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Bush Taps Kearns To Head Task Force Surveying L.A. Damage

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WASHINGTON--President Bush last week named Deputy Secretary of Education David T. Kearns to head the task force that is formulating the Administration's response to the Los Angeles riot.

Mr. Bush told reporters he would outline both short-term initiatives and long-term proposals to help urban areas after visiting Los Angeles late last week.

Mr. Bush is expected to propose so-called "empowerment'' strategies--such as school choice and the transfer of public housing to tenant control and ownership--modeled at least in part on proposals long championed by Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Jack Kemp.

Regardless of its final form, the President is unlikely to seek large increases in federal aid to finance his package. On May 4, the President's spokesman, Marlin Fitzwater, blamed Great Society social programs for the violence in Los Angeles, remarks the President himself echoed before leaving for California on May 6.

Congressional Democrats expressed outrage at the comments. Lawmakers from both parties, meanwhile, suggested putting aside partisanship to enact legislation that responds to urban problems, including those of city schools. Sharp partisan differences were evident, however, in their ideas for such legislation.

Administration officials said Mr. Kearns, a former chief executive officer of the Xerox Corporation, was selected for his management skills. Etta Fielek, an Education Department spokesman, said he met with state and local officials in Los Angeles, including the city's schools superintendent, William R. Anton, and coordinated the task force.

"The goal is to make it as easy as possible for different government entities to get the help they need from the federal government,'' Ms. Fielek said.

She said that help is likely to be funneled through existing programs and may or may not include school aid.

In remarks that drew considerable media attention, Mr. Fitzwater said last week that "the social welfare programs of the 60's and 70's ignored'' the need to give people an economic "stake in the community,'' and "we're now paying the price.''

Reporters asked Mr. Bush about the remarks, and noted that he had said that the Great Society programs of President Lyndon B. Johnson had worsened racial animosity.

"If I said a year ago that these programs weren't working, perhaps I have been vindicated,'' Mr. Bush said.

He said that "assigning blame'' is unproductive.

"The point is to try to take this as an opportunity and bring the country together and then move it forward,'' Mr. Bush said.

When pressed to name Administration efforts to deal with urban issues, both the President and Mr. Fitzwater cited enterprise zones and proposals to give public-housing tenants ownership of their homes, ideas of Secretary Kemp's that the White House has not promoted vigorously. Mr. Fitzwater also mentioned the Administration's America 2000 education strategy and its support for the Head Start preschool program, which was created during the Great Society.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the Labor and Human Resources Committee, called for $5 billion in emergency expenditures, including $1.5 billion for summer programs for children eligible for Head Start and Chapter 1, and $700 million for summer jobs for youths.

Republicans offered proposals including enterprise zones, regulatory and tax breaks, and educational choice including private schools, a cornerstone of the Bush education plan that the Congress has rejected.

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