Urban League President Says Local Officials Must Work for the Children

Article excerpt

The President of the Urban League, Hugh Price, briefed NLC members on two main agenda items of his organization, and said he is eager to work with cities to build a better vision for America, one focused on children. Price's remarks often illuminated areas where the Urban League and the National League of Cities are in sync regarding national and local trends, policies and directions.

Exposing and defeating racism has always topped the Urban League's agenda, but Price said that goal has a companion agenda which is "the need to overcome poverty."

Because, "even if racism evaporated tomorrow morning," the Urban League President said, "poverty would persist unless low income children are prepared-academically and attitudinally-to operate in the ruthlessly competitive American economy that awaits them."

Preparing the nation's at-risk youth for the next century is to be "the defining work of the Urban League movement through the balance of this century. We cannot," according to Price, "lift them and their parents out of poverty by ourselves. Society, and especially its elected leadership, should be obsessed with this agenda as well."

A veteran of local government, who at one time worked for the city of New Haven, Conn., Price voiced agreement with the NLC's inclusion of a Children and Families track as part of the conference, even to the point of attending that track following his keynote address.

Alienation Leading To Societal

Fragmentation

Price also affirmed the concept that urban and suburban disparities within a region are unhealthy and damaging, a central theme borne out in an NLC research report on metropolitan disparities, "All In It Together."

"I believe that America's cities-and nearby suburbs-will never regain the quality of life and sense of security that we pine for," Price said, "if a large portion of the local population, namely innercity folk, is isolated from the mainstream economy." Price said it's not a matter of choice, "The well-off can no longer wall themselves off from alienated young people."

Price lamented the fact that expanding technologies and a new world order for work and wealth have left behind the marginally skilled workers who were the backbone of America's blue collar labor market, so valued in an earlier time. "The American economy has turned sour for working people with strong backs but meager skills," he noted.

Young people in urban settings are increasingly doubtful that they can or will have place in the legitimate economy and earn a decent living. Price calls this the "alienation of people who feel permanently marginalized-economically and politically," and believes that alienation is chipping away at the credibility of government and related institutions of our society. …