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Barack Obama’s Urban Policy

The White House has a new and improved web page.  It looks nice and has many features. What I looked for first was information about President Obama’s urban policy. The President is establishing an office of urban affairs. Here is the urban policy section of the new White House web home.

(Above–The Third Ward in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.)

If the director of this new office of urban affairs has been selected, I can’t find evidence of it by a Google. search. I don’t think this appointment has been made yet.

What are some of the ideas that Mr. Obama is suggesting as our new urban policy? (This is not to suggest that former President Bush had any urban policy that is now being replaced.) 

Below, lifted from the White House, is a pretty basic idea to help folks. Increase people’s wages. Maybe with Democratic majorities in both Houses of Congress this won’t be such a fight to enact anymore. And it would help people in rural and suburban America as well.

Increase the Minimum Wage: President Obama will raise the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2011 and index it to inflation so full-time workers can earn a living wage that allows them to raise their families and pay for basic needs such as food, transportation, and housing — things so many people take for granted.

Here is another fine idea from Mr. Obama —

Cap Outlandish Interest Rates on Payday Loans and Improve Disclosure: In the wake of reports that some service members were paying 800 percent interest on payday loans, the U.S. Congress took bipartisan action to limit interest rates charged to service members to 36 percent. President Obama and Vice President Biden believe that we must extend this protection to all Americans, because predatory lending continues to be a major problem for low and middle income families alike.

This next one would be fought against most forcefully here in Houston. We don’t even have zoning let alone having the federal government checking how we use and develop our land. 

Foster Healthy Communities: How a community is designed — including the layout of its roads, buildings and parks — has a huge impact on the health of its residents. For instance, nearly one-third of Americans live in neighborhoods without sidewalks and less than half of our country’s children have a playground within walking distance of their homes. President Obama introduced the Healthy Places Act to help local governments assess the health impact of new policies and projects, like highways or shopping centers.

With this next one, long-term, as is mentioned below, is very much what is required. It seems to me that many folks are simply not trained for very much that is going to help them earn a decent living. I wonder how many competent people are out there to do the training.

Enhance Workforce Training: Obama and Biden will make long-term investments in education, language training, and workforce development so that Americans can leverage our strengths — our ingenuity and entrepreneurialism — to create new high-wage jobs and prosper in a global economy. A critical part of this process is ensuring that we reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and ensure that it strengthens federal investments needed for success in the 21st Century.

Two days before Bill Clinton was elected, I shook his hand in Cincinnati. I said to him—” Please don’t forget the cities.” He looked me right in the eye and gave me a heartfelt nod. Yet eight years later, I was not sure at all that America’s cities were better places to live.

I’m looking forward to the selection of a director for this new office and for swift action on an urban agenda from the new President. This is a subject I will follow as Mr. Obama moves ahead. I encourage you  to do the same.

January 21, 2009 Posted by | Barack Obama, Politics | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Obama Urban Policy Effort

President-elect Barack Obama has created an office of urban policy. His transition web home has details on his urban policies

This is good news. America’s cities get worse and worse and little is said or done.

Here in Houston, where I’ve lived for ten years, and in Cincinnati, where I was once involved in local politics, county Democratic parties have long seen minority voters as people to be used on Election Day.

In the most recent election, the Harris County Democratic Party saw robocalls with Hillary Clinton asking Hispanics to turn out and vote as a GOTV effort worth discussing. There was no real focus on issues that would make a difference in people’s lives.

This new attention to urban issues from the Obama team will hopefully be a sincere effort. I guess I’ll believe it when I see it. 

What would also be of benefit to urban voters would be an Obama administration that asks as little as possible from existing minority political power structures in big cities.

For years, what we have often seen in the U.S. Congress, state legislatures, and city halls, are minority officeholders who sit in safe and often uncontested districts, don’t train a next generation of minority political leaders, and who offer an overall acquiescence to the poor conditions we often see in America’s cities.

I’m all for a President Obama who uses his muscle and support with black voters to help change American cities for the better. I hope this success will be matched by outreach to Hispanic voters and an ongoing connection to urban voters of all stripes. 

Change in our American cities is change we need.

November 12, 2008 Posted by | Houston, Politics, Texas | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment