US mayors take 'wait and see' attitude on Reagan's urban policies
Atlanta — The nation's mayors, Republican and Democratic, are willing to support President-elect Ronald Reagan's emerging urban policies as long as federal aid to cities is not cut back sharply.
But if Mr. Reagan tries to turn some of his campaign talk about trimming the size of government into big cuts in aid to cities, he is likely to have a tough political fight on his hands.
This is the message from both Republican and Democratic mayors at the National League of Cities (NLD) convention here.
In their formal remarks, mayors of both parties expressed a "wait and see" attitude toward the still-emerging Reagan urban policies. The mayors expressed hope that the polices would help hem in their continuing fight against high urban unemployment, lack of decent housing for the poor, the need to keep sewage and road systems up to date, and other problems.
If Reagan tries to spur more private industry and citizen initiatives in tackling inner-city problems, he will find bipartisan support among these mayors. A new Gallup poll released here indicates urban residents are increasingly willing to help clean up their neighborhoods, fight crime, and help youth and the elderly.
But when asked in quiet, hallway interviews if they would go along with any major cuts in federal aid to their cities, the firm, bipartisan answer from the mayors was "No."
"We've all got to take our share of the cuts [in federal spending]; we just don't want it all," says William H. Hudnut III, Republican mayor of Indianapolis and incoming president of the NLC.
Mayor James F. Conway of St. Louis, a Democrat, says Republican and Democratic mayors alike would fight doggedly against any proposals for major cuts in aid to cities.
Even Mayor Richard E. Carver of Peoria, Ill., president of the National Conference of Republican Mayors and Municipal Officials, cities few cuts he would support in federal aid to cities.
He hopes, however, that better federal coordination and more tax incentives will spur more private help in tackling city challenges.
Asked if federal aid to cities would be cut. Reagan urban transition aide John McClaughry told reporters here only that "the era of fiscal plenty is not immediately ahead of us."
He described the Urban Development Action Grant program as having a "fairly fat price tag." Keeping that program has been one of the NLC's top priorities.
Mr. McClaughry said no urban policies have been decided since the campaign. Proposals from REagan's urban task force, released in November, have not been adopted, he said.
But McClaughry did say Reagan favors elimination of the CETA program of federally funded public-service jobs.
While a number of Democratic and Republican mayors here said they would not oppose this, several Democratic mayors, including James H. McGee of Dayton and Arthur J. Holland of Trenton, N.J., objected.
"The only reason there re government programs is the private sector has failed to meet the need," said Mayor Holland.
Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson, among others, is concerned that federal aid for public housing might be cut back under Reagan.