Urban Growth from the Bottom Up
Senator Obama made an astute comment last week to the nation’s mayors. He said that "change comes not from the top-down, but from the bottom-up.
The Bush corollary is that bad decisions at the federal level do go from the top on down, with local governments left to clean up the mess.
Two examples of what I mean:
• Military recruiters have developed special marketing techniques that target youth in low-income neighborhoods. Everything from parking decked-out Hummers in front of Bronx high school to recruiting users of internet role-playing war games. The efforts are not simply aggressive, but very often violate Dept. of Education guidelines. (Be sure to read this report from Borough President Stringer and NYCLU.)
Starting last month, Councilmember Mark-Viverito and I began sending letters to high school principals in our respective districts. We want to make sure that students are provided a full menu of academic and professional options, including but not limited to military service. Such a shame that President Bush does not muster up the same energy to sell kids on higher education and volunteer work as he does on war.
• President Bush has failed to address the root causes of Sub-Prime Mortgage Crisis #1. Why is it only #1? Because hedge funds and institutional investors continue to pour money into risky mortgage-backed securities. This time it's not single-family homes, but large swaths of New York City's affordable housing stock.
While we wait for greater regulation of Wall Street's dangerous appetites, state elected officials are banding together. The bills we have crafted, and intend to pass once we re-take the Majority, will strengthen state housing policy and protect renters from the whims of predatory equity. In the meantime, we're also putting pressure on housing agencies to comprehensively enforce existing statutes.
Senator Obama, in his Miami speech, was pragmatic. He acknowledged that federal support to cities would be limited due to the Bush deficit. But at the same time, he promised major infrastructure assistance, as well as a White House Director of Urban Policy.
He appreciates how much American cities need renewable energy, immigration reform, and strong public education, and he understands the local implications of foolish foreign policy. In short, he knows that bottom-up growth depends on getting the elephant (and I do mean the elephant) off your back.
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