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Town Square

Saturday, March 1, 1997

Groups to Watch

A Study of Civic Renewal

The renewal of "civic engagement" will receive a thorough scholarly look from a new commission chaired by William Bennett and former senator Sam Nunn. The National Commission on Civic Renewal has set out to "to assess the condition of civic engagement in the United States today and to propose specific actions -- to be undertaken by the public, private, and voluntary sectors as well as by individuals -- that could improve this condition." The commission will issue a report later this year with these suggestions after holding several fact-finding sessions with scholars and community leaders.

To accomplish its task, the group plans to "assemble important scholarly and practical work already under way around the country on the revitalization of citizenship and civic life, and inspire new benchmark studies on the current condition of our citizenship and civic life; spark discussion and deliberation across traditional barriers such as party affiliation, ideology, and race; reach consensus on clear, practical, and dramatic recommendations for enhancing the quality of citizenship and civic life; inspire the creation of new institutions and alliances that can carry these efforts forward after the Commission's work is done."

The group's executive director will be William A. Galston, a former policy adviser to President Clinton and the director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at the University of Maryland at College Park, where the commission will be headquartered. Its members include clergymen, university professors, corporate executives, and the leaders of community nonprofits.

* The National Commission on Civic Renewal--tel.: 301-405-2790, fax: 301-314-9346, Web site: http://puaf.umd.edu/civicrenewal.

New Education Reform Group

The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, of Dayton, Ohio, announced last fall that it had appointed Chester E. Finn Jr., an education scholar with the Hudson Institute, to head its initiative to "renew elementary and secondary education" in America. The foundation will pursue the improvement of schools through advocacy of high academic standards with verifiable outcomes, school vouchers, charter schools, content-based core curricula, and public disclosure of schools' performance. The foundation's first project will be a series of research papers that compares and evaluates each state's academic performance standards in particular subject areas. The foundation will also be working to improve education specifically in the Dayton area.

* Thomas B. Fordham Foundation--tel.: 202-223-5452, Web site: http://www.edexcellence.net.

Scholarships a School at a Time

"A Better Choice" (ABC) is the name of a new private scholarship group in Albany, New York, with an usual proposal: ABC is offering school-choice scholarships to every student at Giffen Elementary School, a low-performing school in Albany, to use at a private school of their choice. The fund claims to be the first privately funded scholarship program in the country to offer grants to the entire student body of a school. Students who take the offer will receive 50 percent of the cost of private or parochial school tuition, up to $1,000, for three years or until they leave elementary school. The group also offers three-year scholarships, on a lottery basis, to students at poor schools in Albany, Troy, and Schenectady, New York. The group is the brainchild of philanthropist Virginia Gilder, who would provide more than $1 million if every Giffen student accepted a scholarship.

* ABC is a project of the Empire Foundation for Policy Research--tel.: 518-383-2977.

School Voucher Update

The National Scholarship Center has released Just Doing It 3, its third annual survey of the precollege private scholarship movement. From a single program launched in Indianapolis in 1991, according to the report, the movement had grown to 30 programs across the country by last fall. The funds now give more than 10,000 pupils, mostly from low-income families at poor schools, the chance to attend a private school. Scholarships generally average about $900 per student, totaling about $8.5 million for the 1995-96 school year. The biggest programs are in Milwaukee, where 4,300 students used the grants, and San Antonio and Indianapolis, with about 1,000 each.

All these measures are on the rise, although for the first time, the NSC reports that several groups have folded for lack of money, while other groups have stopped expanding the number of students they serve. The annual report is not exhaustive of all the private scholarship funds, but confines itself to those meeting certain criteria: independent, privately funded scholarships for precollege tuition that offer low-income recipients a broad choice of schools and that require a co-payment from their families.

* National Scholarship Center--tel.: 202-842-1355.

What Works

Attacking Juvenile Crime

According to the Council on Crime in America, crimes committed by boys aged 14 to 17 will increase by 23 percent between 1995 and 2000. If recent trends continue, much of these crimes will be violent. Congressman Bill McCollum of Florida has introduced a bill in Congress to address the problem of juvenile crime. In a recent Heritage paper, James Wootton and Robert O. Heck, however, note that juvenile crime is primarily a state and local responsibility, and suggest three policies to help address the looming crisis. They urge states to try all juveniles who commit heinous crimes as adults and to enact truth-in-sentencing laws to ensure that violent offenders serve at least 85 percent of their sentences.

In addition, the authors propose that states and localities integrate innovative community police work with the efforts of community leaders and other agencies in the criminal-justice system. And they applaud efforts to target and track serious habitual offenders, including juveniles, through SHOCAP, or Serious Habitual Offenders Comprehensive Action Program. SHOCAP combines sophisticated data collection and crime analysis with community police work to identify and track teenage criminals who are habitually violent. The key component is cooperation, among both all local agencies that deal with juveniles offenders-probation and parole offices, juvenile court, social services, schools, prosecutors, and public housing-and also among state and local agencies that collect and analyze data on arrests and incarceration.

* "How State and Local Officials Can Combat Violent Juvenile Crime," State Backgrounder No. 1097, by James Wootton and Robert O. Heck, The Heritage Foundation--tel.: 1-800-544-4843, Web site: http:// www.heritage.org.

Enviro-Capitalists

For the past 25 years, argue economists Terry L. Anderson and Donald R. Leal, U.S. environmental policy has mainly relied on command-and-control regulations. But the "growing acrimony" these regulations have engendered, along with the fact that the most biologically diverse lands are privately owned, suggest that a different approach is needed today. That approach - dubbed "enviro-capitalism" -- hinges on the ability of environmental entrepreneurs to discover new, private-sector opportunities for improving the environment. "At a time when the electorate is looking for alternatives that reduce deficits and decrease command-and-control policies that intervene in people's lives," they write, "environmental entrepreneurs offer a way of reducing the role of government, lowering the drain on the treasury, and producing amenities more efficiently."

Charles Potter, director of the Delta Waterfowl Foundation, a private, nonprofit organization that seeks to reverse the precipitous decline in North America's duck population, is a typical environmental entrepreneur. Despite increasingly stringent hunting regulations, over the past 40 years, North American duck migrations have fallen from more than 100 million to less than half a million. Biologists attribute the decline to the loss of nesting habitat -- "prairie potholes" -- on thousands of private farms in the U.S. and Canada. To rescue these potholes, Potter's Delta Foundation launched an "Adopt a Pothole" program. Through land-leases and production contracts, farmers were paid to protect their potholes and increase duck production. Money for the payments was raised from private contributors, each of whom received quarterly reports on its status.

In the 1980s, Tom Bourland, another enviro-capitalist, became wildlife manager of the 1.2 million acres owned by International Paper, one of the largest timber producers in the United States. Under his direction, the company launched its fee-based, wildlife and recreation program, emphasizing three revenue sources: hunting club leases, daily use permits and seasonal family permits. Because this program proved very lucrative, International Paper "bent over backwards to provide habitat for whitetail deer, wild turkey, fox, squirrel, and bobwhite quail, as well as endangered bald eagles and red-cockade woodpeckers."

The growing recognition that "wildlife means profits" has turned landowners into ardent conservationists. On the 825,000-acre King Ranch in Texas, for example, daily tours, including bird watching and other wildlife viewing, cost $40 per person and last from 4 to 5 hours. A special all-day tour is available for $100 per person.

Even the federal government is getting into the act. In 1996, Congress passed legislation allowing some national park managers to raise entrance and user fees to more realistic levels. In so doing, Congress is following the lead of the Texas state parks, where, for an appropriate fee, visitors can participate in a cattle drive, hike through the Chihuahua Desert wilderness and enjoy special nature tours. Through such strategies, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department hopes to make all its state parks financially self-sustaining.

In the authors' view, the growth of enviro-capitalism vindicates the views of Aldo Leopold, a pioneering conservationist. For many years, Leopold's emphasis on economic incentives, rather than government regulation, made him the American conservation movement's "voice in the wilderness." Today, he is increasingly coming to be seen as the movement's truest prophet.

* Enviro-Capitalists: Doing Good While Doing Well by Terry L. Anderson and Donald R. Leal (Rowman & Littlefield, forthcoming spring 1997).

Cautionary Tales

Philanthropy's Wrong Turn

According to journalist Heather Mac Donald, when they were first founded, the Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Ford foundations provided a "luminous example" of how private philanthropy can improve the lives of millions. But in the 1960s and 1970s, these foundations -- along with many smaller groups that modeled themselves on the three leviathans -- became radicalized, so that they now constitute "a battering ram targeted at American society."

The results have been devastating. "Progressive" foundations are fighting welfare reform by funding Washington-based think tanks like the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, whose director won a MacArthur Foundation "genius" award in 1996. They have helped saddle American institutions with a pervasive racial quota system. In the name of multiculturalism, they have striven to undermine the very idea of a common American culture. They have promoted the rise of a host of "victim" groups who use the courts as a way of short-circuiting the democratic process. And foundation-supported "community activists," arguing that "social change" requires "encouraging local adults to engage youth in frank and open discussions regarding sexuality," have tried to undermine traditional values in communities across the country.

Under former White House national security advisor McGeorge Bundy, the Ford Foundation played an especially pernicious role, funding such endeavors as the 1968 school decentralization experiment in the Ocean-Hill Brownsville section of Brooklyn that fractured the black-Jewish civil rights coalition and soured race relations in New York for years afterward. Ford's radical, anti-capitalist orientation led Henry Ford II to resign from its Board of Directors in 1977.

But smaller foundations have also caused havoc. The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, for example, funded one of the lawsuits that led to the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill, a major cause of homelessness in America today. Currently, it is generously supporting New York's Legal Aid Society's Homeless Family Rights Project, which has been suing the city for over a decade to require immediate housing for families claiming to be homeless.

Simultaneously, however, it is promoting a tight housing market by bankrolling rent-control advocacy groups like the New York State Tenant and Neighborhood Information Services, thanks to which New York is the only city in America to have maintained rent control continuously since the end of World War II.

Mac Donald believes that the major foundations need to rethink their mission. "The mega-foundations should repress their yearning for activism once and for all. The glories of early 20th-century philanthropy were produced by working within accepted notions of social improvement, not against them." Foundations will cease to do harm only when they sever their ties to the counterculture of the 1960s.

* "The Billions of Dollars That Made Things Worse" by Heather Mac Donald, City Journal, Autumn 1996.

Thoughts on Civil Society

Fixing Broken Windows

In 1982, criminologist George L. Kelling and political scientist James Q. Wilson co-authored the now-famous "Broken Windows" article in the Atlantic Monthly. They argued that crime and public disorder were closely connected. "If a window in a building is broken and left unrepaired," they wrote, "all the rest of the windows will soon be broken. . . . One unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares," and once that signal is widely broadcast, law-abiding citizens will avoid areas with broken windows, criminals will move in, and a heretofore orderly neighborhood will quickly deteriorate into a crime-ridden slum.

In this book, Kelling and his co-author, social anthropologist Catherine M. Coles, have made the idea of public order maintenance -- "fixing broken windows" -- the cornerstone of a new, community-based approach to law enforcement. Taking issue with the conventional crime-fighting approach that seeks to apprehend predators after they have committed their crimes, Kelling and Coles advocate a preventive strategy of combating public disorder such as "aggressive panhandling, street prostitution, drunkenness and public drinking, menacing behavior, harassment, obstruction of streets and public spaces, vandalism and graffiti, public urination and defecation, unlicensed vending and peddling, unsolicited window washing of cars ('squeegeeing'), and other such acts."

The "crime-prevention" approach to law enforcement was first adopted on a major scale by William Bratton in 1990, when he was appointed to head the New York Transit Police Department and charged with "taking back the subway for the people of New York." Under Bratton, police were encouraged to uphold public order in the subway system first by warning passengers who refused to obey subway rules, then by arresting them if they continued to misbehave. Police soon discovered that many offenders charged with relatively minor public order violations -- farebeating, for example -- were wanted on serious felony charges, as well. Consequently, the Transit Police's vigorous campaign on behalf of public order caused a major decline in more serious subway crimes.

In 1994, after becoming New York City's police commissioner under Mayor Giuliani, Bratton applied the approach he had pioneered in the subways to the city's streets. Again, the results were dramatic: "A person arrested for urinating in a park, when questioned about other problems, gave police information that resulted in the confiscation of a small cache of weapons; a motorcyclist cited for not wearing a helmet, on closer inspection, was carrying a 9-mm. handgun, had another in his side bag, and had several high-powered weapons in his apartment; a vendor selling hot merchandise, after being questioned, led police to a fence specializing in stolen weapons. These stories made concrete the importance of dealing with minor problems in order to forestall major problems."

Other cities have begun to emulate New York's successful strategy: In Baltimore, local businesses, police, and security firms have collaborated on so-called Business Improvement Districts dedicated to preventing crime through the restoration of public order; in San Francisco, former mayor Frank Jordan initiated an aggressive Operation Matrix that addressed disorder in various neighborhoods; and in Seattle, city officials are awaiting a decision from the Ninth Circuit Court on the legality of their ordinances prohibiting disorderly behavior on sidewalks.

Kelling and Coles are sensitive to the concerns of civil libertarians, who fear that an order-maintenance strategy will deprive the poor and the homeless of their rights. To avoid such an outcome, they believe that the community and the police must enter into a partnership, "fully inclusive of all racial, ethnic, religious and economic groups," to determine standards of public behavior that are acceptable to everyone. By entering into such a pact, they contend, community members will "publicly indicate that they are conferring authority on officials to act on their behalf" to uphold agreed upon standards. Armed with this authority, police will be empowered to restore public order, thereby "fixing broken windows" and preventing urban neighborhoods from becoming crime-ridden slums.

* Fixing Broken Windows: Restoring Order and Reducing Crime in Our Communities by George L. Kelling and Catherine M. Coles (Free Press).

No Place Like Home

The reason public housing has become a "a world ravaged by fear, mistrust and hopelessness" is that all sense of belonging to a community has broken down and social life has returned to a Hobbesian state of nature. This is the conclusion of writers Flagg Taylor and Robert B. Hawkins Jr. in Owning the Dream: Triumph and Hope in the Projects. Compounding the problem, traditional social-service programs have not encouraged public-housing residents to cooperate in rebuilding a viable community. On the contrary, government-run programs have generated a widespread sense of helplessness by creating a dependent class of clients, "who can only consume the services they are given as professionals continually redefine their 'needs.'"

Fortunately, the growing movement toward tenant management of public housing offers an effective alternative to the failed bureaucratic approach. The first resident management association -- Bromley-Heath Tenant Management Corporation in Boston -- was formally incorporated in 1971. Initially, it focused on such relatively simple tasks as "coming together to talk about common goals." Gradually, "trust among residents increased and they began making commitments to one another." Eventually, the Tenant Management Corporation was able to break down the sense of isolation and distrust that prevented Bromley-Heath residents from uniting to defeat the drugdealers and violent criminals who preyed on their community. By hiring and supervising its own security patrol -- many of whose members were development residents -- the corporation "enabled the community to monitor the behavior of its residents and to uphold certain standards of behavior so all residents could enjoy living in a safe neighborhood."

The success of the Bromley Heath experiment in community-building through tenant management encouraged similar efforts in other cities. Eventually, with the help of Robert L. Woodson Sr. of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise and HUD Secretary Jack Kemp, federal money flowed to tenant management groups around the country and programs like HOPE (Home Ownership and Opportunities for People Everywhere) offered incentives for privatizing public housing. As a result, in many tenant-managed projects today, the rates of crime and teenage pregnancy have fallen while employment has risen.

The key to a successful tenant management corporation is a renewed sense of community. Such community-feeling can be fostered, Taylor and Hawkins argue, only if local public housing authorities recognize the right of residents to self-government, and not insist that they remain clients of the established social-service system. Another condition for successful community formation is that the tenant managers have the power to establish standards of behavior, and to screen prospective tenants according to those standards. Democratically elected tenant managers must also have the right to monitor behavior, and impose penalties -- including expulsion from the development -- on those who refuse to abide by the rules.