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President Obama, it’s time for an urban agenda

A new study shows that families who benefit from federally assisted housing programs live near low-performing schools. Many poor, Black families are far — in proximity and otherwise — from opportunity. Millions of families live in traditional public housing, Section 8 subsidized apartments or benefit from the Low Income Housing Tax Credit. And if they receive any of these benefits, they are likely to be locked out of high-performing schools that can impact future earning potential and employment outcomes. Federal policy is reinforcing poverty.

President Obama ran for reelection with the message of creating pathways to the middle class. As the income gap widens, poverty persists and the poor are increasingly isolated in urban areas. The senator from Chicago, reelected president, needs to focus on an urban agenda.

Since 2008, 500 young people have been killed in Chicago. Eighty percent of those killings have occurred in Black and Latino neighborhoods. This year, violence rose nearly 25 percent compared to 2011. For many living in urban areas the times are perilous. The young people of color living in cities are suffering.

We need a federal jobs program that finds ways to return the chronically under and unemployed to the work place. We are now hoping to help a generation of people whose parents were never able to find work.

Cities such as Detroit, which cites unofficial unemployment and underemployment statistics at over 55 percent, need a mayor and city leadership who can articulate a plan for the city that will leverage federal dollars. What will the agencies that work with a newly organized Workforce Development propose?

The Obama administration has given us the Neighborhood Stabilization Program and we see the benefit of it in new housing starts in Highland Park on McLean and in the Strong Cities, Strong Communities initiatives but it is time to deepen the understanding and involvement in urban policy.

Since the 1950s, the federal government has spent billions of dollars on the suburbs and exurbs. The Obama administration must refocus on public transit and sending dollars to cities such as Detroit.

Federal policy also necessitates a reassessment of current spending including resources for schools and housing. How can federal education dollars be spent to improve schools accessed by those receiving benefits?

In many areas of the country, Black and Latino voters came out for the president in unprecedented numbers — even greater numbers than 2008. With little marketing dollars, direct appeals or urban platform the president garnered 96 percent of the Black vote. The changing demographics of the nation propelled President Obama into his second term. Many of these people live in urban areas and deserve a president who will address some of the most confounding poverty issues that face our country. Those living in cities such as Detroit are dealing with poor schools, inadequate public transportation, few employment opportunities and mass incarceration as the only policy solution applied.

It’s time for an urban agenda.

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