Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Change We Can Believe In - Obama and Cities


Okay, I totally didn't want to start on such a bummer of a note here. Yes, we're heading into a New Great Depression and Bush is still President for another month and it's winter and it's cold and the Eagles are weak. However, there has been one amazingly bright spot in the past few months (besides the Phillies winning the World Series): Barack Obama is our President-elect! Yeah! Yes, we can! Even now, memories of the crowds on Rivington and Ludlow cheering and hugging give me chills.

Not surprisingly, my first thoughts about his victory (and main reason I was an ardent supporter) focused on the potential impact for the cities of this country. And it seems possible that this could be a huge moment for American cities, where they finally get the attention they so desperately need and deserve. This is the moment when the country gets beyond its antiquated notion that we are a rural country and that real Americans can only be found in Iowa and Wyoming. We not only have a new President who has lived and worked in a big city, but someone who is, as Peter Brown wrote, "a city guy." I mean, if you had told me a year ago that we would have a President who spent a few years as a community organizer in Chicago, I would have laughed in your face.

These are just superficial things, as even Richard Nixon spent some time living in New York City. The actually exciting news is that we elected a President who actually ran his campaign with a clear urban policy agenda! I mean, dude talked about smart development, affordable housing, public transportation and sustainability when he didn't have to. Bestill my heart. Pols in Philadelphia have a similar level excitement; they unsurprisingly highlight his goal of providing money for cash-strapped cities and states. I highly recommend reading his list of policy proposals, but just wanted to inject some optimism into the mix in these dark times. Get excited!

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