Urban Confrontation; 3; Kevin White
Turban confrontation and analysis of the continuing crises facing 20th century men in the American city. Of May and that is his credibility that every day he is eaten up. But his credibility is eaten up because he's telling people to wait he's trying to work with them and suggest solutions to their problems with the frightening prospects that he will never get to have the weapons necessary to deliver on those promises. Today's recorded guest is Kevin white mayor of Boston. Today's program. Kevin White on city's governing the tinderbox here is your host Mr. Bader. The American city at the beginning of the 1970s is the scene of riots public strikes campus revolts increased violence and crime in polluted air and water. Our guest today is the mayor of the nation's sixth largest metropolitan center Kevin White of Boston.
And the question of the getting the program now White is with all these problems can our American cities survive the 20th century. Well really to that question there's no alternative answer except to answer in the affirmative because for better or for worse whether we like or dislike the environment in which we live in the American city and there's a lot to be said for change is the realization that they constitute really the American civilization. Statistically almost 80 percent of the American public lives on 2 percent of its land mass and that's primarily it's it's urban America. When you talk about surviving the question is how are we going to survive in one minute we're going to survive survival is a fact. But the degree of it the way we survive those are important questions to be answered the next 10 years particularly by most standards aesthetic or social or economic The American city is somewhat of a disaster area. Many people would claim is unfit for human habitation. The city has extremes in that it is a tinderbox of a social revolution without question all the ingredients are there we've had the Holocaust across the face the American cities
over the last three years and no guarantee that we won't have more of it in the future. The air is polluted there's a real question of public safety that transportation is poor that our taxes are high. Oh very true. Those are on the negative side on the plus side. The city is still the focal point of change. It's the center of the academic world it's the medical center of the world. It still has that the change in the diversity of life that makes life worth living. You think that people should still want to live in the city I live in one by choice. This such a thing as a city person I suppose but by and large she is very much a way of life in the city and I could recommend it to others. Are there any particular advantages other than the ones you just mentioned. Well this expansion a cultural environmentally the diversity of walking around a city can be one she used to the noise as relaxing and as fulfilling as walking in the countryside. And I've done both in my lifetime. What if you had to choose one. Do you think might be the biggest problem that American cities face the biggest problem.
I would say it still is the question. Peace and tranquility tween the black and the white in the American city. The question of race relations on both sides is still a fundamental question but it is not the only question in Morgan City it's as I said before a crisis within a crisis. As you go to face up to this problem you get to the problem of inadequate resources in terms of enough money to deal with the problems to bring about change to make it environmentally a better place to live in for the black and the white. But I would say the question of race relations is still the number one overriding question in America today at least in our cities. What about the neighborhood problem many critics of the American city have said that one of its main faults is the rapidly decreasing sense of neighborhood of group identification with a small area. People don't have a neighborhood to identify with anymore. While this is all lumped into the one word alienation that's maybe been overused to mis abuse. But there is truth in the fact that people feel alienated from the structure the sense of community has been destroyed and has even been fragmented in the sense of
status in neighborhoods. I think we've contributed to it in many cases that reform is contribute to it. Boston is a good example. In the 50s right after the war we reformed the city charter in which we cut down award councils from twenty two to nine centralizing week to crease the mayor's term from two to four years again insulating a little more than he had been in the past because the political process would force him to move out of the neighborhoods for identification to listen and talk because he was soliciting votes to sustain his own political career. Those moves were good in terms of strengthening the executive of the American city but what happened unfortunately is that many of the men who became a is under that system forgot the reasons for the old system. That is that they didn't. In those four years they didn't utilize it to build up the relationships particularly the communication between city hall and the neighborhoods. That's the credit Lindsay gets I think is the realization that there's another dimension to the city and the visibility of the mayor. The communication the sense of participating and being part of the city is an intricate part of it
and we lost sight of it in my opinion for almost 15 years particularly after the war. Let's talk about a second dimension to the American city to any city. The actual bricks and mortar we're sitting in here on a building I've never seen the insides of before but it certainly is an amazing building this new city hall we did a program on a City Hall in Boston a few weeks ago with the architects an amazing fusion of traditional and yet the modern it's constructed for people it's people oriented. I wonder how many buildings in the American city are people oriented nowadays. Do you think that cities are really built to be lived in. Well without a question they've been built to be lived in in the past whether we're going to sustain that improve in the future. Is a question yet to be answered. Surprising enough many mayors community jobs many public officials many governors for that matter want a preconceived idea of what they think a city should be. And I suppose the fundamental question that every mayor a candidate a public a municipal office I'm to get should ask himself should a city be the the center of culture of Comus Nevada
of industry and of entertainment mathematics and move the the living pot of a city beyond those things the functional core out beyond the borders of the city to provide the housing beyond the borders of the city. Turn a city into a complex that provides these varied aspects for the whole metropolitan area. That's one approach the problem. There are others who feel of the American city should be like the European city that it should provide diversity within it for people who want to live in it as well not just to serve a cause beyond its own borders. I subscribe to the to that there e that a city should have the diversity of living as well as working of providing for the outside as well as those who live within it. The American city originally started to grow in that framework and it's being challenged now but in Boston I hope that will keep the identity. That's one of the chans of Boston I think one of its hopes for the future. What do you think about this new approach of building brand new cities out in the rural areas building from the ground up. Reston Virginia Columbia Maryland or Brasilia
in Brazil the new capital having been one of them but read quite a bit about all of them. I would say that the first place none of them have proven over even the short run to find some of the deep seated dances that we're looking for today in American society that is race relations understanding common purpose sense of community. None of those things are necessarily bred by the establishment of brick and mortar beyond the city limits. And. Even pictures of Brasilia are not necessarily inviting into the eye. But if we have enough money if I priorities were established in the creation new cities particularly the ability to experiment is a good thing but that it seems to me secondary to solving the problems that now exist the American city. Because if you're going to put your highest priority our new cities then you've made a judgment that the old cities are no longer worth living in and that's a judgment I won't make. You mentioned resources. Many members don't have the resources now. Let's take a look at a new resource President Nixon's been a great deal of time in his 968 campaign discussing the
concept of a new federalism in which federal grants would be delegated to the cities and to the states. Now from City Hall in Boston does it look as though Nixon will keep his promise. While a first plate of getting into the into the decision the public made the selection of Nixon and Nixon's commitment to the American public I don't think he fulfilled it and I don't say that partisanly But without question every indication that Nixon is made is is that he has not acknowledged the dilemma of the American city that he doesn't see urban America as the number one priority. And I think that this outlook will be in the last analysis the downfall of the Nixon administration and we only have to look at the model city funds were almost cut in half. The one thing that the Nixon administration has done is taken a posture somewhat like a centipede with a with a leg and every single camp in the country but not a firm footing anyone and revenue sharing is a sound idea. But when you funded to a degree that it would mean pay for my telephone bill in the city of Boston but one year than then you're then you're dealing in rhetoric not
in real action. But the welfare response seemed to me to be political as much as anything in that again. It wasn't funded out of quickly. Not that I can excuse a Democratic Congress. But the question is posed in my opinion this administration has not responded to the ills of the American city. And that might be my greatest fear over the next four years is the damage that this will do to the progress that we're trying to make as you described in the last third of the 20th century. I assume though that you would agree with some aspects of the so-called new federalism the idea of sharing tax monies with the states. I think in the last analysis is the only answer. And I might say as distinct from my fellow mayors I think that funding should go through the states and not directly to the cities. And I feel and I'd be unique in that regard. But I do think this should be some built in and there was provision that that money fill to below the state level and reach the local communities.
Yes I subscribe to that. But what bothers me is too long we've dealt in terms of theory and rhetoric and our response has been that. And Nixon is continuing this he has. How can you talk about revenue sharing when you're talking about sharing. Less than one quarter of one percent of the revenue with all estates. And by 1972 sharing only 1 percent that's not sharing that's just making a token gesture Mynah terribly to a deep seated problem in American society that needs a tremendous amount of funding to solve. You mention your faith in the idea of sharing it with the states and yet there are thirty two Republican governors out of the 50 states here in the country and although most cities have mares that are democratic You are a very optimistic man. I am a very committed democrat and I've been Democrat all my life on nothing but Democrats in my family. I'm a partisan politician in many ways but the issues that we're talking about do not lend
themselves to partisanism revenue sharing is not partisan. And if there were 30 to socialist governance the question is what is the best way structurally and administratively. To distribute those funds from the federal level to the local level I think if you go by the state you're going to have withering in a ditch on your hands 10 years from now that is the state structure and to keep it alive you have to find where the government is a Democratic or Republican and I might say in the immediate years to come we tend to change those numbers and better proportion to the Democratic cause. Mary White will pause now for a few moments and allow the audience to hear a portion of the speech that you gave at the Northeastern University distinguished speakers series as part of a program which featured the mayors of two other cities Merrick Kavanagh of Detroit and Mary Yorkey of Los Angeles. It seems to me that there are three key and crucial areas. That we have to direct our attention to. First is the existence of the problem. Second is the nature of the problem
and third. Is to suggest some basic EULAs in the priorities that we'll establish in facing up to the problems. It might seem support if it was an audience like this to say that you have to talk or mention the problem of a ribbon nails today when screeching across the headlines comments by editorial writers. Remarks from businessmen labor leaders white businessmen rock militants. All at one time or another acknowledge. From rostrums like this to audience like you. As the American city is in deep deep trouble. But the truth of the matter is. There's a shop division. Between the rhetoric. And reality. Between the rhetoric of concern that it's evidence publicly and privately. And the reality of action. That stimulated. In governments at the local level the state level the federal government. And I would even suggest and I hope tonight. Is a
sign to the contrary. In the academic. Communities. The point is if we. Made no let up. Step forward in the crisis the American city. It would be to acknowledge that fact that crisis exists. That we are a nation of cities in 1969 and what we do or fail to do about the American city. Will determine what we as a generation will do and what contributions we will make a little make. To the civilization in which we live. To say that it's just an urban crisis I think in a way is a misnomer. Because a lot of the problems that we're going to talk about tonight are not necessarily urban. Their problems are not only affect the big city. Their problem is that they said. A small town. When you talk about discrimination of poor housing or inadequate education you're not really addressing yourselves. To the big cities. You're talking about entire urban environments. I wonder if we could talk about a study that was conducted for the National League of
Cities why 975 our cities will collectively need about 150 billion dollars annually and our research shows that cities can expect only perhaps 70 billion dollars annually and miscellaneous city revenues and develop perhaps about 30 billion a year from Washington. That leaves an annual deficit of about 50 billion dollars where would the money come from. Readjustment of our national priorities. That's not very much money when you're talking about Vietnam. The money that's being spent in Vietnam would more than make up that deficit secondly you know taking into consideration the natural growth of our growth national product and that there is going to be sufficient funding is Rockefeller and Heller both agreed both a Democrat and Republican that there would be adequate dividends. In just a natural inflationary spiral and growth of the American economy providing we don't take those funds and mis abuse them into other international commitments that we can't maintain the right to military complex. But if we reassess our proper priorities in this country then we can meet the
demands of the here without you know stretching the society and or overburdening it financially. I think everybody on both sides the aisle agrees to that. Where we are at loggerheads are on what constitutes our priorities. And I can't find any Priory higher than the the development and the maturity of the urban centers of this country. They are in fact our civilization as I said. Could we talk about taxes for a moment to talk space about the phrase makes you wince better than 40 percent of Boston's land is nontaxable because of exempt educational religious and medical institutions that's no news to you I know. I wonder how long cities can afford however to keep colleges and hospitals and churches off the tax rolls. They can't. One basic state with it's axiomatic is that no city in America today has sufficient resources to on its own to meet the demands of being thrust upon them and added to this burden is the fact that these tax free institutions what we call charitable institutions where the church or whether
they're academic go whether they're a medical in Boston Better than as you said 40 almost 50 percent of our property is tax free. Now one is that I'm going to submit legislation to put a moratorium on any more property being acquired by a charitable or institution that enjoys tax free status that want to eliminate the problem bad so first step. Secondly I think that if the institutions and particularly of higher education I don't devise ways in which they can help the core city by way of contributions equal to taxes then they're going to have to pay taxes along with everyone else and that's just the realities that are going to be dictated by the reaction of the public who can't take it and won't take it any longer. Across the river in Cambridge Harvard University does just that they make it to Cambridge not to Boston. And this is the problem that all of our subdivisions are united in this problem that the suburbs are tied to the problems of the inner core. I think that's. I used to say that to basically as I said
earlier fluctuates of the four major problems American city has is a lack of adequate resources. Money that is. Secondly the alienation that you and I talked about that exists the archaic structure that of most city governments a soul like a clean structurally that they respond almost without adequate to current day problems because the very structure doesn't give themselves too much red tape duplication efficiency and last is this metropolises ations common response the realization the last analysis that cities are going to have to go beyond their own bonus that there's a mutual obligation and the obligations are reciprocal between the suburb in the core community. That's what I'd like to talk about next in Boston as in most cities a large workforce of commuters use the city during the day and escape from it. The word is escape in so many cases escape from it to suburbia at night. Several plans have been proposed to. Tax these people either through payroll taxes or commuter taxes no. Are these good potential sources of revenue. Yes they are and they can be done and they should be done Those people should pay some part of the
burden for the services that are supplied to them almost eight hours a day sometimes longer by the core city. That's a fair tax and they should accept that share the burden. But not in the negative sense. I've heard too many people just say tax the suburbanites and let it go at that. It goes beyond that it's the realization that the city owes an obligation of the suburbanite the suburbanite in turn owes an obligation of the city that we have common problems transportation is one of them. Pollution is another that we can only solve in a concerted effort both facing up to the problem together not as separate divorced entities from one another without any regard to how the other reacts to the problem. Those days are gone I think metropolises ation is absolutely necessary in facing up to these things in taxes as well as anything else. But Boston too many people in Boston just want to tax a suburbanite almost as a penalty for coming to Boston. I want I want to encourage them to come to Boston I want Boston to be the focal point of culture and of Comus as I said earlier. I want to provide a Center for
Performing Arts. I'd like to provide a stadium for athletics I'd like to provide good facilities in terms of mass transit as distinct from highway transit in the core city. But I want to do these things to bring the suburbanites in as part of the city. Yes I want them to help to defray some of these costs as participants are moving over a wide range of topics in this program. Amir white we should let the audience in on a secret that we interviewed you for another half hour program of just a few minutes ago. We've asked you to be an expert on many things now we're going to ask you to be an expert on transportation and tell us if you will whether it's fair to say that Americans have in part maybe figuratively speaking but in part given up their cities to the mass produced American automobile. Well as somebody said they strapped their dairy at two to three hundred thousand pounds of steel every morning and head from their home to the office. CS How did any of society on the Aborigines could come up with that concept. I think that it was healthy and progress but that's what we've done over a period
of 30 or 40 years. But I think again we're reaching a turning point. And no better example I suppose is that the former governor of the State John Bolton who was the leading advocate of highways and did everything when it came to responding to vehicular traffic. And it took him less than six months awash in a realize that mass transit is the only answer in an urban society and spending five billion dollars on highways and a hundred forty million dollars on mass transit is about the most ludicrous disproportion expenditure of public funds that any society could make considering the problems that it has. The rapid transit of expanding population and mass transit is the only answer. Again I think we're getting a realisation. We are not getting productivity we're not getting the money funded yet but at least we're aware of it and that's before I cry of where we were five years ago. What is Boston doing in this area. Would you ban automobiles from the inner core city has as has been proposed in some cities of some of my opponents in past campaigns come up with very simple answers let's put on rent control its abandoned autos
let's tack the suburbanite that was all that simple and there were never any ramifications to stem for any of those acts. And being male would be very difficult at least it wouldn't be as difficult as it is. You know when you say will be in all autos and where are you going to put the autos and how he's going to bring them in from those point of discharge where they leave the auto to the core city where you want them to work. But the economic vitality of the core city. I have taken a negative step and that is opposed to the construction of new highways. That's the for the tearing up of neighborhoods. The further emphasis on highway construction I've objected to that and I hope that that's a step. But I have to come up with another answer. That is a workable practical a mass transit system and I can only do this with a federal commitment. What do you do when a highway and inner Beltway is run straight through the black community an already tender box community in Boston while I try and work with the community for example we have been in about Boston it goes all the way through both the white and black community. It really goes right through all sex of the city poor white median middle class
white black community and the fluent sections of Back Bay and bordering on Beacon Hill. And I had all the communities in one day in the leadership and I asked them whether they want an elevated or depressed highway they want any highway at all and when I took consensus of another consensus I took each opinion. I've had a roller coaster. Some want it up some want to down some want to no highway at all. I have to work with all of those communities and hope to develop consensus the black community I think has listened at least. And supported my efforts of letting the mayor try and work out a plan for the sation of any further development of highways in the city and a gradual assumption of more mass transit and they're working some degree of patience both black and white both the communities that are affected by this new highway with me and so Father forgive me their confidence. I can't predict what they'll do or how they'll react in the future if I cannot deliver. That's the biggest problem for a mayor as distinct from an early question posed was what's the biggest problem city. I suppose we could end a note a company ending on a
note of what's the biggest problem for a mayor and that is his credibility that every day he is eaten up when his credibility is eaten up because he's telling people to wait he's trying to work with them and suggest solutions to their problems. With the frightening prospects that he will never get to have the weapons necessary to deliver on those promises. Mayor White here at the very end of the program let's talk about a word that perhaps sums up our whole program alienation. So many Americans feel insignificant and lost in an impersonal complex society with a government that is unresponsive to their needs now what have you done here in Boston to bring government to the people of Boston. We've done an awful lot because I said I think it's one of the fundamental questions we've had what we call little city halls which is another way of saying we have decentralised the administration of the city and very simply it is alienation comes to thank the many people are afraid to come into city hall they don't know where to turn that into what services city hall provides. They're apprehensive that fear is
born out of not only a lack of knowledge but a lack of association. So we've moved segments of City Hall right out of this building into the neighborhoods have it staffed by people who live in the neighborhoods. So that builds up a sense of familiarity communications and then I hope performance. And based upon that the city begins to respond to neighborhood problems in the terms in which the neighborhood see them. That's not community control. That is the decentralization of administration. We've opened city hall 24 hours a day. We've tried to make this new building which is probably the most impressive city hall in the country if not the world. A public building in which we will bring the public and have all showed ballets rock music with the Boston Symphony. We try to see the diversity of the city expressed in this building and last but not least in this alienation is my own personal performance and visibility of visiting the neighborhoods and being out there surprising up without the media if possible. I've walked the streets a lot by myself. I do it at night sometimes I drive in a cab by myself alone get
out and walk once I reach a given area for about a half hour. I found this is effective both in terms of of the community and surprising and I've also from my own insulation can breed paralysis and I don't like being insulated them. I hope that by beginning where progressive in the long run in the in the general sense of that word wherever you are in America wherever you live the hotspot in these United States is city hall. Now the audience I think would agree with me that in the past 30 minutes they've heard one of the most articulate occupants of the city hall hotspot in the country. Boston's mayor Kevin White. Northeastern University has brought you Kevin white mayor of Boston. Today's program Kevin White on city's governing the tinderbox the views and opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the program host. Joseph R. Bader Northeastern University for this station. Questions I asked are merely the
- Urban Confrontation
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- Kevin White
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- Northeastern University (Boston, Mass.)
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- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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- Urban Confrontation is an analysis of the continuing crises facing 20th century man in the American city, covering issues such as campus riots, assassinations, the internal disintegration of cities, and the ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation. Produced for the Office of Educational Resources at the Communications Center of the nations largest private university, Northeastern University.
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Producing Organization: Northeastern University (Boston, Mass.)
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 70-5-3 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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- APA: Urban Confrontation; 3; Kevin White. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-k35mf519