Office of Intergovernmental Affairs Blog

  • Why Scranton Needs the Payroll Tax Cut

    The President is traveling across the country to show how the American Jobs Act will help modernize our schools, rebuild our infrastructure, and put Americans back to work. On Wednesday the President was in Scranton, Pennsylvania where he pushed Congress to act to extend and expand the payroll tax cut that has given tax breaks to millions of families across the country this year.

    Pennsylvania State Senator John Blake reflects on the President’s remarks in Scranton:

    Last week I had the deep honor and pleasure to meet President Obama during his visit to Scranton, Pennsylvania in my 22nd Senatorial District.  The President came to Scranton -- his Vice-President’s boyhood home, with a message that resonated deeply and well with the people of this city and indeed with families throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania. He came to talk about jobs and economic growth.  The President has had jobs and the economy on the top of his agenda since the day he took office three years ago -- and my commentary here would be incomplete if I failed to remind those reading it that our nation was losing over 700,000 jobs per month on the day the President took office.  The President policies stopped this economic free-fall and as a result we have seen the economy add private sector jobs for 21 straight months.

  • EPA Announces Smart Growth Achievement Award Winners

    Normal Illinois EPA

    The Uptown Normal Roundabout was named an EPA 2011 Smart Growth Achievement Award Winner. (Photo by Scott Shingley, courtesy of the Town of Normal, Illinois) December 5, 2011.

    Last week, EPA announced the winners of the 2011 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement. This annual award recognizes American communities that employ innovative approaches to development that use resources efficiently, create new economic opportunities, and make neighborhoods healthier and cleaner.

    The 2011 winners are:

    • St. Louis, Missouri: Overall Excellence Award - With the Old North St. Louis Revitalization Initiative, community leaders redefined and rebuilt a historic neighborhood to attract new residents, economic growth, and much-needed amenities such as a grocery store.
      Preservation and reuse of historic buildings helped protect the Old North neighborhood's distinctive character.
    • Albuquerque, New Mexico: Smart Growth and Green Building Award - Silver Gardens Apartments is the first LEED Platinum-certified affordable housing project in the Southwest. Close to downtown, it is also near a variety of transportation options, making it easy for residents to reach jobs.
    • El Paso, Texas: Programs, Policies and Regulations Award - Plan El Paso 2010 is a comprehensive, transit-oriented development plan that will help link neighborhoods to greater economic opportunity and to one another.  It provides a blueprint for investment in new homes and jobs.
    • Howard, South Dakota: Rural Smart Growth Award - This town, smaller than many city high schools, revitalized its downtown and created new jobs and economic opportunities by building Maroney Commons. This green building houses a rural learning center that offers training for green energy and rural healthcare jobs, a hotel, a restaurant, and other amenities.
    • Normal, Illinois: Civic Places Award - The Uptown Normal Roundabout, originally designed to manage traffic, has evolved into a civic gathering place that draws people to nearby businesses. Its pleasant green space and water features keep polluted runoff out of the local creek.

    These five communities have thought creatively about how to make better use of their existing assets and how to achieve multiple environmental, economic, and social goals with new investments. They can be models for other communities around the country, demonstrating creative solutions to development-related challenges.

    Click to learn more about these five award winners the National Award for Smart Growth Achievement, and EPA's smart growth work. You can also see videos highlighting each of the five winning communities-St. Louis, MO; Normal, IL; El Paso, TX; Albuquerque, NM; and Howard, SD.

    Bob Perciasepe is the Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency

  • The President's Big Boost to Sacramento's Green Economy

    Editor's note: Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson joined President Obama on Friday in announcing nearly $4 billion in combined federal and private sector energy upgrades to buildings over the next 2 years. This blog is cross-posted from the Council on Environmental Quality.

    I just finished one of the most important meetings in my term as Mayor of Sacramento. Last night, I took a red-eye flight and rushed this morning to the White House for a meeting with President Obama, former President Clinton and 60 university presidents, CEOs and elected leaders from around the country. 

    The topic? Jobs -- and the incredible opportunity Sacramento has by partnering with President Obama in his plan to invest nearly $4 billion in combined federal and private sector energy upgrades for our nation's commercial buildings through the Better Buildings Initiative

    This outstanding news could not have come at a better time. Sacramento is one of five cities that has taken the President’s Better Buildings Challenge, which translates into new jobs in our construction industry, where the unemployment rate has topped 30 percent. That's what I mean when I talk about putting Sacramento on the map! 

    Thanks to President Obama and our work through our Greenwise initiative here in Sacramento, hundreds of workers from the Sacramento region will return to job sites and begin retrofitting commercial buildings, and eventually schools and government offices, making them more energy efficient. And the work won't be done at taxpayer expense. Private companies will finance the upfront costs, and they will be paid back through the energy savings that result from the improvements. 

    In Sacramento, we have committed to retrofitting 12 million feet of commercial property. And that's just the beginning. There's $100 million available for energy upgrades to property owners within the city, thanks to our partnership with Ygrene Energy Fund. 

    The Ygrene program translates to 1,500 jobs -- and that's before we add schools and universities to the program and achieve a 20 percent energy use reduction by 2020.  The 1,500 jobs do not include the 4,100 paychecks that will be created by our new Entertainment and Sports Complex, which will be one of the greenest and most energy efficient civic centers in the world. 

    This is huge. Sacramento is thinking big, acting big and generating jobs in a big way through smart investment in energy efficiency. 

    Kevin Johnson is Mayor of the City of Sacramento. 

  • Section 3 Program Creating Jobs in Detroit

    The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity, John Trasviña; and Midwest Regional Administrator Antonio Riley share in the Detroit News how HUD is helping Detroit:

    Expanding opportunities for jobs and housing are two of the Obama administration's highest priorities in Michigan and across the nation.

    At HUD, we are bringing new ideas and strongly enforcing the Section 3federal program; which is specifically designed to create job opportunities for low-income individuals and public housing residents and contracts for the companies that hire them.

    In 2009, HUD invested $17.2 billion in Section 3-covered funding into local communities. These investments helped to create new neighborhood developments, modernize roads and infrastructure and rehabilitate and revive our communities. Beyond the bricks and mortar, they produced 34,230 jobs in 2009 and put 18,154 low-income individuals and their families on the road to self-sufficiency.

    But we are doing more.

    HUD has designated Detroit to be one of five pilot cities around the country to be the site of a Section 3 Business Registry. Through this registry, businesses that hire low-income individuals or are composed of low-income individuals will be able to have better access to information about contracting opportunities from cities, housing authorities and other government agencies. Local and state agencies receiving HUD funds are required, to the maximum extent feasible, to ensure that jobs and contracts reach public housing residents and low-income workers. The Business Registry will also make it easy for workers to find out about Section 3 companies that are hiring.

    For more information about the Section 3 program, visit

  • Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley: We Can’t Wait Either

    Today, President Obama spoke at the Georgetown Waterfront Park, in front of the Key Bridge, about the need to pass the infrastructure piece of the American Jobs Act. The President explained that we can’t wait to make these much-need investments in infrastructure projects across the country and put more Americans back to work. Governor Martin O’Malley explains why Maryland can’t wait either:

    This morning, President Obama delivered remarks at the Georgetown Waterfront Park, in front of the Key Bridgeto urge Congress to pass the Rebuild America Jobs Act. The act would help us immediately advance critical infrastructure projects in Maryland while at the same time supporting at least 8,100 jobs.

    Our infrastructure is one of the areas where we have the largest investment deficit in our State – and it’s something that matters both for job creation today, and for what type of State we leave for the next generation. There’s a connection between the investments we make in our infrastructure, and our ability to create jobs, expand opportunity and put this recession in our rear-view mirror.



  • White House Hosts 150 City and Municipal Leaders for Day of Discussions, Dialogue

    Obama reception with NLC

    President Barack Obama attends a reception for members of the National League of Cities in the East Room of the White House, Oct. 27, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    On Thursday, the White House hosted over 150 mayors, city officials, and state municipal league directors for a day of information from the White House, discussions with Cabinet Officials and a reception with President Obama.
    After a visit from Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, who started her career in Chicago city government, the city and municipal leaders discussed their immigration reform ideas with Director of White House Intergovernmental Affairs Cecilia Muñoz.
    The leaders, representing 41 states, then had a briefing on the American Jobs Act with Principal Deputy Director of the National Economic Council Jason Furman and talked about what local leaders can do to help pass the bill.
    Chief of Staff William Daley, no stranger to local government, took questions from the leaders about how the White House is helping city and municipal governments through the Recovery Act and how cities could benefit further through the American Jobs Act.
    Aneesh Chopra talks to NLC

    Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra speaks about innovation, October 27, 2011. (White House Photo) October 27, 2011.

    Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra gave a passionate presentation on how city leaders can use data and innovation to improve services for their residents and challenged the officials to help find innovative leaders in each community across America and encourage businesses to take advantage of the Startup America Partnership.
    EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan talked about Sustainable Communities, a partnership between their agencies to create communities with a variety of housing and transportation choices, with destinations close to home.
    NLC Members listen in South Court

    City and municipal leaders listen to a briefing in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, October 27, 2011. (White House Photo) October 27, 2011.

    After an afternoon packed with information, the leaders joined President Obama for a reception in the White House where he thanked them for their public service and encouraged them to be advocates for their constituents.
    It was a great day at the White House and we look forward to bringing in many more city and municipal leaders to talk about ways the Administration can partner with local government to improve services for all Americans.