President Carter, insists New York Mayor Edward Koch, needs the help of the cities this November as much as the cities need aid from Washington. The outspoken Mr. Koch, welcoming the Democratic National Convention to the Big Apple Aug. 11, sent a message to Mr. Carter: "If you don't carry the cities, Mr. President, you ain't going to be the next President."
Mayor Koch's blunt criticism of what he views as the President't waning commitment to cities may have been drowned out in the tumult of the Carter victory over the froces of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in the rules fight. But the unhappiness of Koch is shared to a great extent, though not so publicly, by many urban officials across the United States.
A more moderate attitude was expressed on the convention floor by Altanta Mayor Maynard Jackson, an ardent Carter supporter. He said the President's renomination would be very good news for the nation's cities. What Carter needs to do, he added, is "expand the programs that he began" for the cities.
President Carter has made some notable "pro-city" platform concessions, says Cynthia Pols of the National League of Cities. She adds that "he has made an effort to come up with some kind of urban policy" in the first four years of his administration -- something she claims other presidents have not done.
But, Miss Pols points out, many mayors are unhappy with funding levels for urban programs such as revenue sharing. Some, like Mayor Koch, intend to fight far more between now and Election Day in November.
Urban officials around the country, in telephone conversations with the Monitor, have indicated they are worried that campaign rhetoric could be forgotten after the election, if Carter is re-elected and once more moves to balance the federal budget.
Many city leaders privately feel, one urban expert says, that "it wont' make that much difference whether Carter or Reagan is elected -- in terms of dollars and cents."
Taking into account election-year pressures as well as economic and budgetary realities, here is what probably lies ahead for the cities:
* Revenue sharing. President Carter has proposed cutting $2.3 billion from general revenue sharing for the states in 1981. A major portion of this money helps the cities directly or the convention oppose the President's action. But congressional sources closest to general revenue sharing legislation say that budgetary realities are such that the President is likely to get his way for fiscal 1981. The funds might be restored for fiscal 1982, they say, if there is an upturn in the economy.
* Countercyclical assistance. Cities have already won an important battle here with the approval of an amendment sponsored by US Rep. Toby Moffett (D) of Connecticut, which would inrease countercyclical fiscal aid by $500 million by fiscal year 1981. IF approved, this would bring to $1 billion the total countercyclical aid available to cities with persistent fiscal and economic woes.
But according to Randy Arndt, a spokesman for the National League of Cities in Washington, D.C., how the measure does will depend largely on national economic trends. Thus, if the economy takes a market turn for the better, the money in the measure could be severely cut. This, however, would have an adverse impact on New York City chiefly, but others as well, which have special fiscal problems largely apart from economic trends.
* Job-creating measures. While unemployment is often highest in the nation's big cities, the Carter administration flatly refuses to go along with Senator Kennedy's proposed $12 billion job program, calling it "inflationary." But debate on the measure at the convention, coupled with a growing awareness of city job problems in the wake of the Miami riots early this summer, could well mena big increases in appropriation for youth employment and job training.
US House of Representatives action is scheduled in late August on youth employment legislation that would allocate $2.125 billion to set up vocational education and training for some $250,000 jobs a year. President Carter supports this measure, and many observers and confident it will pass and begin to get at the basic cause of youth employment in the cities -- lack of proper job training.
* Welfare reform. Though the burden of assistance to the poor falls most heavily on the big cities, the attempt to reform welfare financing -- essentially, to shift more of the responsibility to the federal government -- is expected to languish in Congress despite the President's support of reform. Congressional reluctance to further swell the federal budget deficit and opposition from areas outside the nation's major cities, which have a disproportionate share of the welfare burden, stand in the way of early action.