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get. \(I didn’t ask, but I assumed that the smattering of animal liberationists in the crowd would take issue with the anthrocentricity of putting “We need to rebuild America by abandoning the something-for-nothing ethic of the last decade and putting people first for a change.” Does that imply putting people before profits? Tom Harkin, speaking from the podium Tuesday night, put it this way: “Governor Clinton’s plan puts people first George Bush’s plan puts wealthy people first.” People first, yes. But compared to what? Could it be that Clinton wanted to suggest putting people ahead of corporate interests GOP Dry Run in Houston BY KATE MCCONNICO Houston C4all it a dress rehersal for the party conk.. ventions. Many of the same speakers were in the lineup at the 60th Annual National Conference of Mayors this past month in Houston and there was a certain rhetorical optimism designed to swell the heart of All of the convention’s keynote speake -Housing and Urban Development Secretary Jack Kemp and Drug Czar Bob Martinez from the Bush Administration and Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, former California Gov. Jerry Brown and Rainbow Coalition founder Jesse Jackson on the Democratic side spoke of hope; the hope they had for America and the hope they had for their own agendas. Republicans promoted the Bush Administration’s programs and Democrats asked why their proposals had been ignored for 12 years. As the speeches droned on, mayors in the antechambers worked out the real details of programs on crime, schooling, health care, AIDS education and treatment, drug prevention and treatment, waste disposal, transportation and even earthquake preparedness. The Republicans, mainly Kemp, Martinez and a few Bush appointees on drugs, crime and AIDS, faced the daunting task of convincing the nation’s mayors and the press that Republicans were not the cause of the collapse of urban America, but that they were the solution. That solution came in the form of “Weed and Seed” programs and “Urban Enterprise Zones”; two pro-business initiatives we’ll hear more about when the GOP convention gets underway on August 17 in the Astrodome. Not everyone at the mayors’ conference was buying, though. Every urban program presented by the “envoys” of the Bush Administration, as Jerry Brown called them, whether it dealt with crime, transportation, health care, AIDS education, schooling or pollution, seemed designed to benefit the suburbs as much or more than the inner cities. Kemp. Martinez and Deputy Attorney General George Terwilliger discussed social reform as a sort of “insurance” against events like the Los Angeles riots and crime that might spill over into affluent neighborhoods. Kemp, who referred to himself as “a radical, bleeding-heart, progressive conservative,” said “there is no question about the Bush Administration’s commitment to programs which will help rebuild urban infrastructure.” Yet he also pitched the capital gains tax, vigilant policing of poor areas, the need for reduced government spending on welfare programs, and Bush’s line-item veto. Kemp used supply-side logic when he said that eliminating the capital gains tax for urban investors \(not to mention cutting it to 15 percent for increase the rewards for entrepreneurs and investors who put capital at risk to create new businesses and new jobs.” This is the “Urban Enterprise Zones” proposal that Michael Kinsley of the New Republic calls “a bribe to the rich.” There seemed to be a contradiction in Kemp’s support of reduced taxation of existing wealth as an incentive program for black entrepreneurs generally a group with lower levels of existing wealth. Cutting the capital gains tax to zero in the cities and to 15 percent in all other areas, as the Administration proposes, would increase the incentive only for established large corporations, such as Wal-Mart or Circuit City, to flock to the inner cities, and perhaps decrease the creation of mom-and-pop businesses than might actually empower disadvantaged Americans. After Kemp’s speech, one mayor sitting next to this writer mumbled, “What is he talking about?” After DEA Director Bob Martinez’s speech, which proposed militant policing and long prison terms over rehabilitation and education, another mayor said, “Is this the Mayoral Convention or the National Convention?” Both Kemp and Martinez endorsed the U.S. Justice Department’s “Weed and Seed” program, a federally dictated two-step program based on “weeding” out drug dealers and users in an area, and then “seeding” that community with treatment centers, neighborhood watch programs, job training programs, and other anti-drug efforts. The most commonly heard criticism leveled at “Weed and Seed” is that the government spends considerably more time and money on the weeding aggressive law enforcement, including indefinite pre-trial detention and heavy policing of schools than on seeding. Currently “Weed and Seed” exists in three U.S. cities and only 18 percent of its budget is going towards seed ing. On paper, the government promises that 94 percent of the money will go toward seeding and only 6 percent to aggressive law is not an effective substitute for law enforcement,” said Tim Shea, one of the Justice Department officials sent by the government to gain pre-election support for this program. More aggressive policing of selected communities \(usually black, Hispanic and Asian as just another governmental excuse to single out and militarize their communities. Some mayors are also dissatisfied with the top-heavy federal bureaucracy that controls “Weed and Seed” and the difficulty they have fitting the program to their own cities needs. Earlier in the conference Mayor Norman Rice of Seattle asked a Justice Department deputy why more money needs to be spent on weeding out crime \(billions already goes to this effort at the local, state and federal levthe source of crime: poor education, lack of job skills, run-down neighborhoods, etc. “If you just go in to weed people might view it as simply another stepped-up law enforcement program,” Rice stated. The Seattle mayor, who has won awards for achievements in the areas of urban youth programs, also said many mayors had problems with the implied derision and racist overtones of the title, “Weed and Seed.” Inner-city residents are not weeds, to be thinned out by cops, nor are the areas themselves desolate weed patches, he said. This year, the number of cities participating in “Weed and Seed” should increase to 16 and the budget to monies and $210 million in old money borrowed from existing social services. So it probably was in George Bush’s best interest to have avoided even giving a “half hour for the representatives of urban America,” as Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn said in criticism of the President’s absence. Bradley, Clinton, Brown and Jackson were so well received here that a Bush speech might have flopped as badly as did drug czar Martinez’s. While the times seem conservative, the mayors gathered in Houston didn’t seem to find many solutions in the Bush Administration’s proposals. Republican speakers at least will be better appreciated in the Astrodome next month. C. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7