"With the taxpayers' revolt, sparked by California's victorious Proposition 13. we can stop worrying about the delivery of government services to inner-city people. We must start worrying about training people to provide these services themselves," says W. Victor Rouse, a consultant on such matters.
Rouse is doing his share with a program to enlist the poor along with everyone else in combating crame in Washington's Ward One.
Ward One is located between S Street and Spring Road, NW, and between the zoo and the McMillan Reservoir, it incudes some rich neighborhoods, such as Kalorama, but its heart and soul seems to be in its geographic center, on Upper 14th Street.
That is where the riots - set off by the murder of Martin Luther King - started 10 years ago. Economically and psychologically, the community still has not recovered from this trauma.
One of Upper 14th Streets developments since then is a 22-building housing development for people of all incomes and ages, known as Columbia Heights Village. It was built by All Souls Unitarian Church together with a citizens group, which figured out that the name "Cardozo Heights Association for Neighborhood Growth and Enrichment" yields the catchy acronym "CHANGE."
To protect their residents, All Souls and CHANGE decided to see what could be done to reduce crime in the area. They turned to the city's office of Criminal Justice Plans and Analysis department (OCJPA), which gets money, advice and inspiration from the federal Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA), which passed the problem on to the American Institutes for Research (AIR).
AIR is a fancy Georgetown "think sank with posh offices, smiling secretaries and plants that look talked to. It seems an unlikely place to figure out how to stop 14-year-old bullies from knocking old ladies into the gutter and wrenching their purses from them.
Rouse is AIR's man on the job. He is director of AIR's Institute for Neighborhood Initiatives (INI), having worked on social planning ins St. Louis and Chicago. He dresses Perre Cardin, is over 6 feet tall and talks fast. He says things like: "We would view the citizens as a central resource and their investment behavior as the ultimate dependent variable for all action programs."
Having thus briefed me, Rouse took me to upper 14th Street, where people call him "the big dude," to view citizens and their investment behavior, as it were.
We went to the Child Parent Center to meet the director, Ruth Rucker, and the executive director of Change Gordon A. White. The center claims to be the only agency in Washington that offers material help as well as human help, to both parents and their neglected, disturbed, or otherwise handicapped children. It is crowded, shopworn - a long way from the soothed and airconditioned plants of the Georgetown think tank.
The block of 14th Street where the Child Parent Center is located still show riot scars. There are littered vacant lots where building ruins were cleared. Some buildings are boarded up and abandoned. But there is also new construction. "We are still struggling to regain what we lost in the '68 incidents," said Rucker.
This struggle added even more organizations to the many community groups the Great Society's War on Poverty had left in the inner city. Many of them serve the same purposes, competing for funds, quibbling with one another. An army of poverty warriors spends most of its time filling out grant applications.
Rouse enlisted people from all these groups to survey Ward One. The survey established that crime and the fear of crime is everyone's foremost concern. That much was obvious. It also established the Ward One, with 88,000 residents, 22 percent of whom are classified as poor, has 101 community organizations. That was news. Many of these groups, active in more or less the same field, did not even know about one another, let alone talk or work together.
The leaders in Ward One saw themselves reflected in the think tank study. They saw the need to coordinate if they were going to have an effect on crime or anything else.
The coordinating body, called "Ward One, Inc.," was organized last February "to centralize and direct the resources available - residents, community organizations, and formal institutions - in a united and comprehensive attack on all the problems, but particularly crime, confronting the area."
The police helped with a specifically localy analysis of crime. "There is no use protecting the front of the building if burglars generally break into the rear," said Rouse. What is more, the police and the new consortium of community organizations thrashed out their relations. An area of the city which was often hostile to the police has now achieved some mutual understanding and confidence. As an important symbol of this, Police Chief Burtell Jefferson recently has moved his community relations branch into Ward One.
Mother Dear's Community Center has developed escort services for the elderly. The Council of Christians and Jews is training members of block clubs and tenant councils in crime prevention techniques. The elderly members of the Columbia Heights resident council conduct classes on home security. The 14th Street Businessmen's Association uses youngster as amateur detectives to watch for suspicious characters.
But more than crime prevention evolved as all this was planned, organized and set in motion.
Ward One organizations decided, for instance, to help flagging business on 14th Street by urging their members to buy in their neighborhood rather than in chain stores outside the area.
"The other day we were going to take some of our elderly folks to the movies," White recalled, "but our van broke down. So we called Ruth Rucker and used a Parent Child Center van."
"And we, in return, borrowed a Spanish interpreter from CHANGE," said Rucker. "That's the kind of cooperation we never had before.
"We are beginning to focus on the problems created by the flight back to the city - middle-income people displacing poor families to rehabilitate their old houses," said Stewart M. Gerson, an Ali Souls board member."We are beginning to help create jobs for young people. One important program is training youngsters to insulate homes to cut down heating costs. We are tackling all kinds of things we thought only government could tackle," he added.
"I would be tempted to use the word 'revolution' in connection with what's happening in Ward One," said Rouse.