Office of Intergovernmental Affairs Blog

  • Time for Commonsense Immigration Reform

    I grew up in public housing, the son of immigrant parents, and I know the important role that immigrants play in the American economy. I saw it with my own eyes.
    So when the national debate turns to immigration reform, I am personally motivated to advocate for commonsense reforms to bring our immigration system into the 21st Century.
    Today, President Obama came to San Francisco to discuss the importance of passing comprehensive immigration reform this year. He couldn’t have picked a better City to make this case – we’ve always been a place that welcomes entrepreneurs and innovators, from the United States and abroad. Chinese call San Francisco “gum san” or Gold Mountain, a City of hope and dreams to manifest your own destiny.  It’s true – our City has always welcomed all comers, and we’re stronger for it.
    From the lessons I learned in my childhood to the stories I hear every day as Mayor of San Francisco, I believe deeply that America should welcome immigrants into the unique fabric that defines and differentiates our nation. San Francisco might be Gold Mountain, but it’s time America starts once again living up to its promise as a beacon of freedom and democracy.  

  • White House Welcomes New American Leaders

    Earlier this month, the White House hosted an impressive group of state and local elected officials affiliated with the New American Leaders Project (NALP), a nonpartisan organization focused on preparing first and second-generation Americans for leadership positions.  The guest list included State Senators, Mayors, County Supervisors, School Board Members, Councilmembers, and Sheriffs, each representing a unique constituency and culture.  During the event, we thanked each official for their service and provided briefings on a variety of policy areas, including immigration, education and healthcare: 

    • Felicia Escobar, Senior Policy Director for Immigration, explained the economic benefits of an earned path to citizenship and the President’s push for commonsense immigration reform
    • Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President for Education, outlined the President’s education priorities, including his goal to lead the world with the highest proportion of college graduates in 2020. 
    • The Offices of Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement discussed the President’s continuing efforts to implement the Affordable Care Act

  • Our Nation’s Elected Official Veterans

    This Veterans’ Day, I want to join the President in saying “Thank You” to the brave men and women from across the country who have answered the call to serve their country. I also want to thank those veterans who have returned home and have chosen to continue serving. From City Halls to Indian Country to State Capitols throughout this country, some of America’s veterans are continuing their public service as elected officials.

    There are far too many to mention them all, but here are just a few examples:

    • A Vietnam Era veteran, Governor Terry Branstad of Iowa, joined the Army after graduating from college. Sergeant Branstad was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for his service and then returned to Iowa where his life in public service would continue.
    • Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe served in the U.S. Army Reserve, before beginning his career as a lawyer and longtime state legislator and state Attorney General.
    • Mayor Setti Warren of Newton, MA enlisted in the US Naval Reserve in 2003. He went on to serve as an intelligence officer in Iraq and is now the Mayor of the city in which he was raised. 
    • Mayor Sly James of Kansas City, MO served in the Armed Forces before returning home and becoming Mayor of the town he grew up in.  His service began in 1971 when he joined the Marines.

  • President Obama’s State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness

    Today, we are excited to announce the members of President Obama’s State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience.

    The anniversary of Hurricane Sandy reminds us how important it is for all levels of government to work together to protect communities and families.  A year ago this week, communities were shattered, families were torn apart, homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed, and lives were upended. But brick by brick, block by block, these communities are rebuilding to be more prepared and resilient. They will come back stronger and the Federal government will continue to stand right by their side as we continue to recover and rebuild.

    In the wake of this disaster, we have learned some valuable lessons about how to prepare our communities and be more resilient to these types of extreme weather events, which are growing more frequent and severe with climate change. Instead of recreating old vulnerabilities during the rebuilding process, we implemented a stronger, uniform flood risk rebuilding standard, and provided resources for more climate-resilient roads and infrastructure, and projects that protect drinking water and buffer communities from flooding.  Much of what we have learned was compiled into the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force report released earlier this year.

    In another important step, today we announced the members of a new Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience to advise the Administration on how the Federal government can respond to the needs of communities nationwide that are dealing with the impacts of climate change. The President first announced the establishment of this short-term Task Force on June 25, 2013, as part of his Climate Action Plan.

    The Task Force members include bipartisan governors, mayors and tribal leaders from across the country who will use their first-hand experiences in building climate preparedness and resilience in their communities to inform their recommendations for the Administration.

    The Task Force will present their recommendations to the President within a year to guide and shape Federal policy. An Executive Order signed by the President today also directs Federal agencies ranging from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to the Department of Transportation to examine their programs across the board and find ways to make it easier for cities and towns to build smarter and stronger. 

    As co-chairs of the Task Force, we look forward to working with the Task Force members, and other local, state, and tribal leaders, to combat the impacts of climate change.

    • State Officials:
      • Governor Neil Abercrombie (HI)
      • Governor Jerry Brown (CA)
      • Governor Eddie Calvo (GU)
      • Governor Jay Inslee (WA)
      • Governor Jack Markell (DE)
      • Governor Martin O’Malley (MD)
      • Governor Pat Quinn (IL)
      • Governor Peter Shumlin (VT)
    • Local Officials:
      • Mayor Ralph Becker (Salt Lake City, UT)
      • Mayor James Brainard (Carmel, IN)
      • Commissioner Paula Brooks (Franklin County, OH)
      • Supervisor Salud Carbajal (Santa Barbara County, CA)
      • Mayor Frank Cownie (Des Moines, IA)
      • Mayor Bob Dixson (Greensburg, KS)
      • Mayor Eric Garcetti (Los Angeles, CA)
      • Mayor George Heartwell (Grand Rapids, MI)
      • Mayor Kristin Jacobs (Broward County, FL)
      • Mayor Kevin Johnson (Sacramento, CA)
      • Mayor Michael Nutter (Philadelphia, PA)
      • Mayor Annise Parker (Houston, TX)
      • Mayor Patsy Parker (Perdido Beach, AL)
      • Mayor Madeline Rogero (Knoxville, TN)
      • Mayor Karen Weitkunat (Fort Collins, CO)
      • Mayor Dawn Zimmer (Hoboken, NJ)
    • Tribal Officials:
      • Karen Diver, Chairwoman, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (MN)
      • Reggie Joule, Mayor, Northwest Arctic Borough (AK)

    To learn more about President Obama’s State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, click here.

    David Agnew is Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs

    Nancy Sutley is Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality

  • A Nation of Immigrants: Welcoming New Americans to the United States

    Alexandria Naturalization Ceremony

    David Agnew, Alexandria Mayor William Euille and members of the Alexandria City Council celebrate the naturalization of twenty-five new Americans at the Alexandria City Hall.

    Communities across the country came together this week to celebrate Constitution Day, Citizenship Day, and Constitution Week.  The President celebrated the historical influence of immigrants of all backgrounds in his 2013 Proclamation for Constitution Day, Citizenship Day and Constitution Week:

    “We are a proud Nation of immigrants, home to a long line of aspiring citizens who contributed to their communities, founded businesses, or sacrificed their livelihoods so they could pass a brighter future on to their children. Each year on Citizenship Day, we welcome the newest members of the American family as they pledge allegiance to our Constitution and join us in writing the next chapter of our national story.”

    Last week, I had the honor of joining Mayor Bill Euille in welcoming twenty-five new Americans from fourteen countries during a naturalization ceremony at Alexandria City Hall.  Each participant in the ceremony is a testament to the promise of the American dream that says no matter who you are, where you came from, what your last name is, or what you believe, if you come to America and work hard then you can make it if you try.

    I witnessed proof of that dream in Alexandria, a city that just like every other city in America was made great by the immigrants that built businesses, schools and homes and struggled for a better life.

    I also saw proof of that limitless possibility looking back at me from the front row in the face of Zofia Dubicka. Zofia came to the United States from Germany at age 3, but only discovered that she was not a U.S. citizen this year, 64 years later.  Her family left Poland at the end of World War II and her parents became naturalized citizens when she was a teenager, but they never filed for Zofia’s citizenship.  Becoming a citizen of the United States, she said, was “to know how my father felt when he experienced becoming a citizen; to be proud, as always, to have been able to live here.”  You can read more about Zofia’s story here.

    What this ceremony reminded me is that we are the greatest nation in the history of the world because we are a nation of immigrants.  The story of our wealth and our prosperity is the story of those immigrants who came to our shores and made us stronger, by creating and striving and doing their jobs better than anyone else in the world.

    I look forward to seeing what each of our newest citizens writes into the next chapter of the great American story.    

    David Agnew is Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs

  • Chattanooga Mayor Discusses President Obama's Economic Vision

    On Tuesday, President Obama traveled to Chattanooga, Tennessee to talk about his plan to offer a better bargain for the middle class. The President's plan builds on the progress we've made to create good jobs that pay decent wages by investing in manufacturing, infrastructure, clean energy, and increasing exports. In his speech, the President laid out an idea to simplify our business tax system to eliminate loopholes as part of a package that makes investments we need to create good middle class jobs. 

    In Tennessee, the President called on Washington to work on a grand bargain focused on middle-class jobs by pairing reform of the business tax code with a significant investment in middle-class jobs. “We should be doing everything we can as a country to create more good jobs that pay good wages,” President Obama said. 

    President Obama’s plan for simplifying the corporate tax code would close loopholes, end incentives to ship jobs overseas, lower the rate for businesses creating jobs right here in America, provide tax incentives for manufacturers that bring jobs home to the United States, and simplify taxes for small business owners. 

    In anticipation of the President’s visit, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke authored an op-ed on the President’s economic vision and how it continues to help strengthen middle class families in his city.  Check out this excerpt and read the full article online:

    "With his visit to Chattanooga, President Obama could not have picked a better place to highlight the economic recovery already in place and the need for all of us to work together to bolster the middle class. The president’s plan ignites a needed discussion on how we spur a renaissance in manufacturing, make strategic investments in technology, education and infrastructure, and create new ladders of opportunity for Chattanooga, for Tennessee, and for the nation."

    Find out more about the President Obama’s visit to Chattanooga and the President’s Economic vision for cities across the country.