"[M]ore than any of his predecessors since Boston native John F. Kennedy, [Barack Obama] is an urban president. Raised in Honolulu (and Jakarta, Indonesia), he studied in Los Angeles, New York, and Boston and lived in Chicago for nearly 20 years. On the campaign trail last year, he spoke of the importance of thriving cities and metropolitan areas in the national economy; he beat John McCain in urban areas by 28 points, and narrowly edged him out in the surrounding suburbs, as well.
Having an urbanite-in-chief in the White House has already raised the hopes of mayors, policy experts and activists. The administration has proposed putting money back into existing housing and education programs that Bush cut heavily; advocates are also excited about a $10 million proposal to fund grants for community organizations to develop comprehensive plans for child-friendly "Promise Neighborhoods," based on the Harlem Children's Zone in New York. A general focus on alternative energy -- and alternative modes of transportation besides cars -- fits with what most cities have already been trying to do. And an $8 billion initiative to start developing inter-city high-speed rail sounded like a dream come true to urban planners and smart growth advocates, even if it's nowhere near enough money to actually build the system out.
But while the new administration is sending encouraging signals to cities, so far, Obama and his aides haven't done much to overhaul the way the federal government deals with cities and metropolitan areas...And the new White House Office of Urban Affairs, which Obama established in February, has been practically invisible since the fanfare of its launch."