A Reading List for the State of the Union

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A Reading List for the State of the Union

In Tuesday’s State of the Union address, President Obama hit upon a number of topics that had urbanists perking up their ears. Many of the ideas he put forth, from manufacturing to the minimum wage, have appeared in Next City’s coverage. Below, we break down the president’s speech and give you some further reading on the issues he spoke about.

The Economy

Obama: “Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing… Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio. A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything.”

Our coverage: Last year Anna Clark brought you a Forefront story about insourcing, including details about that very manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown.

Obama: “We know our economy’s stronger when we reward an honest day’s work with honest wages. But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year. Even with the tax relief we’ve put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong. That’s why, since the last time this Congress raised the minimum wage, 19 states have chosen to bump theirs even higher. Tonight, let’s declare that, in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty — and raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour.”

Our coverage: In November, Jake Blumgart offered up a checklist for local lawmakers to fight economic inequality. Raising the minimum wage topped the list.

Obama: “Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on — by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime.”

Our coverage: San Antonio is piloting a city-sponsored early childhood education program a targeted at 4-year-olds, as Tanveer Ali reported last fall.

Housing

Obama: “And part of our rebuilding effort must also involve our housing sector. The good news is, our housing market is finally healing from the collapse of 2007. Home prices are rising at the fastest pace in six years. Home purchases are up nearly 50 percent. And construction is expanding again.”

Our coverage: Two years ago, Kyle Shiel wrote about the effort to diversify the country’s housing stock in the wake of the economic crisis.

Obama: “I’m also issuing a new goal for America: Let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next 20 years. The states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make it happen.”

Our coverage: We’ve written extensively about the movement to retrofit housing and buildings to make them more energy efficient. A December Forefront story by Chris Bentley examined new financing mechanisms for mass retrofitting.

Sustainability and Climate Change

Obama: “Now, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods, all are now more frequent and more intense. We can choose to believe that superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science and act before it’s too late.”

Our coverage: Harry Moroz wrote about the tricky business of disaster response policy following Sandy last fall. And in November, Mark Alan Hughes put forth some federal and local policies that could make cities more sustainable.

Obama: “Now, four years ago, other countries dominated the clean-energy market and the jobs that came with it. And we’ve begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year. Let’s drive down costs even further. As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we.”

Our coverage: For a look at the wind industry’s triumphs and travails in Pennsylvania, check out this 2009 story by Hamida Kinge.

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