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New White House Office of Urban Policy

The Obama campaign announced its support this fall for establishing a White House Office of Urban Policy that would deal with efforts involving our metropolitan areas across the issue spectrum. A recent Washington Post article seems to show the promise will be fulfilled:

Plans are underway to establish a White House Office of Urban Policy in order to better coordinate federal efforts to help America’s cities, according to Obama transition co-chair Valerie Jarrett. “He’s going to have a White House chief of urban policy,” Jarrett told the Trotter Group, an organization of black columnists. She declined to divulge any names of potential choices for the post. “I’m sure there are plenty of candidates. It’s a great job,” Jarrett said. Despite the many national problems confronting the new administration, she continued, Obama remains committed to earlier pledges to establish such an office. “Because he began as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, he understands at the local level is really where you can impact change and that local government can play a vital role as we try to jump start our economy,” she said. “So having somebody in the White House, because there are so many different agencies that really can impact urban America and to have one person whose job it is to really pull all of that together, is really a critical position. And there are plenty of terrific candidates for that spot.”

The Obama campaign website features an urban policy area page that, among other things, highlights the need for playgrounds within walking distance of children:

How a community is designed – including the layout of its roads, buildings and parks – has a huge impact on the health of its residents. For instance, nearly one-third of Americans live in neighborhoods without sidewalks and less than half of our country’s children have a playground within walking distance of their homes. Barack Obama introduced the Healthy Places Act to help local governments assess the health impact of new policies and projects, like highways or shopping centers.

What programs or policies might aid parks and playgrounds from the federal level is not indicated — but it is at least a good sign that there is an awareness of their value and that urban policy may, on the whole, be more supportive of making cities more livable.

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