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Publisher's column: we'll have to try harder.

As a nation, it looks like we struck out again. And we were so close.

We had national leaders who cared so much about what we thought.

We had high hopes for a federal commitment to address the burning economic and social problems which are gripping the nation's cities. President Clinton's stimulus package was a real plan to address those needs. Strong backing in the House and by Senate Democrats made our hopes soar higher.

Yet, after months of posturing and politicking, the stimulus bill died on the Senate floor last week--along with a lot of hope. Consider the stimulus a casualty of partisan passions.

To add to the sting, the death of the stimulus occurred between the one year anniversary of the rioting in Los Angeles and the jury's ruling in the second trial--a painful reminder of last year's failed emergency urban aid bill which was killed by then-President Bush's veto.

That was the first strike.

America's cities had pinned a lot of hope on passage of a stimulus package--hopes for answers to the needs of our cities: money for summer youth jobs, CDBG and mass transit.

Sure, it was, admittedly, a small effort, but a symbolic one. It showed the beginnings of a national commitment to immediately do something different to focus on the problems in our communities.

Backers of the stimulus watched, powerless, as partisan passions washed over the fundamental message of the stimulus--a message that said "before this window of opportunity shuts, let's do something to help."

A full year in which the nation focused on the turmoil in cities has come and gone without many remedies to show for it. A critical time for public reflection and action came and went. Our national leaders reflected, debated and late last June passed an urban aid package that President Bush vetoed.

The only outcome from that initial effort was a summer jobs program and a grants and loan program to help families and businesses hurt by the rioting in Los Angeles. A far cry from comprehensive help.

Yet, for a fleeting moment last weekend L.A. gave voice to the conflicts in our cities with the conclusion of the second trial of the four police officers charged in the beating of Rodney King.

The nation held its breath.

The media trained its cameras on the jury's decision and the general response was that the justice system worked.

But as one political leader noted--few if any jobs have been created in South Central L.A. in the last year, housing needs were not being addressed, fundamental needs of poor children and families were no different. No different except that those of us living in "nice areas of the city ,, or in suburban communities were forced to recognize that the problems of our central cities were blocks not oceans away.

Pinning hopes on federal actions, however, has not stopped leadership at the local level from addressing the underlying issues which contribute to urban unrest. Communities around the nation are out in the forefront, dealing with issues of social, racial and economic concern. And so are organizations and employers.

NLC, for example, has launched a diversity appreciation initiative for staff aimed at addressing the many forms of intolerance which separate rather than unite us. Granted, we are but a tiny microcosm of American life, but we are trying to address the greater issues which touch all of us. We have had open discussions, broad inclusion in choosing directions in which we need to move, and our most recent effort involves adoption of a value statement for the organization and its staff to live by.

And, yes, we understand that we're not going to hit one grand slam and put racism and intolerance behind us in one mighty swing. But we are going to keep trying to work as a team and overcome the odds, and move ahead.

While important, initiatives of this type are no substitute for a national commitment and a shared appreciation for fundamental change.

In November we voted for change. Now we have to act on it.

We'll just have to try harder. All of us.

Our nation cannot afford the third strike.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:economic stimulus package
Author:Borut, Donald J.
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Apr 26, 1993
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