“Now, the first thing we need to recognize is that this is not just a time of challenge for America’s cities; it’s also a time of great change. Even as we’ve seen many of our central cities continuing to grow in recent years, we’ve seen their suburbs and exurbs grow roughly twice as fast — that spreads homes and jobs and businesses to a broader geographic area. And this transformation is creating new pressures and problems”.
“So what’s needed now is a new, imaginative, bold vision tailored to this reality that brings opportunity to every corner of our growing metropolitan areas” (Obama)
The White House Office of Urban Affairs and the Domestic Policy Council hosted a day-long discussion about the future of America’s urban and metropolitan areas. Participants included policy experts from across the country, several cabinet members, and elected officials. Discussions covered the evolution of metropolitan areas, best practices in urban communities, and how the federal government can be a more effective partner in these communities.
After the roundtable discussions, the President spoke on some of the challenges facing urban communities today. The President is personally familiar with these challenges after spending much of his life in urban areas, saying he received his greatest education working in Chicago’s South Side. These challenges are only exacerbated by the recession, which is why the administration has been committed to making sure our cities not only rebound, but also prosper in the future:
But what’s also clear is we’re going to need to do more than just help our cities weather the current economic storm. We’ve got to figure out ways to rebuild them on a newer, firmer, stronger foundation for our future. And that requires new strategies for our cities and metropolitan areas that focus on advancing opportunity through competitive, sustainable, and inclusive growth. And that’s why all of you are here today. And I know that there were a lot of ideas that were shared throughout the morning and afternoon.
Now, the first thing we need to recognize is that this is not just a time of challenge for America’s cities; it’s also a time of great change. Even as we’ve seen many of our central cities continuing to grow in recent years, we’ve seen their suburbs and exurbs grow roughly twice as fast — that spreads homes and jobs and businesses to a broader geographic area. And this transformation is creating new pressures and problems, of course, but it’s also opening up new opportunities, because it’s not just our cities that are hotbeds of innovation anymore, it’s our growing metropolitan areas.
The President outlined some of his administration’s proposals:
And we’re also going to take a hard look at how Washington helps or hinders our cities and metro areas — from infrastructure to transportation; from housing to energy; from sustainable development to education. And we’re going to make sure federal policies aren’t hostile to good ideas or best practices on the local levels. We’re going to put an end to throwing money at what doesn’t work — and we’re going to start investing in what does work and make sure that we’re encouraging that.
Now, we began to do just that with my budget proposal, which included two investments in innovative and proven strategies. I just want to mention these briefly. The first, Promise Neighborhoods, is modeled on Geoffrey Canada’s successful Harlem Children’s Zone. It’s an all-encompassing, all-hands-on-deck effort that’s turning around the lives of New York City’s children, block by block. And what we want to do is to make grants available for communities in other cities to jumpstart their own neighborhood-level interventions that change the odds for our kids.
The second proposal we call Choice Neighborhoods — focuses on new ideas for housing in our cities by recognizing that different communities need different solutions. So instead of isolated and monolithic public housing projects that too often trap residents in a cycle of poverty and isolate them further, we want to invest in proven strategies that actually transform communities and enhance opportunity for residents and businesses alike.
The President highlighted the policies of Denver, Philadelphia and Kansas City for their innovative solutions to urban challenges. With these fresh ideas and successful solutions, and the help of the federal government, we can reinvent our urban and metropolitan areas for the 21st century.