15 billion more per year to invest in reconstruction of the inner city" to be sustained over the next decade. Echoing the Kerner Commission's recommendations, the report suggests that this funding level reflects the "scale equal to the dimension of the problem."

However, according to the report, public works spending is viewed as an economic stimulus. In addition, "reduced military spending, increased taxes on the rich, and an increase in gasoline taxes" could be used "to help expand Head Start and reform job training and placement."

Although the cost of the report has yet to be determined, order forms can be obtained by writing:

Vesta Kimble Director of Field Operations The Milton S. Eisenhower Foundation Suite 200 1660 L Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20036.
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Author:Eddins, Kevin
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Mar 22, 1993
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