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A Proposal for Task Force Agenda
The staff of the Task Force has spent most of the past three
weeks attempting to outline future areas for investigation. Our points
of departure have been based on Task: Force discussions concerning the
nature and location of urban ghettos; the definition and measurement of.
social deficit areas; the prospects for significant improvement in ghetto
job opportunities; the possibility of moving from programs to "flows"
(as defined in the Ylvisaker paper); and more focused research in such
areas as housing and welfare programs.
These discussions, you will recall, were at a high level of
generality and implied further decisions about which areas should be
given intensive study- studies which hopefully would produce policy
recommendations for the President.
In recent Task Force discussions and in interviews with a number
of government officials another, more general theme has emerged to
compete and, in a sense, out-flank the development of Task Force thinking
on the above issues.
It appears clear that this group believes that the time has come
for P sharp break with previous Federal policy-making and programming
directed towards urban problems. The need for a new "laundry list" of
marginal adjustments and categorical aid programs is rejected. It is
* In fairmess we might concede the Federal government has only recently
begun to look at its role as solving urban problems as opposed to
providing welfare payments, more’ housing ete. The fact that Feds feel
this way now is of course a mamor advance. The fact that they increasingly
are being held responsible for what happens in urban areas provides some
assurance of the potential significance of our work.
Felt, instead, that the President must alter or go outside the present
framework (or even create a new framework) for decision-making about
urban problems to seek ways and means for achieving national goals in
urban areas. The task force believes that present activity and
predictable future activity can be reshaped and criticized productively,
but it also is convinced that such an approach offers faint promise as
a source of significant innovation in solving urban problems. Indeed,
the Task Force might go a step further and argue that the whole range of
existing Federal programs and institutions primarily designed to solve
urban problems have had a relatively minor impact on human and physical
development in American cities.
This judgment (however qualified) is supported by the following --
admittedly over-simplified -- reasoning:
1) While the range and size of Federal activity has increased rapidly
and while the institutions specifically charged with urban
responsibility have multiplied and grown, general economic, social
and physical trends have not altered significantly in any large city.
2) It seems therefore reasonable to assume that the forces shaping these
trends are far more meaningful in affecting the quality of urban
life than is the sum total of Federal programs focused on "urban needs".
3) It appears equally reasonable to conclude that the institutions,
mechanisms, and dollars now available for developing urban policy
at the Federal level are snadeguare’ of misoriented in terms of
understanding and confronting some of the most important questions
in urban areas. ' fst
The implications of all this for the Task Force include the
Further infusions of Federal assistance through present or
predictable grant-in-aid programs offer little hope of significantly
altering major urban trends; therefore the Task Force should not
commit a major portion of its limited resources to seeking new
devices for such increases. Such devices, as well as adjustments
in present devices, should have a place in Task Force recommendations
only insofar as they spring from the kind of agenda suggested below.
The search for more effective levers for influencing urban trends
is severely handicapped by the sorts of Federal apparatus and
information available for dealing with urban problems.
(E.g. see attached paper on social deficits.)
The Task Force could most profitably allocate its time to assembling
some of the major social and economic questions relevant to urban
problems; indicating what kinds of institutions and/or devices for
policy formulation are in existence or might be created to deal with
such questions. (It is even possible that the Task Force might
"solve" a question or two and have a basis for more specific policy
Questions might be modeled on the following:
One obvious goal for Federal policy,is increasing income and, thus,
consumer demand in the ghetto.
(a) Where in the Federal establishment (in HUD?). Is there a
means for sorting out the various policy alternatives which
might be pursued to achieve this goal (e.g. negative income
tax, family allowance, jobs for the poor, etc.).
The answer to such a question would include surveying existing
scattered research and recommendations on the several alternatives and
determining whether a basis exists already (though undiscovered) for
packaging a Federal approach to fulfilling this goal. If this is so,
we might recommend some method of pulling together urban-oriented
policy-making on this questions. If, as is more likely the case, there
is no sum total of effort which exhausts the alternative approaches to
this problem our recommendations would include the need for same.
In short, the approach involves posing fundamental questions,
determining if a solution is now available, and if not, what is needed
to begin us down the road towards one.
One Task Force goal then becomes - at the most general level -
not simply to look for the "real" levers in this urban game (we have
neither staff, nor time, nor expertise to do a thorough job here) but
rather to look for ways of elevating and.refining the level and nature
of urban policy-making.
It should not be difficult to start this process by agreeing
on an initial list of questions. We already have some.
How can we increase consumer demand in the central city?
Have we systematically located and defined urban ghettos?
What is needed to create the capacity to calculate social defects
in urban areas?
Where in the Federal establishment is work going forward on the
possibilities to altering the flow of entreprenurial activity to
increase the share of central city.
The Task Force, it appears, is close to agreement on another
set of concerns which can be approached by more traditional methods,
and presumably would produce more traditional recommendations.
1) Changes in Federal assistance systems
The Task Force is justified in looking at such proposals as
tax sharing, combining grant-in-aid programs etc., in terms of
their relative impace on cities. It is clear that with a small
input of staff resources we can contribute a city view to this
Increasing the flow and consistency of investment into low-income
housing in urban areas.
For whatever reason there seems to be a "neater" problem. We have
considerable expertise among Task Force members themselves and
should be able to assemble a set of recommendations in this area.
In addition, while there are manpower, education and other Task
forces, our is the only one which will - if it chooses - look at
housing this year.
(a) This program represents, in a sense, the latest in Washington
approaches to urban problems. We must confront and even judge
it if we are to justify a major break with current approaches.
(b) This program also represents the latest Federal response to
the "ghetto" problem. Given the political, social and moral
imperatives for doing something now about urban ghettos, the
Task Force should make some attempt to review and evaluate the
early directions of model cities.
(c) This program also represents the boldest approach to altering
the system of Federal assistance and therefore is related
directly to item (1) above.