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A Public Service Message from the American Income Life Insurance CompanyExecutive offices, Waco, TexasBernard Rapoport, Pres. government furnished by most cities to their citizenry; eliminating the bureaucratic rigidity and waste of manpower that have characterized increasingly centralized city government; placing responsibility for city government on identifiable individuals subject to popular control and, when appropriate, to removal from office by those they are supposed to be serving; reducing the cost of government by eliminating the layers of administrators, which result, for example, in less than 10 per cent of the New York City Police Department’s personnel \(and analogous percentages in other performing line duty. Without such a reorganization of city government, I do not believe massive federal aid if it ever comes will solve the problems of the cities. And, although the cities need the money, I’d rather not wait for it. Instead, I would suggest that two other steps be taken by the federal government to help cities solve the basic problem of staying alive. FIRST: ON THE city governmental level, there is a tremendous need for short-term, vigorous, young manpower to deal with the emergencies that every city constantly faces and the special emergencies it faces from time to time. The city’s existing manpower cannot meet or effectively deal with these emergencies. Consider: If teachers make demands that a city cannot or should not accept, and they go on strike, what happens? The city capitulates, and up go the costs of government. If there is a cold wave and a rash of complaints about lack of heat, and building inspectors cannot keep up with the volume or refuse to try, what happens? People stay cold. If sanitationmen go on strike and there is a health crisis, what happens? Unless the mayor can find a way to blame it on the governor, the city capitulates. And what of the many areas in every city similar to those in New York City, such as Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, Harlem in Manhattan, and Hunts Point in the Bronx, where local government has broken down and the city’s total existing manpower, even if it were working at full strength, could not deal with .a particular area’s problems unless it worked sixteen hours a day and disregarded the remainder of the city? The answer to all these situations is a special emergency force, consisting of young men and women who would devote two to three years of their lives to serving their city just as they are now asked to serve their country. They could quickly be given sufficient knowledge of city government to spot housing violations and to file complaints. They could move into a problem area, take it over house by house, and clean it up. They could provide extra police protection in high crime areas; collect garbage, if that were necessary; patrol the streets, if that were necessary; arrest narcotics pushers \(which would be the oppressed city dwellers who live in degradation. They could collect the rents ; and make the repairs the absent landlords refused to make. Some could first complete their educations and then bring medical and legal services to the people and places that need it. No picnic, it would be hard and sometimes dangerous work. What mayor would not rejoice at such an emergency force? The possibilities are limitless. It is clear that a force such as this is necessary if the cities are ever going to undo the damage that time, bureaucracy, and lack of money and manpower have already done. Federal sponsorship of such a program, including financial help and especially exemption from the draft, would do more to revitalize our cities than any big gobs of money we are likely to see from Washington. The most rewarding dividend, however, would be a generation of graduates of the emergency force. Undoubtedly, some would stay in government. And all would have a working knowledge of the problems of government that would act as a bulwark against the electoral appeal of the demagogues we can confidently expect to proliferate as television increasingly becomes politics’ principal medium of communication. Furthermore, it might supply some of the meaning to life that so many of our young people seem to be seeking. SECOND: THE housing problem. If city governments were to operate to perfection but their present failure to build and maintain .residential housing were to continue, the cities would soon die, for private enterprise, using the money and manpower available at present, simply cannot meet the cities’ housing needs. When a similar condition existed during the 1930s in the electric industry in the South, the federal government found a solution. Through the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Rural Electrification Administration, the federal government did what private industry could not do. And, while TVA was a yardstick, it was more than that; it was a stimulus to industrial growth and expansion throughout the entire South. The cities need a federal yardstick program to build housing at rational costs. If industry and labor cannot do the job and they simply cannot, given today’s costs let the federal government do what it did in the South in the 1930s: unabashedly go into the business of doing what the private sector cannot do. This move would raise many problems. Vested interests in some labor unions would protest, as would construction firms and bankers. But basically all construction labor, building companies, and real estate bankers are at present devoting their efforts to commercial projects. They cannot build or finance housing at commercial construction costs, and they have not set up for themselves two scales of costs that would permit the production of expensive commercial buildings and less expensive housing. Accordingly, the cost of building housing is the same as the cost of building commercial structures, but the returns on commercial construction are many times higher. Small wonder that housing construction has stopped and private financing for housing has dried up, while new office buildings spring up one after another. We need a federal yardstick operation with self-renewing federal money, and, if necessary, the creation of a new housing construction work force to build the millions of dwellings the cities will need in the coming years. The creation of such a housing work force might well go a long way toward solving the impasse between the black man and the existing construction unions. There is no stimulus like competition, or even the threat of it, to produce action where action is needed. This kind of federal assistance would be far more effective than the pie-in-the-sky massive assistance most urbanologists call for. For as cities get larger and larger, their actions more and more seem to resemble those of the dinosaur or what we imagine the dinosaur to have been in its declining years: large, clumsy, slow-moving, unable to deal with small enemies, too big to be viable, afflicted with hardening of the arteries. The extinction of the dinosaur ultimately resulted from its inability to function and to regenerate itself. Cities are already in that condition. They are not performing their basic purpose of providing places for people to live, and becuase of this failure they are dying. Hungry dinosaurs would probably have been kept alive a little longer if there had been a beneficient federal government to provide food. But extinction would have remained the dinosaur’s fate. Our cities will survive and be governable only if those we elect have effective power over those who are supposed to do the work, only if those we elect are responsible and accountable to the people who elect them, and only if the federal government gives the kind of help that will make manpower available to do the work that survival requires.