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Rockefeller Exhorts States to Take Advantage of Federalism's Vitality

Continues Godkin Lectures

By Robert W. Gordon

Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller of New York continued last night his discussion of the "federal idea" in politics with a plea that the states take advantage of federalism's vitality and relevance.

Wednesday, in the first of the Godkin lectures, the governor contended that the federal idea had survived despite detractors and despairing prophets. In America, he said, it is still a generator of harmony, and a creative social, political, and economic force.

But Rockefeller recognized certain threats to the idea: "political aloofness," the case of false labels, and the reluctance of the individual states to exercise leadership. It was the last of these potential challenges to federalism's success in the U.S. that he developed yesterday.

New York Provides Examples

His second lecture drew copiously from the experience of New York to illustrate how "the availability of alternate sovereignties, federal and state, competing and cooperating . . . enforces and augments the people's rights." Yet, he warned that "the local governments have no sovereignty' to counter-balance federal sovereignty nor the fiscal power to resist its blandishments."

He concluded therefore that new problems of urbanization like housing and development ought to be chiefly the responsibility of state governments. "The problems have outrun individual local government boundaries . . . and the national government is too remote to sense and to act" on them. As in Wednesday's lecture Rockefeller kept his comments scrupulously clean of references to the Kennedy Administration, or to the President's proposed Department of Urban affairs.

Rockefeller mentioned four New York offices whose jobs are to coordinate the activities of local and state agencies in fields such as urban renewal, metropolitan transportation, public works, commuter rail service, and low-rent housing.

States Can Aid Localities

The state, he made clear, has still other parts to play. To resist the "ever-present danger of direct federal-local action by-passing the states," it must assume functions that the national government has usually monopolized. Federal grants-in-aid have "served to strengthen the weaker states fiscally"; but Rockefeller noted with satisfaction that states which can afford it have themselves begun to provide grants-in-aid to local communities.

As the essential link between Washington and the people, according to Rockefeller states may (as New York has done) take some responsibility for the development and control of atomic energy for peaceful uses, and to protect their citizens, "for lack of a truly serious effort at the national level ... against the hazards of possible nuclear attack."

States that reacted defensively to the New Deal, the Governor repeated, that showed themselves "fretfully concerned with rights, rather than boldly concerned with responsibilities" bear an obliga- tion to restore their old functions: as "proving grounds for ever new ventures in free government."

"New ventures," he suggested, mean experiments in interstate cooperation (like the Port of New York authority) or in joint interstate and federal action (like the committee on the New Haven Railroad or the Delaware River Basin Commission).

Toward the close of the second Godkin lecture it became apparent where Rockefeller's discussion of the federal idea was to lead. "All free peoples," he said, need "to devise new formulas of unity." It is to the international sphere that he intends today to apply his concept of federalism

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