Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

President Vows Help for Cities

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

President Vows Help for Cities

Article excerpt

President Bill Clinton, declaring that cities are "the economic and cultural lifeblood of our country," said Friday that he has laid the groundwork for an urban renaissance and is determined to find the resources to carry it through.

Cities "have the most of our diversity," Clinton added, "which will either be the source of our undoing or our ticket to continued prosperity in the 21st century."

In an hour-long discussion with Post-Dispatch reporters and editors that focused primarily on urban policy, Clinton said his goal was to make the people of America's cities "feel that, No. 1, they matter; and No. 2, that they can affect their destiny."

Clinton said that after "a generation of neglect" his administration has again placed the problems of cities front and center in national politics, with new initiatives ranging from the national service program he praised here Friday to broad expansions in the earned-income tax credit and the forthcoming designation of urban empowerment zones.

But he acknowledged that making those goals reality will require more federal dollars than are available under the budget caps Congress enacted last year. He said he was considering proposing a change in those rules, possibly in his next budget early next year.

On programs of specific benefit to low-income urban residents, Clinton voiced concern about Head Start, where congressional appropriators are considering an increase of $210 million for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, less than half the $491 million increase Clinton had requested.

Total funding approved by the House Appropriations Committee for the preschool education program is $3.535 billion.

"That one just leaped out at me," Clinton said, when he reviewed the status of the urban investment programs on Thursday with Budget Director Leon Panetta. "I feel we need to do more," he said.

Clinton's budget had included $4.4 billion in new spending for a variety of urban investments. They include the national service program, empowerment zones and increased spending on schools, aid to the homeless and job training. House Appropriations Committee members predicted this week that the administration would be lucky to get half of its request.

In the interview Friday, Clinton said that with the exception of Head Start, he'd be satisfied to do that well - this year. He stressed that he will not consider further reductions in military spending and that he is determined to meet the deficit-reduction targets of last year's budget bill.

"I made a decision that I think was the right decision," he said, "that the first thing I had to do was get the overall health of the American economy back in order, and to try to concentrate on revitalizing some of the most basic parts of that economy."

Having paid his dues on overall economic strength, Clinton says he hopes that he will now be able to win public and political support for increasing his urban investments. …

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