Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Obama's Office of Urban Policy Still Empty Concept

Last summer at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Barack Obama promised that as President he would create an Office of Urban Policy.  As President Elect, he indicated that he intends to keep that promise through a surrogate's speech recently made to an organization of black columnists.

Obama started using surrogates on urban policy in August, which was read by some as an attempt to distance and give him deniability for the sake of getting elected.  At the time I wondered whether distancing and deniability would also serve a President Obama in leveraging support from a regressive Congress, because governing can be seen as campaigning by other means. Even in his appearance before the Mayor's conference, Obama's urban policy speech was characterized with relatively conservative initiatives like community development block grant funding (created by Republicans to replace Great Society programs) and Community Oriented Policing Services (created by the Clinton administration).

While Obama seems to be moving ahead with his plans for an urban policy office, we have yet to see whether the initiatives that come out of the office are bold and different from past initiatives intended to replace progressive policies. Any ideas worthy of the name "change" will have to go beyond block grants and COPS in order to prime America's urban engine.  The Bush Administration has set the bar pretty low, so we would be unwise to assume that any progress (like fully funding block grants) is anything more than a starting point.

Right now the promise of a federal Office of Urban Policy is a blank slate, which is apropos, given that President Elect's web page on urban policy (which was replete with text last week, including a reference to Nashville's music industry) has been wiped clean in the last couple of days.

HT:  Freddie O

No comments:

Post a Comment