In a bid to improve coordination between the federal government and cities, counties, and tribes, President Barack Obama signed an executive order Wednesday to create a Council on Community Solutions. The Council, which will include representatives from across the federal government, will aim to streamline how local governments interact with federal resources.
The order builds on a growing trend whose advocates point to innovative solutions coming from the bottom up, not the top down; per that thinking, the federal government needs to learn to respond to local governments, not prescribe “one-size-fits-all” programs for them.
In touting the new order, the White House cited achievements of Obama’s Strong Cities, Strong Communities program, as well as mayors applauding it.
Karen Freeman-Wilson, mayor of Gary, Indiana, is quoted saying, “In addition to putting out fires, we’ve had the luxury of long-term planning with the Feds coming in to work side by side with us each day [through Strong Cities, Strong Communities]. So often as city leaders, we think about how to get money from the federal government. But what I’ve come to understand is that the technical assistance and ability to work across agency lines has been priceless to the City of Gary.”
The council’s membership will include the secretaries of state, defense, treasury, interior, commerce, labor, and agriculture, among others. According to the order, it will focus on evidence-based practices, “including identifying existing solutions, scaling up practices that are working, and designing solutions with regular input of the individuals and communities to be served.”
Jen Kinney is a freelance writer and documentary photographer. Her work has also appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, High Country News online, and the Anchorage Press. She is currently a student of radio production at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies. See her work at jakinney.com.