About 200 Washington-Baltimore region leaders in business, government and academia were treated to a top-level litany of fiscal restraint last week as Reagan administration officials explained how their budget plans would affect federal aid for urban development.
Whether they referred to the "targeting" of aid or to the shifting of financial or administrative responsibilities to state and local governments, the administration representatives all focused on new ways for cities to use scarce federal dollars. In the words of Frank Naylor, undersecretary for small community and rural development at the Department of Agriculture and one of the speakers: "It's a matter of doing more with limited resources."
Speakers at the all-day meeting, organized by the Washington/Baltimore Regional Association, included two Cabinet members, two U.S. senators and a host of agency heads and lesser officials. The administration officials shared a steadfast commitment to the president's budget strategy.
"Implementation of President Reagan's economic recovery plan is absolutely essential for the revitalization of our country," said Samuel R. Pierce Jr., secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Even though HUD has been one of the main victims of the budgetary ax, Pierce affirmed that a major contribution to economic development will be adherence to lean, disciplined budgets."
Pierce emphasized the role of programs such as Urban Development Action Grants, which use government funds as seed money for private investment. He also pushed the urban enterprise zone, a controversial proposal to attract businesses to depressed areas by offering lower taxes and other incentives.
Speaking at the conference luncheon, Transportation Secretary Drew Lewis reaffirmed administration support for a 75-mile, Washington-area subway system and emphasized his determination to move air traffic away from National Airport to Dulles and Baltimore/Washington International.
"We've heard most of this before," said Baltimroe retailer John Jeffries, one of the participants in the Capitol Hill conference. "But the association has brought together a good gathering of people from government. It's good to be able to pick their brains."
Donald E. Shasteen, deputy undersecretary of Labor, told of changes in his department's youth unemployment programs to shift administrative responsibility to local governments.
"We wanted to target our limited funds through locally run programs to those areas where local governments felt the worst problems are," Shasteen explained.
Lawrence Y. Goldberg, assistant director of the Community Services Administration, said the dissolution of his antipoverty agency Sept. 30 will not indicate "a moving away of concern by the Reagan administration. It is tremendous conceit to think that the only source of compassion is the federal government."
Sen Charles Mathias (R-Md.), pointed to the potential of an integrated Washington-Baltimore market for taking advantage of the administration's economic incentives. The area's already high growth rate and heavy government employment, he said, make it "a prime candidate for successful economic development."