Community-Based Efforts to Achieve Economic Justice


It is a special treat for me to be here today to share with you a fewthoughts about the change and evolution of government in our country,about how people who work on the community level can have great effect,and about how those of us at the federal level can be stronger in support ofcommunity-based efforts. Let me share a few thoughts with you todayabout the direction of urban policy in our country.

We stand today at a historic moment for national urban policy. In thewake of the 1994 elections, the most fundamental questions are beingasked about the extent of our national commitment to our cities and ourresponsibility to America’s poor. How much should we as a nation do torepair the fabric of our urban centers, especially the communities andneighborhoods that have been left behind by the changes in the Americaneconomy? How much responsibility should we as a nation assume forhousing the millions of poor and low income working families, many ofthem minorities and recent immigrants, who live in our country’s cities?Many longstanding assumptions about relationships between the federaland local and state governments, and between the public and private sec-tor, are being challenged. Some of them, I must admit, in healthy ways.

It is useful periodically to sort of shake up the structure and ask ques-tions about original principles. In many ways, people’s minds are open tonew ideas when we can provide a setting that is open to new possibilities.We have an unparalleled opportunity to make a clean break from some ofthe programs and policies that we have been locked into for years; pro-grams that we see all around have failed. We have an opportunity to thinkin creative ways about how to solve old problems: the lack of decent andaffordable housing, economic decay, and endemic unemployment; welfaredependency and the compounding social pathologies of concentrated pov-erty; gangs, drugs, guns, violence.

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