The Urban (Policy) President?

We anticipated this, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that an Obama administration will contain a Department of Urban Policy.

According to a Washington Post blog, plans are in the works to establish an urban policy department “in order to better coordinate federal efforts to help America’s cities,” according to Obama transition co-chair Valerie Jarrett.

More from the article:

Despite the many national problems confronting the new administration, she continued, Obama remains committed to earlier pledges to establish such an office. “Because he began as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, he understands at the local level is really where you can impact change and that local government can play a vital role as we try to jump start our economy,” she said. “So having somebody in the White House, because there are so many different agencies that really can impact urban America and to have one person whose job it is to really pull all of that together, is really a critical position. And there are plenty of terrific candidates for that spot.”

In the Fall 2008 issue of Shelterforce that featured “Memos on how to make change” to the next (then as-yet-determined) president, Xavier De Souza Briggs, an associate professor of sociology and urban planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as a reported member of Obama’s HUD transition team, called for the next White House to “move urban policy out of the impasse created by an entrenched, zero-sum contest over aid to address central-city distress.”

Briggs continues:

Urban policies are the rules and incentives that shape the prosperity, equity, and environmental sustainability of the metropolitan regions in which 8 in 10 people live. Urban policy ought to focus on coordination of human and capital resources of the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to address local concerns and problems, response to positive as well as negative spillover effects of individual and collective actions, and investment in the assets — transportation, energy, water, waste, cultural institutions, and other infrastructure — that make places successful. Rural areas likewise need place policies that address these issues — but on their own terms.

MUCH more to come on this issue, and I’m sure the Office of the President-Elect is being flooded with applications as we speak.

Matthew Brian Hersh served as senior editor at Shelterforce from March 2008 to October 2012. He studied English at Rutgers University and has spent his professional career in journalism, policy, and politics.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.