Children, Jobs, the Economy, and Infrastructure.
Back in July, Barack Obama began laying out his urban agenda, which saw the eradication of inner city poverty as key to the success of cities. “What’s most overwhelming about urban poverty is that it’s so difficult to escape – it’s isolating and it’s everywhere,” he said as he released his plans reinvest in disadvantaged neighborhoods and make urban America a priority.
In order to help children and families, provide job training and business support, and improve transportation and housing, the candidate’s proposal would increase funds and reorganize the disparate programs of various federal agencies for more effectiveness. He would also mandate a “living wage“ and increase the Earned Income Tax Credit.
To accomplish all this, Obama would create a “White House Office of Urban Policy,” and its director would report directly to the president. And much of his proposal would revolve around partnerships with local governments and non profits. But his $6 billion program depends on leaving Iraq. “Before we can start that work,” he said, “we need to end this war in Iraq. We are spending $275 million a day in Iraq. Those dollars could go a long way to ending poverty in this country.” To do so, he has introduced a bill to redeploy troops in Iraq by March 31st of next year.
The first plank of this proposal focuses on children. “No child’s destiny should be determined before he takes his first step. No little girl’s future should be confined to the neighborhood she was born into,” the Democratic candidate declared.
Obama would bring together local stakeholders in 20 cities nationwide to develop comprehensive community support programs modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone. The programs would offer new-parent counseling, child care and after school programs, job training, and financial counseling, among other things. His administration would fund half of these programs, but would also pay for trained registered nurses to visit low-income pregnant mothers so as to provide counseling. This program is modeled after the Nurse-Family Partnership.
Next, his plan emphasizes job training and placement. He would invest $1 billion over five years to place hard-to-employ urbanites in subsidized temporary jobs so they may gain experience. The program would also provide mentoring.
Obama’s following step would be to assist private businesses by providing increased access to venture capital, simplifying federal regulation so that it is easier to interpret by small business owners, and creating business incubators to help start ups get off the ground.
Finally, the Illinois senator would reinvest in transportation and housing infrastructure.
On transportation, he would double the Jobs Access and Reverse Commute program, and direct those funds to the highest-need communities. “No one should be denied work in this country because they can’t find public transportation in their neighborhood,” he reasoned. In 2006, the program was authorized to distribute about $725 million over three years.
With housing, he would create an affordable housing trust fund to build and preserve affordable housing. Obama would also fully fund the Community Development Block Grant program, which provides flexible funding for local initiatives and has been cut in recent years.
He also committed to bringing broadband into “every home and business in urban America at an affordable rate.”
In a related proposal, he said he would create a “5-E Youth Service Corps,” which “would directly engage disconnected and disadvantaged young people in energy efficiency and environmental service opportunities to strengthen their communities while also providing them with practical skills and experience in important and growing career field.”