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Civil unrest over the city's condition ignites Detroit in 1967, resulting in 43 deaths, 7,000 arrests and $50 million in damage.

Obama Unveils Urban Policy

POSTED: July 14, 2009, 12:00 am

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Conditions in the nation’s cities have weighed heavily upon many Blacks who still reside in urban communities, and for Black political leadership that is confronted daily with the effects of the current recession. While President Obama spoke toward the issues of urban America on the campaign trail last year, there has been little evidence to date of his intent in address long festering issues such as chronic unemployment, the loss of affordable housing, public education and the health effects of poverty. Despite appointing former Bronx (New York) Borough President Adolpho Carrion as his urban czar, the President before yesterday had said little of his plan for America’s cities.

Seeking to allay the concerns raised by such groups as the National Conference of Black Mayors and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, as well as Black and Latino members of Congress who represent urban districts, the White House Office of Urban Affairs and the Domestic Policy Council held a daylong discussion on the future of urban and metropolitan areas. After the roundtable discussion, President Obama spoke of the future of the nation’s cities. According to a statement from the White House, the President noted, “We've got to figure out ways to rebuild them on a newer, firmer, stronger foundation for our future. And that requires new strategies for our cities and metropolitan areas that focus on advancing opportunity through competitive, sustainable, and inclusive growth,” as he addressed participants after the roundtable discussion.

President Obama cited two programs in particular that are part of his larger package of proposals targeting cities. The first is his Promise Neighborhoods initiative that is modeled after the highly regarded Harlem’s Children Zone, a comprehensive program aimed at children that is led by Geoffrey Canada in New York City. Mr. Obama indicated he wants to replicate the program in other cities. The other initiative, Choice Neighborhoods, focuses on new ideas for housing and investments in strategies that have already been proven effective at transforming communities.

The White House roundtable occurred on the same day a New York Times story focused on the explosion of Black male unemployment in the nation’s cities, particularly citing the spike in joblessness in New York City. For months now as economic conditions have deteriorated, unemployment has taken its toll on Blacks, with men being hit the hardest. In addition, Black youth are also faring poorly as those who need full-time employment being pushed to the end of the line and summer youth employment programs strained to meet demand. Frustrating communities on the ground is the sense that much touted federal stimulus dollars are not reaching those most in need of help and jobs that were anticipated from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 have not materialized.

As the President rolled out his urban initiatives, the Council of Economic Advisers was releasing a report, “Jobs of the Future,” that outlines changes in the U.S. labor market over the next few years. The White House released a snippet of the report that provides an overall assessment of the labor market:

“Well-trained and highly-skilled workers will be best positioned to secure high-wage jobs, thereby fueling American prosperity. Occupations requiring higher educational attainment are projected to grow much faster than those with lower education requirements, with the fastest growth among occupations that require an associate’s degree or a post-secondary vocational award. Key attributes of a well-trained workforce as well as elements of an effective education and training system are detailed below.”

The report will serve as the basis of a live chat Council Chair Christine Romer will conduct today at 2:30 p.m. She will be taking questions live and you can see the feed at


Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

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