Stu Eizensta, the president's chief domestic adviser, bounded into the reception of the National Urban Coalition, looking for a quick read on the administration's welfare reform proposal. He first buttonholed Ronald Brown of the National Urban League, asking. "Did you have a chance to react?"
"Since the major domestic proposal had been announced only hours earlier, Brown hadn't read it yet Eizenstat, undaunted, continued to canvas for opinion.
"It's a compromise piece,"said Brown latter, when pressed, referring to yesterday's $5.7 billion package, compared to a $20 billion proposal from the Carter administration two years ago. Yet Eizenstat was optimistic: "we talked this morning to Vernon Jordan and Benjamin Hooks and they were positive."
The Urban Coalition, which was celebrationg its 11th anniversary at a dinner last night at the Washington Hilton, has been a principal for the needs of the urban poor and minorities. The dinner drew 700 urban constituents, including such names as Coretta Scott King and Magdalena Torres, a New York Puerto Rican activist. Many of the politicians had not had time to study the proposal. "if it's down at all, it's insufficient to serve the needs of the people. It's just a paltry recognition of those needs," said Rep. Cardiff Collins (D-I11.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Also at the reception, William Coleman, former secretary of transportation, was telling Rep. Parren Mitchell (M-Md.) to keep faith on the future of set-asides for minority businesses. "This is your horse, you really deserve all the credit for even having a set-aside provision," Coleman said. "Well, I'm relatively optimistic," said Mitchell, referring to the Supreme Court decision earlier this week to hear arguments on whether Congress can provide at least 10 percent of each public works grant to minorities. "In the Bakke case, there was a footnote that if Congress chooses to mandate quotas, that should not be challenged."
At times, as with any group of its size, the coalition dinner became a fast reevolving door of handshakes and kisses, Azie Morton, treasurer of the United States, let the dais to circulate. Lisle Carter, president of the University of the District of Columbia, huddled with Atlanta attorney David Frnklin. When the program began, M. Carl Holman, president of the coalition, had to tell James Gibson, Mayor Marion Barry's economic development director, to sit down.
Instead of a lengthy awards ceremony and acceptance speeches at the dinner, the coalition had given the majority of its citations at an earlier luncheonn. Two surprise awards went to H. Robert Marschalk of Richard-son-Merrell for corporate responsibility and Sarah Austin, a coalition vice-president.
In the only major address of the evening, McGeorge Bundy, outgoing president of the Ford Foundation, managed to quote from themes of his old 1960s speeches, author Ralph Ellison and the Bible. He spoke of the naivete of the '60s. "We were, and I don't think I was entirely out of tune . . . believers in an early solution. We thought commitment and resources would be enough," Bundy said, "That, if you will, was a false high, a short-term reaction.
"The question is, do we give up. No, we believe there is still a place to attack; there are still moves you can make. If you take the longer view, you can see have come a distance." CAPTION: Picture, Clarence M. Mitchell and Coretta Scott King, by Harry Naltchayan