Just off the AP Wire: White House starts urban policy outreach.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama said Monday that federal policy has encouraged urban sprawl, has hurt city residents and damaged the environment.
Pledging a top-to-bottom review of how the United States deals with cities and metropolitan areas, Obama invited political leaders and policy experts to the White House to solicit their ideas for a national urban policy. Citing the connection between education and employment figures, transportation and pollution, White House officials said their next budget proposal would address how to remedy long-festering policy questions about the pace of urban growth.
More at the link.It's been noted that Obama was the first Presidential candidate in some time to actually mention urban policy as an agenda item. In fact he has appointed an urban policy czar, the former Bronx borough president Adolfo Carrion.
However, inside-the-Beltway observers like Politico have questioned whether urban policy is on the back burner, and if Carrion is the man for that job:
Urban policy watchers said that some sort of broad policy mandate is necessary, and soon, so that the office doesn’t lose credibility and momentum. A report released last month by the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy called "No Economic Recovery Without Cities: The Urgency of a New Federal Urban Policy" said that the White House must act soon to empower the office to have a more active role in making sure stimulus money is spent wisely in the cities.
Perhaps Obama's remarks today is a response to critques like this, and a signal that he is still serious about urban affairs, or at least in trying to move the discussion forward.
Those gathered Monday will consider local initiatives that could become best practices to emulate, with the goals of increasing the competitiveness, sustainable development and opportunity of metropolitan regions.
The conference is to present an interdisciplinary approach to urban issues and include the heads of the Departments of Labor, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Small Business Administration.
Carrión said discussion will include initiatives like Choice Neighborhoods, a new HUD program that provides poor neighborhoods not only with housing, but also social and economic benefits, like day care and farmers' markets; and Promise Neighborhoods, a Department of Education program modeled after the Harlem Children's Zone, to improve academic achievement and life skills by offering after school and weekend sports, social and arts activities.This could be a return to a New Frontier/Great Society era of urban policy innovation.