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Is PA's Road to Recovery Strewn with Litter, or Paved with Gold?

June 30, 2009

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania has its own accountability officer to oversee how federal economic stimulus money is spent here, but an urban policy expert says the White House should take it a step further, and set up accountability outposts around the state to gauge progress where it counts most. Harry Moroz, who is 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 there was a lack of substance to the recent "Road to Recovery" tour by Vice President Joseph Biden, which started in Pennsylvania.

"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."

Moroz says the administration needs to focus its recovery effort on urban areas 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."

President 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 and work more closely with mayors and local officials to make sure stimulus money is spent wisely and particularly in cities.

The report, "No Economic Recovery Without Cities," can be viewed online at
www.drummajorinstitute.org

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA