Koch Challenges Bush to Address Urban Problems
New York City Mayor Edward I. Koch challenged President-elect George Bush on Wednesday to give the nation’s cities more help in dealing with AIDS, drug abuse, homelessness and job training.
In a speech at the final session of the annual National League of Cities conference, Koch said the federal government must no longer “slough off its responsibilities” onto states and cities.
Bush sent a letter to the conference of urban leaders, saying: “I want to assure you that your needs are my needs,” and promising as President to act on their concerns.
Koch said he had asked for a meeting with Bush after the inauguration, and had invited the incoming President and his wife, Barbara, to visit Gracie Mansion, the mayor’s official residence, to discuss urban problems.
“We need help and we need it desperately,” said Koch, arguing that cities by themselves cannot fight the national drug problem, cure AIDS or house the homeless. He said urban issues were discussed only superficially during the campaign, so urban leaders can only guess at Bush’s intentions.
New York City has 55,000 prisoners, compared to 40,000 in federal prisons, and spends about half of its $1-billion annual police budget on drug enforcement, Koch said. He said 80% of those arrested for violent crimes in the city are found to have drugs in their systems.
“We cannot deal with it,” Koch said. “I have doubled the number of jails and it’s not enough.”