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US rebuilding its relationship with cities say White House Cabinet Members
Tom Teodorczuk | Cities Today


The Beck Group’s Dallas Arboretum Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden is one of the projects competing for the Urban Land Institute award.

America “is falling in love again with cities” according to a key White House aide of President Obama.


Julián Castro, Housing and Urban Development Secretary and former Mayor of San Antonio, Texas, said urban renewal was one of the present Democratic administration’s unheralded success stories. He was speaking recently at the winter meeting of the U.S Conference of Mayors in Washington DC at a panel discussion together with former Mayors Jerry Abramson, Anthony Foxx and Tom Vilsack who all hold prominent positions in the Obama administration.


“In many ways I think America is falling in love again with cities and folks are choosing cities again but that’s not always reflected in the priorities in State Legislatures and in Congress,” Castro said. “Mayors have a powerful voice to help make that happen for the benefit of the people they serve.”


Anthony Foxx, Transportation Secretary and former Mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, said only Mayors and not government, can unite urban and rural America: “Mayors are uniquely positioned to do something that I think is almost impossible for Washington to do and that is to help bring down the walls between the urban and rural divide in this country. If there is more visioning done at a local level and policy at the federal level that supports those visions, there’s an enormous opportunity for us to solve problems instead of having them created by Washington.”


The White House aides all declared the President had concrete achievements to his name in service provision and environmental sustainability. “There are many aspects of Government that are working well,” said Tom Vilsack, Agriculture Secretary and former Governor of Iowa. “Far too often we have a tendency to focus on things that aren’t working in Government and we ignore the reality that many of you Mayors are providing valuable services to people.” Castro said that unlike at a national level, the Obama administration had removed local government silos improving efficient service allocation for urban communities.


Jerry Abramson, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs in the White House and Deputy Assistant to the President, said: “There’s a great deal of interest inside the White House when ideas and initiatives are being developed in terms of what is happening at the local level. Take the President’s recent initiative on free Community College. The White House understood from listening to Mayors that Community College and workforce training is really important. I could go through so many of those issues.”


The panel moderator Kevin Johnson, the Mayor of Sacramento, California, said the fact that half a dozen former Mayors currently held top positions in President Obama’s Cabinet testified the high regard he held for local officials. “You heard from Dr. Benjamin Barber who wrote a book called If Mayors Ruled the World, he said at the meeting. “I’m starting to think President Obama read that book.”