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How would the presidential candidates deal with urban America?

by Christopher A. Guzman, published

President Obama created the White House Office of Urban Affairs in February 2009. According to the White House, the feds gave insufficient attention to urban America's past problems.The office’s stated goal is to encourage wise urban investment and development that would lead to more employment and housing opportunities by working alongside various executive branch agencies.

The stances of all the presidential candidates on urban development could be a key issue in this next election, given that proposed policies can play a role in reviving the economy and empowering citizens.  Obama's administration distributed more than $2.6 billion in stimulus money to transportation projects via the Department of Transportation’s TIGER Grants. Also, through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, states and cities received stimulus money to deal with the effects from the housing crisis.

With the “Strong Cities, Strong Communities Program,” understaffed city offices were filled in six cities. Most notably, a partnership was facilitated between the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency to spend development dollars more effectively.

President Obama’s challenge with voters will be to demonstrate that the stimulus funds have worked- even under the light of  scrutiny and a high unemployment rate.  Here’s how the GOP field stacks up, all on different fronts of urban America:

As Massachusetts’ Governor, Mitt Romney aggregated state housing, transportation, and environmental agency resources for “smart growth.” Similar to President Obama’s actions at the federal level, this facet of Romney’s domestic policy adds to the perceived similarity between him and President Obama. On a related note, President Obama credited Romney's state healthcare law as the model for the current national law.

Rick Santorum supported HUD as a former Pennsylvania Senator. Back in 2005, he partnered with fellow Senator Arlen Specter to announce federal funding that provides supportive housing and programs for ending homelessness.  More than $63 million in taxpayer money went to the programs and projects. Embracing the compassionate conservatism philosophy, his presidential spending policies are likely to be distributed to remedying social problems that he sees facing urban America.

Newt Gingrich received criticism for calling child labor laws “truly stupid”, also stating he’s prepared to do what works to get poor children working again. Seemingly failing to appeal to urban America on another related issue, Gingrich has labeled President Obama a "food stamp president" and promised to be the best paycheck president. Politi-fact later found the former Speaker’s claim to be oversimplified.

Ron Paul’s track record indicates that he wouldn’t have the federal government play a role in urban affairs. Being the staunchest proponent of the 10th amendment out of all the candidates in the race, Paul would allow the states to handle issues like marijuana legalization. He's previously slammed the war on drugs as unfair to blacks. The federal government would keep out of issues like mass transit and other city projects, based on his voting record. Holding fast to his libertarian philosophy, he favors reducing the dependence of individuals on government welfare programs.

Buddy Roemer, the former congressman and Louisiana governor, believes that the U.S. has become a “welfare nation” and calls for major reform and consolidation in federally subsidized programs like food stamps and transportation programs as well.

Most of the GOP candidates thus far have, for the most part, steered clear of transportation during the election season.

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