By Lucia Mouat, writer of The Christian Science Monitor
The Christian Science Monitor
A MARCH on Washington scheduled for May 16 may prove one of the most unusual and dramatic yet staged.
The nonpartisan demonstration will pit one level of government against another. The nation's mayors, impelled by what they see as a decade of steady neglect by Washington, are taking their case for a major shift in funding priorities directly to Congress and the White House.
"If the cities die, our society dies," insists Osborn Elliott, co-chairman of the "Save Our Cities" march. "The cutbacks have been brutal. They've sort of happened without anybody paying much attention. It's time for the country to wake up. The cities are the engines of our society. It's in them that the commerce and art and culture and medical science and higher education ... take place."
Washington's urban cutoff has been sharp and consistent. Mr. Elliott notes that over the last 10 years federal military spending went up $579 billion while federal aid to states and cities was cut by $78 billion.
The National League of Cities (NLC) says federal aid to cities and states fell about 60 percent during the 1980s. In New York City federal aid as a share of the city's budget dropped from 20 percent to 9 percent during the 1980s. In Boston during that decade federal aid was cut by more than half.
The cities now are "reaping the disaster" of such cuts in many of the increased problems they face, says Mr. Elliott, chairman of the Citizens Committee for New York City, a group that helps fund 10,000 local grass roots organizations. "These groups are fighting an uphill battle day in and day out against crime, drugs, homelessness, and hunger ... which in my view can't be won unless the federal government's resources are once again directed toward these problems."
Elliott first broached the idea of the march a year ago in the "My Turn" column in Newsweek, where he was once editor-in-chief. Last August he was invited to speak to a meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors, which adopted the project as one of its own. …