Carter hunts for job funds to cool urban racial tensions
New York — Top Carter administration officials say they are "scouring" the budget for the current fiscal year (ending Sept. 30) for every dollar that can be channeled from less pressing areas into creating minority youth employment. The aim is to keep the kind of racial violence that left 14 persons dead in Miami last month from erupting in other cities this summer.
This new focus on youth jobs will be handled through existing manpower agencies. The bulk of the money will come from discretionary funds. For instance, unspent money earmarked for recreation programs in national parks may be used for jobs for city youths, one high-ranking official explained.
Although civil rights and community leaders across the nation are urging that much more be done, some say anything "substantial" coming out of the administration will certainly help ease tensions.
White House sources familiar with the new minority youth job effort indicate that 50,000 to 100,000 more jobs will be opened this summer as a result. But these jobs would be "short term," aimed at averting racial disturbances this summer, they add.
Already the administration is spending $4 billion on youth employment, up from $2.4 billion, when Mr. Carter took office.
Although economic factors -- including high unemployment in ghettos -- are the primary irritants that have upset blacks and other minorities in Miami and elsewhere, civil rights leaders also are concerned about the "double standard of justice."
Benjamin L. Hooks, executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), recently asked President Carter to increase the staff of the Office of Revenue Sharing and the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration so that these two agencies can rule on a reported backlog of almost 1,500 cases of alleged racial discrimination by state and local agencies against minorities.
But other NAACP officials say the administration probably will not act in this regard even though Mr. Hooks warns: "We cannot afford to allow this backlog of cases to trigger other urban unrest."
The violence in Miami broke out in May after three white policemen were acquitted in the beating death of a black insurance saleman. A special team of administration officials is in Miami now to give the President a detailed assessment of the causes of the violence, the current status of the community, and recommendations to ease future tensions within the next week.
But regardless of this or Mr. Hooks's call for the elimination of racial discrimination in the use of revenue sharing and other funds, the main focus of the Carter administration's attempt to prevent more "Miamis" will be on youth jobs, administration officials affirm.
In New York City, Mayor Edward I. Koch, concerned about racial unrest, launched a new campaign this week to spotlight his commitment to minority youth employment. Some 92 percent of the summer government-funded jobs in the city in 1978 and 1979, he said, went to minority youth, compared with less than 80 percent in previous administrations.
But unemployment in Harlem, one of America's worst slums, is running at an alarming 80 percent for black youth.