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Summer in the City – Not on the Road - for Stimulus Supervisors

June 22, 2009

Albany, NY- Vice President Joe Biden recently completed a "Road to Recovery" tour, highlighting new projects launched with Recovery Act funds. A nonpartisan public policy think tank is calling for a detour, saying the Obama administration should be monitoring stimulus accountability in cities around New York and the rest of the nation.

Harry Moroz, a research associate at the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, is the co-author of a report arguing that a past history of urban neglect threatens the national economic recovery. He says the White House should be setting up stimulus accountability outposts to serve cities like Syracuse and Schenectady, Buffalo and Brooklyn.

It's not enough, says Moroz, for Biden to attend ground-breaking ceremonies at new construction sites begun with Recovery Act funds.

"There's not much that we see him doing, other than going on the road and sort of peering at a bridge and saying, 'Oh, this is a shovel-ready project and it looks like it's on the road to recovery.' It's just insufficient."

President Barack Obama has created a White House Office of Urban Affairs to coordinate all aspects of urban policy. Moroz says officials from that office need to get out of Washington, D.C., and work more closely with mayors and local officials to make sure stimulus money is spent wisely – in cities.

Moroz says the administration needs to focus its recovery effort on cities because they contain the majority of the nation's population and generate most of the Gross Domestic Product. He recommends creating regional centers where stimulus spending can be coordinated and accounted for.

"They could be mobile; they could rely on grassroots organization. Obama could use his gigantic political list that he created during the campaign to get communities involved."

Moroz acknowledges that city-based stimulus accountability outposts could be viewed by critics as adding a new layer of bureaucracy, but he looks at it differently.

"Right now, you have city officials who are sort of running around like chickens with their heads cut off, not knowing where to spend their money or how. I think that's bureaucracy at its worst."

The 38-page report, "No Economic Recovery Without Cities: The Urgency of a New Federal Urban Policy," is available at www.DrumMajorInstitute.org.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY