Minneapolis, Burnsville mayors in Chicago to help form Obama’s urban agenda

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Burnsville Mayor Elizabeth Kautz were among more than a dozen mayors who met in Chicago Thursday to discuss the incoming administration’s metropolitan agenda and the development of a new White House Office of Urban and Regional Policy.

They met with Valerie Jarrett, President-elect Barack Obama’s senior adviser for intergovernmental affairs. She is co-chair of Obama’s transition team.

“Barack Obama is going to be a president who understands cities and will work with mayors to move this country forward,” Rybak said in a city news release. “Obama clearly understands that cities are part of metropolitan regions that need to work together better on challenges they share, like transportation and economic growth, just as we have done with great results in Minnesota.”

“By using a regional model where cities in a metropolitan area work together, we can solve many problems,” Kautz said. “In Minnesota, our region’s mayors have worked together to improve housing options and transportation options throughout the region. That’s why I am encouraging Obama’s team to strongly support more regional collaboration.”

The Minnesota mayors urged investments in transportation infrastructure as part of a broader economic stimulus package needed for cities and states.

“The quickest things we can do may not have the most significant long-term impact,” Rybak said, reporting on the meeting. “Unless we push for transit investments and green jobs, we could end up with a stimulus package that moves transportation strategy away from what we need to get off our addiction to oil. We were able to rebuild the collapsed I-35W Bridge quickly, while also including capacity for a future transit line on it. We showed how to act fast, but act responsibly for the long term.”

Rybak also discussed efforts to reduce youth violence.

 “In the last two years, Minneapolis has shown how a city can dramatically reduce violence committed by young people,” Rybak said. “The action plan we have developed and the lessons we have learned are quickly becoming a national model and the new White House Office of Urban and Regional Policy should look to our effort as a guide for other cities to use.”

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