WASHINGTON — Leaders of the nation's cities, saying that they are tired of being treated as "just another special interest group," vowed Tuesday to take steps to wield significant influence in the 1988 presidential and congressional elections.
Cleveland Mayor George V. Voinovich and Seattle Mayor Charles Royer, co-chairmen of a National League of Cities' election task force, said that the cities will make their concerns part of the 1988 campaign debate by forcing candidates to address issues like federal assistance for low-income housing, revenue sharing, mass transit problems, unemployment and education.
"Over the last two campaigns, it's been clear to us that national policy debate doesn't include national urban policy," Royer, a Democrat, told reporters in a breakfast interview. "We're looking at 1988 as an opportunity to influence the next generation of leadership in the White House and Congress."
Bradley on Task Force
The National League of Cities, an association of 15,000 cities and towns, formed the 50-member, bipartisan task force last month. It includes Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, Los Angeles City Councilman Robert Farrell, San Jose Mayor Tom McEnery and San Diego Mayor Maureen F. O'Connor.
Voinovich, a Republican, said the group will not formally endorse candidates. Instead, the task force will evaluate candidates, raise money for those who meet its criteria, encourage debate on cities' problems and hire political consultants to monitor the candidates' platforms. In each state, task force leaders will coordinate with local officials to make sure that key urban issues are debated in local races for national office. The overall effort will cost an estimated $1 million.
"We will take a limited agenda to the presidential candidates, first in Iowa and New Hampshire, then to other states," said Royer. "We will force them to respond to questions like: What are your plans for the homeless? What will you do to help us reinvest in the cities? Then we'll create a standard of acceptability."
Budget Cut Impact
Cities have been hit hard the last six years by federal budget cuts that have reduced money for programs such as housing assistance, general revenue sharing, community development, mass transit, sewage treatment and employment training.
Throughout this period, Royer said, Congress looked at local officials as just another special interest group, like "the aluminum can council." Federal lawmakers did not fully grasp that housing, poverty and unemployment are problems that demand action from all levels of government, he said.
"The federal government seems to have forgotten we're elected officials," he said.