Obama's Misplaced Urban Affairs

Did you know the White House Office of Urban Affairs still exists? Neither did we, nor did the many urban leaders who haven't interacted with it in years. Ryan Holeywell examines what happened to the initiative that began with so much promise.
March 30, 2013, 11am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Holeywell looks at the fate of the office, which was initially run by former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión Jr. with the goal of focusing on “wise investments and development in our urban areas that will … make our country more competitive, prosperous and strong.”

“'I don’t believe that it lived up to anybody’s expectations -- the White House’s or anyone else’s it was designed to serve,' says a lobbyist who’s worked with the office in the past. 'I have not worked with them or been able to find a physical name or person in that office in quite some time,' says another. 'It just started slowly dissolving.'”

Bruce Katz, the founding director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, who in a 2009 speech "trumpeted the new office, saying it represented an important commitment from the president to consider cities and metro areas in all the major policy decisions," agrees that it fell short of the ideals the President set forth. “That’s what the office was supposed to do,” he says, “and I think it failed miserably.”

“We never really figured out exactly what the goal was for [the Urban Affairs office], although we were excited to see it,” says a lobbyist. “For whatever reason, it never took off.”

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Published on Friday, March 29, 2013 in Governing
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