Lasting Reform for Urban Policy?
Almost exactly a year after President Obama held a roundtable meeting about urban affairs, the White House hosted a discussion among officials working on sustainability initiatives. The discussion followed a brief update a few weeks ago on the Office of Urban Affairs that described the administration’s progress towards developing an urban agenda with economic competitiveness, environmental sustainability, and social inclusiveness as its goals.
While the Office has been less visible than many had hoped, it is readily apparent that “orientation issues” – can the federal government’s institutional preferences for suburbs and sprawl be reformed? – have been a primary concern of the administration over the last year. While funding for several of Obama’s signature urban programs is in grave danger, the administration’s internal reform efforts could mean lasting change for the relationship of federal spending to cities and to sustainable, livable environments.
Beth Osborne of the Department of Transportation put it best:
There’s a history in the transportation program of recognizing that there’s a problem and addressing it by – instead of fixing the problem – throwing a tiny amount of money towards retrofitting the mistakes of the past while we continue to make the mistakes in the future. I want to assure folks that is not the path we are choosing…