Project 21 News

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Date of Issue: February 24, 1996
General Information Contact: Project 21 Director

House Leadership Backs Reforms Expected To Sweep Away Welfare State With A Plan of Hope and Opportunity

House Speaker Gingrich Expected to Attend Press Conference Fulfilling Terms of Project 21's "Contract With Black America" on Tuesday, February 27 at 11 AM

Citing a declining public education system, a deteriorating family structure, and an escalating crime rate, especially in low-income neighborhoods, the House Republican Task Force on Empowerment and Race Relations (cochaired by Reps. Jim Talent and J.C. Watts) has called a press conference in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, January 27 at 11 AM in 2118 Rayburn House Office Building. Calling it "The Community Renewal Project," the Task Force will discuss forthcoming legislation that will seek to revitalize the nation's low-income communities. House Speaker Newt Gingrich is expected to attend to announce his support for the ideas contained within the legislation, which will be introduced in the House in early spring. Floor votes are expected in the late spring.

Rather than impose an agenda on people living in low-income communities, the Task Force says its agenda comes from meeting with people in local communities to find out what should be done. The Task Force has outlined the following premises as indispensable to community renewal:

The federal government's role should be to remove tax and regulatory obstacles, and give neighborhood groups and individuals the power to revitalize their communities. "I applaud anything Congress can do to provide relief for the overregulated, overtaxed inner cities," says Project 21 Chairman Edmund Peterson. "This groundbreaking economic freedom is hopefully just the beginning of Congress's attempts to get the government to release its stranglehold on the economic life of the black community. The consequences of big government 'compassion' are exasperating. The out-of-wedlock birthrate nationally has risen from 6% in 1965 to 32% today. 70% of juveniles in state reformatories, 60% of rapists and 72% of adolescent murderers grew up in homes without fathers. Since 1960, public education expenditures have tripled with little positive effect on our children. Twenty of the nation's largest metropolitan areas had at least 3/4 of their employment growth outside of urban centers. The Task Force on Empowerment and Race Relations clearly seems interested in stepping out of the failed policies of the past into a future of hope and opportunity."

"The Community Renewal Act represents a watershed in terms of how we as a nation intend to improve the economic, social and moral condition of America's most distressed communities," states Project 21 member Brian Jones, President of the Center for New Black Leadership. "Rather than resting our faith as a compassionate nation in a centralized, federal bureaucracy removed from the hopes and needs of low-income people, House Republicans have instead placed our civic faith in real, ordinary Americans. The Act recognizes and confronts the reality that every American community is filled with decent, upstanding people, who yearn to live better lives for themselves, their families and their neighbors -- free from the moral and regulatory obstacles that our federal bureaucracy has too often placed in their paths."

The legislation proposed by the Task Force will be comprehensive. Congress will establish up to 100 "renewal communities" to encourage entrepreneurship by exempting many of the people living within those zones. There will also be proposals granting low-income "scholarships" to needy students, encouraging savings, and reforming housing policies. In addition, neighborhood groups will be invited to play a greater role in restoring their communities.

Project 21 is the African-American leadership group that originally called for the formation of the Task Force and empowerment legislation of this type in its "Contract with Black America" proposed to the Congress in January 1995 and formally accepted by Speaker Newt Gingrich and Majority Leader Dick Armey in February 1995.

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