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Reagan Accused of Waging War on Cities

February 11, 1986|BOB SECTER | Times Staff Writer

CHICAGO — President Reagan has "declared war" on Chicago and other cities with his fiscal 1987 spending plans, Mayor Harold Washington charged Monday in the first of a series of hearings by the Democratic-run House Budget Committee.

In what signaled a partisan dogfight over the budget and attempts to reduce the federal deficit, GOP panel members boycotted the opening session. House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel of Illinois ridiculed it as a "dog and pony show" rigged to make Reagan appear cold and heartless.

Tour of Hull House

Committee Chairman William H. Gray III (D-Pa.) and a handful of other House Democrats began the day with a tour of Hull House, the famous turn-of-the century settlement house founded by pioneer social worker Jane Addams.

Then, lending credence to Michel's assertion, they moved next door to the University of Illinois' Chicago Circle campus to hear a list of witnesses stacked with politicians, social workers and bureaucrats who attacked Reagan's plans for cutting domestic spending sharply while continuing to fatten Pentagon funding.

"The effects could hardly be worse if we were attacked by a foreign enemy," Washington complained, charging that the President's budget would ravage city programs and throw thousands of people out of their jobs and homes. " . . . Ronald Reagan has declared war on the city of Chicago," he said.

'We Are Velcro Mayors'

Washington, although noting Reagan's ability to push unpopular programs but remain popular, vowed that he and other urban leaders would block implementation of the President's spending priorities. "He may be a Teflon President, but we are the Velcro mayors," Washington said. "We can't hide from the pain and suffering his budget would cause. We aren't going to let him get away with it."

Gray insisted that the hearings would provide testimony that would aid the panel in drawing up its own spending proposals. But, also, he used the session to link Republicans with Reagan's spending plans and taunt them for staying away.

"It would appear that Reagan's budget and the Republican vanishing act give new meaning to the phrase cut and run," Gray said. "The President cuts and they run."

But Michel, speaking to reporters in his hometown of Peoria, criticized the hearings as a costly "dog and pony show with little opportunity for valuable input from people on the essence of the budget." Republicans boycotted Monday's hearing because they sensed it was going to be rigged to "beat up on the President," Michel said.

Additional Hearings

However, Gray said that at least two GOP members of the Budget Committee had promised to participate in similar hearings later in the week in Tallahassee, Fla., and San Francisco.

Two small knots of competing protesters picketed Monday's hearing--one a well-dressed right-wing group toting signs saying, "Hearings Unfair" and "Let's All Be Heard," and a considerably dowdier group from an activist neighborhood organization carrying placards urging: "Cut Military Spending, Not Social Spending."

"I think Reagan should go back to the movies where he belongs before he puts the whole country in disaster," grumbled Vera Nevens, a 70-year-old grandmother from the latter group. "Why should we have to eat bullets instead of food."

In other testimony at the hearing, Manny Hoffman, the Republican president of the village of Homewood, a 20,000-resident Chicago suburb, complained that elimination of revenue-sharing grants and other urban aid programs proposed by Reagan would "slow and possibly kill our development activity."

Cuts in Police Force

He said the cuts could force him to lay off 25% of the village policemen and firemen and abandon road construction projects. "If I don't get funds, 183rd Street will be only half completed," Hoffman complained.

"So, when the President said, 'Where we're going, we won't need roads,' that rang a bell for you," Gray quipped, referring to a view of the future that Reagan laid out in his State of the Union address last week.

Gray suggested that he might seek to save urban aid programs targeted for elimination by Reagan but limit funding for them to current levels.

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