Inner Cities Pose Tough Task for Clinton Team

Article excerpt

SIX months ago, as they walked through the smoking ruins of riot-torn Los Angeles, all of the presidential candidates had on their lips the heady promise of urban aid for inner cities. Today the delivery of urban aid is in President-elect Clinton's lap.

How quickly and effectively the new president delivers on promises hinges on three factors: his ability to keep the problems of inner cities from being crowded out by other domestic and international issues; his ability to coax bipartisan congressional action; and his ability not to add to the federal budget deficit with short-term, money-swallowing social programs.

Mr. Clinton more than once has indicated a concern for inner cities and his determination to create jobs there.

"Cities have not been treated very well over the last two decades by presidents," said Joseph Boskin, director of the urban studies public-policy program at Boston University. Yet "they are crucial to the economic and psychological viability of this nation.

"Clinton's first priority should be job creation. I'd like to see such efforts as Job Corps programs connected with universities and colleges, so that there are some long-term development of skills going on, and not just cleaning the streets."

Efforts by Republican and Democratic administrations over the last 30 years to solve a host of deepening inner-city problems read like a badly told story that never seems to end. The Great Society programs of President Johnson spent enormous amounts of money on poverty and inner cities, but came away with only two enduring legacies, Head Start and the Job Corps.

Much-heralded programs like the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act {CETA} under President Nixon and the Model Cities program under Mr. Johnson saw many funds end up in middle-income projects - or become lost in bureaucratic delays and policy shifts, some urban specialists say.

During the Carter and Reagan years, poor, unemployed blacks remained very heavily concentrated in cities, leading to more pronounced residential segregation. Whites, Asians, and Latinos are increasingly less likely to live near blacks in many inner cities; many whites have departed for the suburbs.

In Chicago, for instance, 71 percent of all blacks now live in one-race census tracts bordering other all-black census tracts, a pattern repeated in many other cities. This kind of downward spiral in social integration, when exacerbated by joblessness, has had broad social impact.

Violent crime in all major cities has increased over the last decade, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. …