The percentage of Americans who think President Obama's economic program has had a positive impact is steadily rising,
having jumped 12 percentage points between March and April. But 53
percent of voters still think it is too soon to analyze fully. A group
of South ...
The percentage of Americans who think President Obama's economic program has had a positive impact is steadily rising, having jumped 12 percentage points between March and April. But 53 percent of voters still think it is too soon to analyze fully. A group of South siders sit firmly in the latter camp.
On Saturday, a few dozen residents gathered in Roseland to meet with U.S. Sen. Roland Burris and discuss the new commander-in-chief's first 100 days in office. Many agreed that Obama -- who got his start organzing in their neighborhood -- has not focused enough energy on issues affecting American cities:
“Some of us who worked with him from the beginning of his career through the presidency are not satisfied,” said community activist Mark Allen. “Some of these streets are worse than they were when he walked down these streets.’’
Allen noted that Obama’s “urban policy” on his Web site pledges to support programs such as CeaseFire, an anti-gang violence program in the city which hasn’t gotten any federal stimulus money.
“How can you model yourself after CeaseFire if CeaseFire has no money?” Allen asked.
Some urban advocates are equally frustrated at the national level. Despite early fanfare, Obama's newly-established Office of Urban Policy -- headed by former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión Jr. -- has stalled out of the gate. Not only does it operate as part of a complex bureaucracy that masks its influence, but no serious resources have been committed to the department. The Root's Dayo Olopade reports:
But celebrations about the potential triumph of urban policy may be premature. In recent weeks, the Obama administration has begun referring to the office as “urban affairs,” rather than “urban policy,” a small but notable downgrade. And while other offices and Cabinet agencies have been staffing up—the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships has representation in 12 government agencies—100 days in, urban affairs has announced only two senior staffers: Derek Douglas, who was special adviser to New York Gov. David Paterson, and former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, Jr., who faces allegations of mismanaging campaign donations and development projects in New York City.
To be fair, Obama's stimulus bill sent a lot of money into urban centers, including highway construction, transit improvements, school modernization, community development block grants, and social programs like food stamps and Medicaid that serve city residents. But if the administration wants to make good on its campaign promise to "stop seeing cities as the problem and start seeing them as the solution," they need to sort out the problems stunting the development of Carrión's office. Finding someone to serve as urbanism's outspoken advocate and defining exactly what urban policy issues the office should promote would help.
Image used under a Creative Commons license by Flickr user Kyle McDane.