Investing in Communities Key to Obamanomics

With the Dems convening in Denver, the New York Times Magazine offered us David Leonhardt’s review of ‘Advanced Obamanomics’ on Sunday, August 24. In light of the Obama campaign re-launching his urban agenda today, it is timely to consider economics in a community development context.

For the last several years, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) has chosen a theme for its annual March conference centered on creating a Fair Economy, calling for a market that works for all communities — urban and rural.

So there are many elements of Obama’s Urban Plan that are not only welcomed but are necessary to achieve a fair economy.

I count my years in community development with every passing year of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. Restoring full funding for CDBG is a critical first step for communities of all sizes across this country, allowing local governments and their community partners to prioritize their local needs.

But from my more recent experience with the Local Economic & Employment Development [LEED] Council in promoting business expansion and job growth in Chicago’s North River Industrial Corridor, I especially confirm the merits of the proposed National Infrastructure Bank to finance bridges and public works. Besides the obvious jobs and business opportunities, strategic infrastructure investments can also improve functionality for communities.

Even more important, public infrastructure investments should be enhancing public transit to mitigate traffic congestion and encouraging energy efficiency and alternative energy demonstrations. Sustainable development must be an equal goal of renewed federal investments in communities.

However, there is a bigger picture commitment necessary to realize a fair economy that goes beyond any one new federal funding program. As Robert Kuttner notes in his recent book, The Squandering of America: “Until our political leaders put the safety of the economy ahead of narrow financial interests, we will remain at severe systemic risk.”

My concern in the upcoming presidential campaign is whether this message will be embraced by Obamanomics. In a Monday, August 25 Chicago Tribune column, John McCarron opens by noting “Our neighborhoods are filling up with foreclosed houses — the result of deregulated brokers and bankers gone wild.” I join him in asking Barack and his handlers: ‘Where’s the outrage?’

It’s time for Obama to demand a stop to the squandering of American communities and for a market that invests in them.

Ted Wysocki is CEO of the Institute of Cultural Affairs-USA and founder of U2Cando Consulting. Previously, Ted was CEO of the Local Economic & Employment Development Council, now North Branch Works, and CEO of the Chicago Association of Neighborhood Development Organizations (CANDO). Ted is also a director emeritus of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.


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