President Obama is expected to make economic inequality a major component of his State of the Union Tuesday night, addressing what recent headlines and research have concluded is a threat to the future prosperity of our country. Consistently stagnant levels of economic mobility further underscores the president’s need to address this issue, as the ability to climb the income ladder has always been the critical fuel for American prosperity and ingenuity.
In communities across the country, local leaders witness the fallout from the persistent lack of economic mobility and the stain it leaves on the great economic engine that is our nation’s cities. City leaders see entire neighborhoods of children and families cut off from essential resources that make the American Dream possible. In his address, cities need the president to talk about economic opportunity comprehensively with a plan that breaks down the barriers impeding mobility and respects the role of local government in creating solutions.
Here are 5 issues cities need the president to address:
Mayors and local elected officials have a strong interest in education as a tool to drive economic opportunity and to provide students with the skills needed to compete in regional, national and global economies. Cities need certainty in federal policy at a time when states and local governments struggle with allocating scarce education resources. America’s local elected officials need the president to encourage Congress to pass legislation that allows for more local innovation in education, instead of focusing on process and compliance.
Our broken immigration system holds back economic growth by keeping a substantial population from fully participating as citizens of our country. The current system tears families apart, fosters cultural misunderstandings and develops mistrust of law enforcement by immigrant communities. Cities call on President Obama to urge Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill this year that includes resources cities need to integrate immigrants fully into their communities.
Far too many in this country face a transportation infrastructure that is woefully inadequate and limits their ability to access meaningful work, sustenance and public services. City leaders know that the creation of an efficient transportation system that provides for its community’s needs will positively influence patterns of growth and economic activity that lift all boats. Cities need the president to articulate the importance of transportation in promoting economic opportunity and acknowledge local government’s role in the transportation reauthorization debate.
4. Marketplace Fairness
During these difficult economic times, cities urge the president to support quick adoption of Marketplace Fairness Act, which puts Main Street retailers on an equal footing with their online counterparts. The bill grants states and municipalities the authority to collect sales taxes on remote sales, removing another obstacle from Washington that limits local government’s ability to do what is best for their community.
5. Resilient Communities
Cities understand that climate change is an incredibly important issue that affects communities in all corners of the nation. The distribution of impacts, however, is often unequal and tilted against communities that have a limited capacity to anticipate and mitigate the effects of increasing disasters. Cities call on the president to acknowledge building more resilient communities will require coordinated regional, state and federal efforts. Local leaders need President Obama to continue to push for stronger federal support of local initiatives aimed at advancing the resilience of America’s cities and towns.