Overheard in Chicago: Presidential Campaign Surrogates Discussing Cities (Sort of)
On Monday, the Metropolitan Planning Council – a Chicago-based nonprofit – hosted surrogates for both presidential candidates at a luncheon “to hear how each candidate will support transportation, workforce housing and economic development in U.S. regions…” The McCain campaign sent their Illinois campaign chief State Rep. Jim Durkin of Western Springs, an affluent Chicago suburb. The Obama campaign enlisted Henry Cisneros, President Clinton’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development who also happens to be the former four-term mayor of San Antonio.
The event was the McCain campaign’s first substantive engagement with urban issues, though it was not widely reported. Durkin called cities “economic engines”, espousing a positive vision of cities that many mayors use to describe why they think urban areas must be talked about in the current presidential campaign.
But his argument was driven by a simplistic belief in the power of tax cuts – the McCain campaign’s go-to solution for the nation’s challenges:
Durkin pledged McCain would reduce regulations on small business to allow them to flourish and create new positions plus stop the migration of jobs overseas by addressing high taxes on corporations.
In contrast, Cisneros explained Obama’s plan for a White House Office on Urban Policy that would develop a strategy for metro areas and coordinate all federal urban programs. Cisneros also described a $25 billion Jobs and Growth Fund that would replenish the depleted Highway Trust Fund and a National Infrastructure Bank to invest in large-scale infrastructure projects.
Thus far, the McCain camp has still not released a detailed plan for cities. Earlier this year, during an Urban League forum that solicited the candidates’ urban agendas, the Arizona Senator instead focused on school choice and suggested a militaristic surge strategy to confront violence in the nation’s cities. And a January NYU forum on transportation and infrastructure featured only Democratic surrogates- a McCain representative was said to have been thwarted by a scheduling conflict. With the current focus on lipstick, scurrilous sex-education ads, and other flimsy matters, it’s hard to see things changing any time soon.