With 'Promise Zone' Program, Obama Looks to Aid Distressed Neighborhoods

Many have commented that for a President with a strong urban background and constituency, Barack Obama has given scant attention to urban issues. Will a new program announced today change that narrative?
February 15, 2013, 11am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"At a high school near his own neighborhood [in Chicago], President Obama on Friday will provide new details about an initiative to select 20 communities nationwide as laboratories for better coordination of federal, local, nonprofit and private-sector investments to revitalize long-distressed areas, according to administration officials."

One of the President's “ladders of opportunity” initiatives, which are designed to help more Americans reach the middle class, the 'Promise Zone' program would marshal resources from the departments of education, commerce, agriculture, justice and housing and urban development to assist local leaders in turning around areas with "problems like high and persistent unemployment, low rates of high school graduation and college attendance, high crime levels and residents’ health problems," reports Jackie Calmes.

“'The premise behind this is that the federal government has to be a positive actor in all of this effort — but as an actor who’s a partner,' said Cecilia Muñoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. 'This has to be driven locally,' Ms. Muñoz added, with the federal government as 'a catalyst for change.'”

"As an example of how it would work, [administration officials] suggested that federal programs, local agencies and nonprofit organizations and private investors might team up in a zone to redesign a troubled area," explains Calmes. "Decrepit public housing, for instance, might be replaced with mixed developments for low- and moderate-income residents, with plans that involve education opportunities for preschool, after-school and summer instruction to reduce dropout rates; law enforcement grants for anti-crime measures, and job-skills training geared to local employers."

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Published on Friday, February 15, 2013 in The New York Times
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