NEW YORK, NOV. 5 -- Mayor David N. Dinkins (D), seeking to return cities to the center of American political life, said today that more than 30 mayors will meet at an urban "summit" here next week to forge a "new era of hope and opportunity for America's urban residents."

Urban problems have not been given much attention by the federal government for years, and Dinkins said he hoped that the meeting Monday and Tuesday of mayors from Chicago, Cleveland, Baltimore, Boston, Miami, Los Angeles and other major cities would change that.

"We have to find a way to fashion our argument so it doesn't sound like the cities are simply coming in with tin cups," Dinkins told reporters at City Hall. "We will be saying {to the federal government}, 'Here's a balance sheet, and you owe us.' "

The task, which has been tried in the past, never has been more difficult because giving money to cities has been one of the federal government's least enthusiastic activities recently.

Nearly 80 million people live in American cities and, as the federal government has forced cities to raise local taxes over the last decade, they also have had to care for an increasing number of the nation's neediest citizens with dwindling outside support.

To bolster his attempts, Dinkins released a poll saying nearly 80 percent of Americans who do not live in cities would be willing to help solve urban problems, even if it means paying higher taxes.

But when Dinkins proposed a commuter tax last month to help pay for a massive new criminal-justice program for the city, Long Island residents who would be most heavily affected by the surcharge immediately condemned the proposal.

"We have a good story to tell" on behalf of cities, Dinkins said. "We just haven't been able to tell it well."

Skeptics have said the summit will help to draw attention from Dinkins's growing fiscal troubles. But other analysts agreed that the epidemics of AIDS, drug abuse and homelessness that have ravaged New York have painfully affected other cities too. This may be a good time, they argued, for mayors to present a strong, united front.

"Nearly three-quarters of the suburban residents surveyed said they would pay more taxes to help with housing for the urban poor," said Joyce F. Brown, vice chancellor for urban affairs at City University of New York, which has conducted research for the summit. "These were people across the country who not only saw these issues affecting the less fortunate in society, they saw their own self-interest affected."

It is self-interest that the mayors hope to emphasize most, aides said.

"What we need to do," said one aide to Dinkins, "is show the people in the suburbs that they can't cut cities loose -- that if we die, they do too."