Calling the federal government's urban policy an "abandonment of its cities," New York City Mayor David N. Dinkins proposed a national urban agenda yesterday before an audience of more than 600 at a Kennedy School of Government forum.
"We need a new American order...a leadership that cares about rebuilding New York and Detroit, and small, low-income cities like Chelsea, Mass., at least as much as it cares about rebuilding Kuwait City," said Dinkins.
Dinkins went on to charge the Bush Administration with ignoring and dismissing urban crises as "domestic stuff."
"Our future will be darkened if we accept the loss of our radiant cities," Dinkins said.
"Our ballet companies and museums, theaters and sports teams, and our great halls of education--Harvard and Berkeley, Chicago, Columbia, and CUNY--all depend on urban centers," he said.
Dinkins, whose speech was sponsored by the Institute of Politics, the Taubman Center for State and Local Government and several Kennedy School student groups, was at Harvard to attend a meeting of the Economic Committee of the Council of Mayors.
The committee, which also includes Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn and Cambridge Mayor Alice K. Wolf, discussed proposals to curb unemployment and redirect federal funds from defense to urban centers, Dinkins said at a press conference before his speech.
Also at the press conference, Dinkins struck what is likely to be a common theme for Democrats as the 1992 election year approaches, calling for a "peace dividend" to deal with national crises, like the spread of AIDS and urban crime.
Dinkins cited a Brookings Institute report that the federal government could save at least $619 billion by moderately lowering its defense estimates. "National defense means taking care of our cities," Dinkins said.
In his speech, Dinkins proposed initiatives such as increasing funding for cities with high unemployment rates and for improving urban infrastructure.
The mayor also praised Head Start and the Urban Schools of America Act and called for their expansion.
Dinkins said that the poor economic conditions of American cities have severe repercussions, such as exacerbating racial strife.
"These people...threatened by the differences of their neighbors, react by lashing out," Dinkins added. "We must begin to understand that if our brothers and sisters thrive, then we, too, will thrive.