State of the Union Notable for What Wasn't Addressed

In prior State of the Unions, President Obama has put forth bold plans for building high-speed rail, tackling climate change and transitioning to alternative energy sources. Facing an obstinate Congress, he outlined a more modest agenda last night.

Unlike prior State of the Union addresses, President Obama's sixth such speech is unlikely to excite many planners. A good portion of the news coverage was dedicated to what was left out of the address, rather than what made it in.

"President Obama’s discussion of energy and environmental issues in his State of the Union address was notable not just for what he said, but for what he didn’t say," observe Neela Banerjee and Evan Halper in the Los Angeles Times. "The president largely stuck to issues he had discussed before, such as how a good portion of the country’s economic recovery, including the limited revival of manufacturing jobs, stems from the domestic fossil fuel boom, especially in natural gas."

Another centerpiece of speeches past was entirely absent from last night's address, notes Keith Laing in The Hill. "President Obama neglected to mention high-speed rail in his State of the Union address, four years after he used the occasion to call for a new nationwide network of fast trains." 

President Obama's address wasn't without a few nuggets that will interest planners and urbanists, however. In reiterating his support for moving ahead with infrastructure improvements, the President signaled a possible funding source to help fill the gas tax shortfall: closing tax loopholes. "Obama suggested on Tuesday night that lawmakers 'take the money we save with this transition to tax reform to create jobs rebuilding our roads, upgrading our ports, unclogging our commutes — because in today’s global economy, first-class jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure," reports Keith Laing in another piece for The Hill

In Next City, Bill Bradley highlights two proposals and one exhortation that "could measurably benefit cities and the people who live in them": raising the minimum wage for federal contract workers, strengthening the Earned Income Tax Credit, and recognizing the power in American cities.

Full Story: State of the Union: What Obama didn't say about energy, environment


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