WHILE THE "URBANOLOGISTS" are analyzing the outlines of President Carter's forthcoming urban-aid program, there's been another, less formal, offer of White House aid for the cities - from Rosalynn Carter. Mrs. Carter told the Federal City Council last week that she's interested in helping to make urban neighborhoods "better places to live," adding that "there is no better place to start than in Washington. I'm going to be spending a lot of time working in inner cities. . . . If you have suggestions about what I can do for this, please let me know."
We have some suggestions. There are numerous local activities that could benefit from Mrs. Carter's attention and assistance. One that apparently already interests her is a program under which neighborhood schools would serve as centers not only for education but for a variety of community services for all ages. The program is an offshoot of something called "Project Propinquity" in Atlanta - for which Mrs. Carter succeeded not only in cutting federal red tape to arrange matching funds, but also in soliciting money from private sources. D.C. School Superintendent Vincent E. Reed has met with White House staff people about possible plans, and more details are expected soon.
Among Washington neighborhoods that could use some serious attention are the blocks along what are still referred to as the "riot corridors": 7th and 14th streets NW and H Street NE. Today - nearly a decade after they were wrecked - those streets still look war torn. As some may recall, those areas came in for a much-publicized share of on-the-spot White House attention when President Nixon, during a live pilgrimmage to one dreary site, promised to cut the federal red tape and bring about recovery. It is worth noting that the children who were just born then are now nine years old and still growing up in that depressing environment. Rather than embark on yet another pilgrimmage, perhaps Mrs. Carter might merely sneak a look and then just push for completion of, say, one good housing project in those neighborhoods.
In mental health, which is one of Mrs. Carter's interests, there is the job of improving St. Elizabeths Hospital for its eventual transfer from the federal government to the District. And there is a lobbying job to do in Congress in behalf of the proposals agreed to by Vice President Mondale's task force on District of Columbia affairs; these include congressional representation and more local budget autonomy. Whatever the decisions turn out to be, Mrs. Carter's interest in the cities in general and Washington in particular could indeed stimulate enough new support from the public and private sectors to make some difference in the quality of people's lives.