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Carter budget and urban promises

Are US cities enjoying the renaissance President Carter promised them when he announced the nation's first urban policy nearly two years ago? The answer seems to be a qualified yes, if the President's budget for fiscal 1981 is used as a primary gauge of how cities are faring -- and this is how many urban experts view it.

Generally speaking, reaction to Mr. Carter's proposed urban spending plan was favorable.A spokesman for the National League of Cities offered a typical reaction: "President Carter has done well by the cities."

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The administration has proposed substantial increases for low-and moderate-income housing units; a small but by no means unimportant increase in the Community Development Block Grant program that helps cities through fiscal difficulties; and, perhaps most important of all to many of the nation's big city mayors, a continuation of general revenue sharing which allocates blocks of money to municipalities and lets them spend it as they see fit.

President Carter's proposal to spend approximately $2 billion to address the problem of high youth unemployment, particularly in urban minorities -- including $900 million for educational programs -- also drew high praise from a wide variety of urban specialists, from the National Urban League to US Sen. Jacob K. Javits (R) of New York.

"I commend the President for proposing certain critically needed policy initiatives in an otherwise hold-the- line budget," Senator Javits says, "for youth unemployment, training and education, and for subsidized housing assistance for low-income families and . . . targeted fiscal assistance."

But a spokesman for New York Mayor Edward I. Koch, a close political ally of President Carter, summed up the mayor's comments on the proposed federal budget's effect on cities this way: "It's better [then last year], but we want more."

And if the vast urban renewal that Mr. Carter's March 1978 urban-policy announcement presaged, for places like the South Bronx here in New York City are factored in to the overall picture of cities' progress, the new budget falls short of the mark, according to spokesmen for minority groups. The so-called "greening of the South Bronx," one of America's worst slums, has gained very little ground since the President visited the area in October 1977, and unofficially, at least, launched his new efforts to help the cities.

But this year's budget proposal certainly dramatically raises the administration's stake in the cities from the previous year, and in the process keeps the PResident from being hurt politically by the nation's cities to any significant extent.

This is how the budget would affect cities:

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* Housing: The administration has proposed low-and moderate-income subsidies for some 300,000 housing units -- up from 240,000 in last year's budget. The President has also proposed a $150 million increase in the $3.95 billion Community Development Block Grant program. specifically, New York State may get upwards of $400 million in increased aid for local neighborhood projects.

* Youth employment: The actual spending of a substantial portion of the proposed new assistance for youth employment will most probably be delayed until the 1981- 82 school year. But the $2 billion proposed increase is characterized as the President's chief social program -- which may do much more for places like the South Bronx than new housing, administration officials hope.

* Revenue sharing: The nation's mayors uttered a collective sign of relief when Mr. Carter formally let it be known that he was not axing general revenue sharing. "We're particularly happy with the general revenue sharing provision" in the budtet, said National League of Cities spokesman Fred Jordan.


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