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2 Reports Call Urban Aid Only Way to Save Economy : Cities: U.S. Conference of Mayors, Urban League seek federal funds for housing and other needs to create jobs.

January 22, 1992|SAM FULWOOD III | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — The ailing national economy can be revived only through an ambitious program of federal investment in U.S. cities, according to two separate studies released Tuesday.

Massive spending for housing, public transportation, water and sewer systems and other urban needs would create jobs critical to reviving the economy, the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal Washington nonprofit think tank, said in a report for the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Institute President Jeff Faux told reporters that the cost of meeting those needs ranges from $60 billion to $125 billion annually. The report said the improvements could be paid for "through reductions in military spending and increases in the personal and corporate income tax."

In a separate report, the National Urban League's "State of Black America 1992" repeats a two-year-old call for a Marshall Plan for America, a federal spending program to direct $50 billion per year over the next decade to domestic priorities.

"Cost is not the issue," Billy J. Tidwell Jr., director of research for the Urban League, wrote in the report. "The real issue is the nation's priorities and our appreciation of what best serves the national interests."

Both reports are intended to persuade presidential candidates to embrace issues of concern to the nation's cities.

Boston Mayor Raymond L. Flynn, president of the mayors' organization, said at a news conference that copies of that group's report were sent to the candidates. He said the mayors, who are meeting this week in Washington, plan to ask each presidential hopeful to appear before them with specific plans to boost the economy and assist financially pressed cities.

The report, titled "Does America Need Cities?" said the nation is suffering from a "decade of urban policy neglect" by the federal government. The message for the candidates, particularly the Democrats, is that city dwellers are hurting and will vote in large numbers this year, Flynn said in a written statement accompanying the report.

The authors of the report are Elliott Sclar, professor of urban planning at Columbia University, Joseph Persky, associate professor of economics at the University of Illinois in Chicago, and Wim Wiewel, director of the Center for Urban Economic Development at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

"Central cities and their neighboring suburbs and smaller cities are woven into highly integrated regional, metropolitan economies," the report said. "Cities provide the locations for high-paying jobs held by residents of the suburbs. The economic well-being of cities is intricately linked with that of their adjoining suburbs."

The Urban League report said the recession has swept over white and black Americans, plunging both into economic decline.

"This year, we're all in the same boat," John E. Jacob, president and chief executive of the league, said in written remarks accompanying the report. "But African-Americans are awash in the stern of the boat, knee-deep in water and in danger of drowning, while white Americans are in the bow of the boat, damp, and worried whether it will stay afloat."

Jacob said copies of the report and a companion article, "Playing to Win: A Marshall Plan for America," have been sent to President Bush and all presidential candidates. "It's our contribution to what we believe should be a great national debate in 1992."

The league's Marshall Plan calls for shifting federal dollars away from military uses to educate minorities and rebuild poor cities.

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