01 September 2008

The Candidates on Cities

Now that the Presidential Election is underway what what do we know about the candidates and their views on urban issues? Will the next President eliminate CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) and HUD as has been long promised by the GOP, or will there be a new platform for urban issues in our domestic policies?

Stepping aside from the 24/7 media loop of personality politics I've tried to dig into the presidential candidate's views on "urban issues" or anything reasonably close in context.

So let's start with Barack Obama. The candidate addressed the US Conference of Mayors (speech excerpts here) back in June. The Obama campaign site also has a section on "Urban Policy." Items to note include support of CDBG, a constant target of the current administration, and perhaps catalytic, the idea of creating a White House Office on Urban Policy. The site does speak to the issue of Sustainable Development, though in terms so vague a real estate agent could have produced it. Other areas spoken to include the typical hodgepodge of "urban issues" ranging from education, to job creation, and sadly of course, crime.

Based on the available evidence (i.e. interviews, speeches, everything) John McCain's perspective on cities is liken to that of Ellworth Toohey; "but I don't think of you." The McCain website speaks about the economy, energy, national security, health care, Iraq, climate change, veterans, immigration, education, 2nd amendment, judicial philosophy, technology, fighting crime, natural heritage, agricultural policy, sanctity of life, space program, and ethics reform without using the words "cities" or "urban" once. From this we can only suppose that John McCain could careless (at best) about cities.

So the evidence of true interest in urban issues among the candidates for President is limited. One candidate has some recognition that there is a need for an urban agenda, while the other doesn't even seem to have the word in his vocabulary. No forum or debate has focused on issues of urban importance, but we might also consider empathy and a sort of urban osmosis. That is, Obama actually lives in a city (Chicago), and his running mate, Joe Biden, commutes using rail (Amtrak). On the GOP side we have McCain who owns more real estate than a fast food chain. It would seem that his running mate, a one-time mayor, is a bit confused about her view points on urban infrastructure though. Apparently she was for the Bridge to Nowhere before she was against it. She claims to be solidly against pork barrel now. Sadly, none of this informs us much, except to guess that the GOP ticket has no urban agenda?

For the moment, it seems urban issues are left wanting.

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