Senator Obama to U.S. Mayors: Cities “the new metropolitan reality”
Senator Obama about two hours ago finished speaking to the U.S. Conference of Mayors. While he borrowed about a third of his speech from his June 16 “Renewing American Competitiveness” speech – a talk that called for a commitment to 21st Century infrastructure, investment in green energy, and a renewed investment in mass transit – Obama added language popular with the Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program to talk about a need to commit to metro area and regional economic growth.
Obama opened with a reference to his time as a community developer in Chicago and he joked (I paraphrase):
“You know if I’m president I’m going to talk about cities. If I don’t, you know you can just talk to [Chicago] Mayor Daley who will make sure that the pot holes in front of my house don’t get filled.”
Senator Obama used Senator McCain’s absence from the meeting to draw distinctions between what he called his willingness to partner with cities and Senator McCain’s “other” priorities. He attacked Senator McCain’s criticism of the COPS program and Community Development Block Grant funding, both of which are major priorities for mayors. Later, he cited Senator McCain’s opposition to funding for the Highway Trust Fund (which is quickly being depleted of funds) and took a shot at Senator McCain’s opposition to funding for levies. Both he and Senator McCain were appalled by the devastation from floods in the Midwest, Senator Obama assured us, but McCain would could not truly understand the devastation because of his opposition to such funding.
Obama’s final shot took aim at Senator McCain’s tiresome talk about pork barrel spending. There is a difference, Obama suggested, between pork barrel spending and national priorities.
Obama called for a new vision of cities, one that recognizes the growth of both cities and metro areas (here he cited statistics generated by Brookings and later mentioned the head of the think tank’s Metropolitan Policy Program, Bruce Katz, by name). Strong cities, Senator Obama suggested, are the backbone of regional growth and regional growth the source of national prosperity.
After this call for a new vision of cities, Senator Obama renewed his commitment to fight poverty, “insisting” that his White House would tackle concentrated poverty if he is elected and promising to “fight to overturn” President Bush’s threatened veto of housing legislation currently in the Senate.
Finally, the Illinois Senator returned to the vision of cities he set out at the beginning of the speech: “we must stop seeing cities as problems and start seeing them as the solution.” Indeed, Obama called this the “new metropolitan reality”.