On March 5, 1972, President Nixon delivered a Special Message to the Congress onSpecial Revenue Sharing for Urban Community Development.
Continuing his vision for domestic affairs, President Nixon formulated policies on the revival of not only America’s urban cores, but of all America’s urban enclaves, including less developed suburban/rural communities. In his Special Message to the Congress on Special Revenue Sharing for Urban Community Development, the President pledged that “this administration would prefer a more balanced growth pattern—and [are] taking a number of steps to encourage more development and settlement in the less densely populated areas of our country. But this does not mean that [the administration] will avoid or slight the challenge of the cities and the suburbs.” Achieving balance was part of the Nixon Administration’s pursuit for pragmatic policy solutions.
President Nixon’s domestic policy was grounded on his “New Federalist” initiative. It was a system of governance devised to reallocate the financial and decision-making power of the Federal government back into the hands of state and local governments. More specifically, from President Nixon’s perspective, “New Federalism” would dismantle the fragmentation instigated by the growth of categorical grant-in-aid programs that so defined urban development policy at the Federal level.
“From 1960 to 1970 the number of categorical grant programs…had multiplied from 44 to more than 500” RN, The Memoirs of Richard Nixon
Urban development and renewal under a Nixonian presidency would operate through revenue sharing, streamlined for local government leaders. It relied on the idea that local government officials inherently have a better understanding of their community’s needs.
Upon taking office, President Nixon confronted an American urban landscape dilapidated and underdeveloped. Nonetheless, American people were migrating to urban centers at a startling rate. Census data in 1970 indicated exponential growth of America’s urban population, reaching almost 70 percent of America’s entire population. Additionally, American cities accounted for three-fourths of the country’s overall population growth. Urban America was brimming in numbers, but previous administrations left its infrastructure without a comprehensive approach or vision.
President Nixon was no stranger to the Federal government’s inefficiencies, and while facing the challenges of urban community development, quickly criticized the federal government’s pattern of piling programs upon programs.
“Just what is it that is wrong with our present system of Federal aid? There are two basic problems. First, Federal assistance is excessively fragmented–it is channeled through many separate and independent grant programs. Second, spending under each of these programs is excessively controlled at the Federal level.” RN, Special Message to the Congress on Special Revenue Sharing for Urban Community Development
Also lambasted was the common urban problem of the 1960s known as “planner’s blight.” The term characterized the interval in between the time a Federal renewal project was announced and the time it was actually put into motion. Because bureaucratic red tape often stalled Federal renewal projects, neighborhoods stagnated as they idled for eventual destruction. At the same time, local officials concentrated on pleasing only Washington to ensure a continued source of revenue. President Nixon called it a game of “grantsmanship, in which the winners are those who understand the rules and intricacies of the Federal bureaucracy rather than those who understand the problem that needs to be solved.”
President Nixon’s New Federalism was proposed as a solution to these issues; providing local control of resources, instead of concentrating power in Washington, which grew further and further removed from the issues that plagued localities.