President's urban program emphasizes local participation
Washington — President Ronald Reagan is about to unveil his program to revitalize the nation's decaying urban communities. His announcement could come as early as Wednesday.
The Reagan plan calls for the creation of 75 urban job and enterprise zones in three years, 25 per year, designed to develop jobs for the chronically unemployed.
The administration will offer new legislation spotlighting incentives - not mentioned in previous enterprise zone proposals - that could make the program more attractive to businessmen and urban residents alike. Among them: helping in the establishment of community enterprises such as crime watches and neighborhood clean-up services; giving unemployed and low income residents a chance to develop such services into resident-run firms that could be of help to local governments; providing regulatory relief to businesses.
''There will be no handouts, no giveaways, no free rides. Enterprise zones will be the reverse of the Model Cities program of the past,'' says Dr. E.S. Savas, the Department of Housing and Urban Development's assistant secretary for policy development and research. ''Under the zone program, government will be removed as far as possible from the operation. Participants will receive tax relief and regulatory relief. The poor will provide delivery of service.''
''Serious concerns'' about enterprise zone legislation must be addressed before the measures are passed, however, says Mark Frazier, editor of the Sabre Foundation's comprehensive ''Sourcebook on Enterprise Zones.'' He lists them as: instability of inner city areas, particularly their crime problems; difficulty in delivering services to such areas because of a decaying infrastructure; the probability that many zone residents will be displaced by renovation efforts and increasing real estate values; inadequate incentives for new businesses.
Dr. Savas, however, says the President's plan remedies these concerns.
''We offer three incentives to make the enterprise zone a success - tax relief, regulatory relief, and improved public service,'' he says. ''These incentives can reduce crime, offset poor schools and inadequate services in maintaining the community .''
The presidential bill, honed out in White House and cabinet meetings and at conferences with leaders of businesses, state and local governments, and grass roots organizations, will include:
* Competitive applications. No community is automatically targeted for designation as an urban enterprise zone.
* A close working relationship with business concerns. Heavy industry, service entrepreneurs, and small, start-up firms will be encouraged to set up operations in the zone. They will be asked to provide jobs, many of them to people with limited skills or little or no job experience.
* A partnership with local and state governments. Before the federal government establishes a zone in any locality, both state and local governments must agree on the plans, and both must act to provide relief, both tax and regulatory, to businesses in the zone.
* Concern for community residents and agencies. People who live in zone areas will participate in planning and implementation of zones. Residents will be able to translate voluntary services such as crime watches, garbage collection, and neighborhood cleanup into for-profit corporations. This process is termed ''privatization.'' Ultimately, administration spokesmen say, it could replace the inadequate city services that are contributing to decay.
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), headed by Samuel J. Pierce, the lone black member of the President's cabinet, will supervise the program.