The White House In Your City
In anticipation of President Obama’s visit there on Thursday, Buffalo’s Common Council (its City Council) adopted an interesting resolution. The measure asks the President
to consider the creation of local offices for the White House Office of Urban Affairs, with a pilot office to be established in the City of Buffalo…The Council maintains that, during these difficult economic times, it is essential for the Office of Urban Affairs to establish a federal presence locally and pursue an aggressive approach to solving problems in struggling urban areas like the City of Buffalo.
We recommended the creation of such regional offices last year, advising their use during implementation of the stimulus package:
The Office of Urban Affairs should immediately begin to coordinate the federal government’s communication with officials at the city and metro level where most of these [stimulus] public works projects are being and will be undertaken. In the short term, such coordination would greatly improve how stimulus funds are spent…Ensuring that taxpayers get their money’s worth from the stimulus package and from other programs requires federal officials on the ground watching spending as it happens and comparing notes. It requires a regional office that doesn’t oversee public works, but assists with the plans for and the construction of them, thus making Washington a significant stakeholder in the success of individual projects.
Local offices of the Office of Urban Affairs would be able to communicate parochial needs efficiently to the White House. But they would also be outposts for the administration to learn about valuable local initiatives and to participate actively in local accomplishments, facilitating them with funds where possible, removing federal barriers where necessary, and providing support from the bully pulpit where political and fiscal limitations intervene.
This would be an additional step towards the culture of collaboration within government that the White House is seeking to create.