President Obama’s decision to make such priorities as research, infrastructure and education key themes in his State of the Union speech won wide acclaim from diverse sets of advocates following Tuesday night’s address.
Obama urged the adoption of policies intended to facilitate enhanced innovation, improved infrastructure, and access and quality of education as key means of creating new American jobs.
“We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time,” the president says. “We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. We have to make America the best place on Earth to do business. We need to take responsibility for our deficit and reform our government. That’s how our people will prosper. That’s how we’ll win the future.”
The Obama agenda won praise from across the country, including a group which represents U.S. mayors.
“The nation’s mayors are pleased that President Obama spoke about unity and bipartisanship as we move forward to solve the challenges facing America and address this country’s deteriorating infrastructure,” says Elizabeth Kautz, the mayor of Burnsville, Minn., and president of the nonpartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors.
“For years, The U.S. Conference of Mayors has pushed infrastructure modernization as a means of job creation and economic development,” Kautz says. “A multi-modal transportation system is critical to effectively moving the nation’s goods and services and people — 85 percent of whom live, work and travel in metropolitan areas — through the nation’s cities both large and small.”
The unemployment rate in the nation’s cities continues to be the first priority of mayors as statistics show that one-third of the nation’s 363 metro areas will still have an unemployment rate higher than 10 percent at the end of 2011, Kautz says.
“We know that the nation’s recovery will be driven by the economic engines of the metropolitan areas, and without job growth in the metropolitan areas, there can be no sustained national recovery,” she says. “Mayors are pragmatic – we work for the good of all people we serve. As a national nonpartisan organization that represents mayors who get things done everyday in their own cities, we stand ready to work with the President and the Congress to bring Washington together to get things done on the national level. We also are working with business leaders to forge a national consensus in support of job creation and infrastructure investment.”
Meanwhile, the head of the Environmental Law & Policy Center in the president’s hometown of Chicago, says that Obama’s proposed investments in clean energy and rail infrastructure will create green jobs and economic growth in the Midwest.
“Hundreds of old-line Rust Belt manufacturers are retooling to produce equipment for the growing clean energy economy, as shown by the Environmental Law & Policy Center’s recent reports,” says the center’s executive director, Howard Learner. “Federal investments in renewable energy are spurring job growth and revitalizing the Midwest manufacturing sector. The Michigan solar company highlighted in the President’s speech is a good example. After decades of decline, America’s clean energy industry is creating new manufacturing jobs and making us more globally competitive.
“We can’t build a 21st century economy with a 19th century transportation infrastructure. In Illinois and Michigan, federal investments in high-speed rail are creating construction and supply chain jobs today that will improve and expand transportation options tomorrow,” Learner says. “Modern, fast, comfortable and convenient rail development will improve mobility, reduce pollution, create new jobs and spur economic growth. The President’s clean energy and high-speed rail proposals are investments in America’s future. Here, in the Midwest Heartland, let’s seize these opportunities to strengthen our economy, create jobs and improve our environment in ways that make good sense and make our nation more competitive.”
The president of the renowned Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh says his institution, and others like it, are ready to help carry out new U.S. innovation.
“While the U.S. faces intense competition in the global economy, our country has one asset that no other nation has yet duplicated: the capacity of university-based research to launch high-growth companies,” university President Jared Cohon says. “As a pioneer in computer science, robotics, cybersecurity and other high-tech fields, Carnegie Mellon is at the forefront of job creation through innovation.
“We support continued investment in biomedical research, information technology and clean energy technology because we know they are proven catalysts for using public investment and converting knowledge, innovation, and expertise into start-ups, entrepreneurship, economic renewal and job growth,” Cohon adds.
In the last 15 years, Carnegie Mellon has helped to create more than 200 start-up companies and 9,000 jobs in the Pittsburgh region, the university says in a statement. An emerging initiative with Pittsburgh leaders is providing a prototype of how the building blocks of national economic renewal can be integrated into a cohesive regional strategy, the statement adds.
The DREAM Act, Latino Perspective
Latinos, a key bloc which helped Democrats squeeze out victories in Nevada and elsewhere in the otherwise-bleak 2010 midterms, also signaled support for Obama’s direction.
“The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) is encouraged that President Obama made job creation and moving the economy forward a central message in his address to the American people,” the organzation, which represents more than 6,000 Latino elected and appointed officials, says in a statement. “Latinos have been disproportionately affected by the recession and job losses, and we urge the White House and Congress to work on policies to assist Latino families as they work to preserve their piece of the American dream.
“We are energized by the President’s remarks highlighting the key role immigrants play in our nation’s economy. We are a unique nation founded by immigrants, and should recognize that immigrants are crucial to our economic recovery. We also join the President in urging passage of the Dream Act, so that, in his words, we ‘stop expelling talented, responsible young people… they grew up as Americans and pledge allegiance to our flag, and yet live every day with the threat of deportation.’ Yet the Dream Act is but one element of an overall comprehensive immigration reform which is necessary today.”
Obama in the address specifically called for passage of the DREAM Act, to help some children of illegal aliens obtain U.S. citizenship. Senate Republicans blocked the legislation in the previous Congress during December.
NALEO, however, cited an area of the political process Obama failed to mention, and that is the every-10-years re-drawing of congressional districts. Redistricting often can become highly political and is soon to get underway nationwide.
“As legislatures and commissions take on the decennial task of redrawing legislative districts, we must insist that the processes be open, transparent and ensure everyone has the opportunity to fair representation. We call upon the U.S. Department of Justice to ensure full adherence to the Voting Rights Act as the new legislative maps are drawn and implemented across the country,” the group’s statement says.
“NALEO appreciates the President’s call for continued bipartisan cooperation,” the statement adds. “As demonstrated recently by Latino members of Congress at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute gathering which welcomed new members, the only way we can effectively address the issues of critical importance to our nation and the Latino community is by working together across party lines to strengthen our nation and our democracy.”
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.