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The Urban President

Reviews of Monday's remarks by the president on his plans for urban America have been mixed.  Some have praised simply the attention he gave to the subject while other have criticized the apparent lack of muscular policy response on behalf of cities.

I read it this way.  It is still hard to break urban policy out of the mindset that it's mostly about poverty and housing. 

There are at least two big pieces of good news: 

The president has promised to review federal policies impacting urban areas.  He has directed the Office of Management and Budget, the Domestic Policy Council, the National Economic Council, and the Office of Urban Affairs to review the impact of infrastructure, transportation, housing, energy, sustainable development and education.  This takes a very broad view of urban policy and recognizes that almost everything the federal government does affects cities because that's where people live.  It also implicitly acknowledges that it makes no sense for federal policy to undermine cities.  That is very good news indeed because for 50 years, too much federal policy has been moving in the other direction.

The other piece of good news is that transportation is now being viewed through a different…


Obama and Urban Policy

"Obama is less interested in rejuvenating urban policy than he is in reshaping its very dimensions."  Check out this article by Alan Greenblatt in this month's issue of GOVERNING for more on the Administration's view on cities.


Audio of Call with White House’s Strautmanis Available

To kick off its Strategy Session 2009 in San Diego, CEOs for Cities spoke via teleconference with Mike Strautmanis, a key aide in the Obama White House who was traveling with the President during his west coast tour last week.  Mike talked about what cities can expect in the first year of an Obama administration. Our conversation with Mike can be accessed through our website. CEOs for Cities partners who would like to hear the audio can email Sheila Redick for the link at


The President on the Talent Dividend

Excerpts from President Obama's speech to Congress last night related to the Talent Dividend:

"The third challenge we must address is the urgent need to expand the promise of education in America.  
In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity – it is a pre-requisite.  

"Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma.  And yet, just over half of our citizens have that level of education.  We have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation.  And half of the students who begin college never finish.

"This is a prescription for economic decline, because we know the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow.  That is why it will be the goal of this administration to ensure that every child has access to a complete and competitive education – from the day they are born to the day they begin a career.

"Already, we have made an historic investment in education through the economic recovery plan.  We have dramatically expanded early childhood education and…


Transcript of Obama Speech to Mayors

Find it here in The Washington Post.  It's a speech worth reading.  There is far more here than the sound bite running in the cable news loop



We Actually Have an Urban Policy Czar?

ABC News is reporting that Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion is being named as Director of the White House Office on Urban Policy.  The New York Daily News reported yesterday that he was being named and will report directly to the President.


Thank You, Mr. President

This just in from the Midwest High Speed Rail Association...

"The Senate approved the stimulus package today.  The conference committee hopes to have a finished bill on the President's desk by Monday.

"But that isn't why this action alert is so important.  Earlier today, President Obama listed high-speed rail and transit as a high priority at a town hall meeting in Fort Meyers, FL.  This is really exciting.  It is the first time that a President has been so favorable to expanding transit.

"Any major shifts in transportation policy are going to be driven by the President's energy policies.  He made the connection between transportation and energy at Fort Myers today. We need to reinforce that connection by getting as many thank you messages to the President as possible.

"Please click here to send the thank you."

This is not surprising, since I heard the President say the same thing many months ago in a small group gathering.  It's nice, though, to hear him make it part of his sales pitch for the stimulus package.


A President Who Can Dance

Yes, he knows cities.  Yes, he rode the "L."  Yes, he knows a part of America that few presidents have ever seen without a bevy of reporters along for the photo opp. 

But let's talk about the important stuff.  The man can dance.  He is my kind of guy.


How Obama Won the Election

Hint:  It wasn't rural America.  Check Nate Silver's chart in Esquire.


Stimulus Proposal Released

The House Appropriations Committee has released information on the proposed economic stimulus package that has the following as its focus:

  • Clean, Efficient, American Energy
  • Transforming our Economy with Science and Technology
  • Modernizing Roads, Bridges, Transit and Waterways
  • Education for the 21st Century
  • Tax Cuts to Make Work Pay and Create Jobs
  • Lowering Healthcare Costs
  • Helping Workers Hurt by the Economy
  • Saving Public Sector Jobs and Protect Vital Services

As suspected, the pool of money for infrastructure is smaller than first anticipated, and much of that is being spent on construction of NEW highways.  Transit, however, is being funded at $10 billion (compared to $30 billion for highways).  Read the full summary here.

And if you really want to drill down on the details, click the links below:

Bill Report (76 pages)
Bill Text (258 pages)