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Clinton seeks to unclog 911 emergency system

Reaching out to women voters on the issue of domestic violence, President Clinton said his administration will work with police to unclog the 911 emergency telephone system.

Clinton said Tuesday that a new number is needed for non-emergency situations, such as when a car alarm goes off or people see suspicious activity.

"We cannot do what we need to do on the issue of domestic violence unless we do something about the stunning fact that the 911 emergency number system today is completely overburdened," he said at a center for abused women in Sacramento.

With the federal government strapped for cash, Clinton has focused recently on modest, no-cost initiatives that are likely to be popular with voters. On this three-day campaign trip, for instance, he has promoted school uniforms, truancy laws, curfews and the idea that states create a "Wanted" list on the Internet and in post offices of parents who refuse to pay child support.

White House press secretary Mike McCurry rejected the notion that Clinton was trying to impress voters with small-potato proposals. For most Americans, addressing the problem of the overburdened 911 system "means more to them, frankly, than the so-called big, large debates where nothing ever changes," such as balancing the budget, McCurry said.

The campaign for Republican rival Bob Dole dismissed Clinton's initiatives as "election-year gimmicks."

Clinton directed Attorney General Janet Reno to work with the Federal Communications Commission, police leaders and the telecommunications industry to come up with a 911 alternative.

In Los Angeles alone, 325,000 calls to 911 were abandoned last year before the operator could respond, the president said. "Who knows how many of them involved life-threatening emergencies?"