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Edwards Campaign Press Release - Edwards Unveils "Cities Rising" Agenda For Urban America

December 01, 2007

Outlines Proposals To Strengthen Cities By Creating More Good Jobs, Strengthening Schools, Expanding Affordable Housing, Ending Poverty And Reforming Our Criminal Justice System

Des Moines, Iowa – Today, Senator John Edwards unveiled his "Cities Rising" agenda to revitalize urban America and make sure Americans living in urban areas have the chance to work hard and build better lives for their children. Edwards' urban agenda would strengthen cities and support families in urban areas by creating more good jobs, strengthening urban schools, expanding affordable housing, ending poverty within a generation, and fighting crime and reforming criminal justice.

"Today, too many Americans are separated from the opportunities of our country because of where they live," said Edwards. "Many cities are dealing with struggling schools, high-poverty neighborhoods and increasing violence. Urban families are often cut off from good jobs, good schools and opportunities to get ahead.

"We need to make sure families living in urban areas have the same chances to succeed as the rest of America. As president, I will strengthen our cities and build One America, where all Americans, whether they live in big cities, small towns or the suburbs, have access to good-paying jobs, health care, and a great education. With a real commitment to our cities, we can restore hope to urban America and make sure we leave our children, in every part of the country, a better, more prosperous life."

Today, Edwards will participate in the Every Child Matters Presidential Candidate Forum, the Heartland Presidential Forum and the Iowa Brown & Black Presidential Forum, where he will discuss his plans to ensure fairness for urban areas and make sure families have the support and resources they need to succeed. Edwards' urban agenda would:

Create Good Jobs: Edwards will build the new energy economy and create green collar jobs, enact smarter trade policies, strength labor laws, and invest in innovation and ingenuity.

Strengthen Urban Schools: Edwards will prepare every child to succeed through quality preschool and early childhood education programs. He will raise pay for teachers in successful high poverty schools and radically overhaul No Child Left Behind. Edwards will invest more in low-income children, put us on a path to fully funding special education, and raise graduation rates with adolescent literacy programs and Second Chance schools for former dropouts.

Expand Affordable Housing: Edwards will expand affordable housing by creating a million new housing vouchers, revitalize devastated neighborhoods, take steps to end predatory lending, and strengthen enforcement of fair housing laws.

End Poverty Within a Generation: Edwards has outlined a Working Society initiative to lift 12 million Americans out of poverty in a decade and end poverty within a generation by creating one million stepping stone jobs, making work pay by increasing the minimum wage, helping families save through a new low-income tax credit, and supporting responsible families.

Fight Crime and Reform Criminal Justice: Edwards will put more cops on the beat and help ex-offenders undertake productive, law-abiding lives with literacy education and drug treatment, stepping stone jobs, and voting rights in federal elections. He will also ban racial profiling in law enforcement while supporting efforts to reform mandatory minimum sentences and alternatives to imprisonment.

For more information on Edwards' agenda for urban America, please see the attached policy paper.

Cities Rising: Edwards' Agenda for Urban America

"Cities are the centers of American life, but they are also sites of the most concentrated inequalities in America. Our cities need a helping hand so they can continue to rise with better jobs, better schools, and a higher quality of life." – John Edwards

Metropolitan areas are the center of our nation's economic and cultural activity. The largest 100 cities and their surrounding areas make up just 12 percent of the nation's land mass but produce 75 percent of America's economic output. Today, however, many cities are struggling. The middle class is shrinking in many central cities. Urban schools struggle to attract teachers and suffer high dropout rates. Nearly every big city has very poor neighborhoods, often disproportionately black and Latino, that isolate residents from jobs and good schools. [Brookings, 2007; Berube and Katz, 2005]

Today, John Edwards released his "Cities Rising" agenda to revitalize America's cities. It includes his ideas for how he will strengthen cities and their surrounding areas by creating more good jobs, strengthening schools, expanding affordable housing, ending poverty, and addressing violent crime.

Creating Good Jobs

In America today, families are working harder to get by. Over the last 20 years, American incomes have grown apart: 40 percent of the income growth in the 1980s and 1990s went to the top 1 percent.

The middle-class is eroding in cities, while the percentage of the urban population that is high-income and low-income is growing. [EPI, 2006; Brookings 2007]

  • Build the New Energy Economy and Create Green Collar Jobs: Edwards will create more than 1 million jobs, many in struggling manufacturing communities, by capping carbon dioxide emissions to halt global warming and prompting a shift to renewable energy and energy efficient economy. He will train 150,000 workers a year in green collar jobs to meet these economic needs and ensure that the benefits of economic growth are widely shared.
  • Enact Smarter Trade Policies: Trade deals need to make sense for American workers, not just corporations. Edwards will make sure any new trade agreements include strong labor and environmental standards and will vigorously enforce American workers' rights in existing agreements. He will also expand trade adjustment assistance to do much more for the workers and communities that are hurt by global competition and reform our international tax code to remove incentives for companies to move overseas rather than creating jobs here at home.
  • Strengthen Labor Laws: Unions made manufacturing jobs the foundation of our middle class, and they can do the same for our service economy. Federal law promises workers the right to choose a union, but the law is poorly enforced, full of loopholes, and routinely violated by employers. Edwards supports the Employee Free Choice Act to give workers a real choice in whether to form a union, and making penalties for breaking labor laws tougher and faster, so unions can compete on a level playing field and the right to join a union means something. He also supports banning the permanent replacement of strikers so unions can negotiate fairly.
  • Invest in Innovation and Ingenuity: The most important factor for America's future prosperity is investment in education, science, technology and innovation. As president, Edwards will make the Research and Experimentation tax credit permanent. He will encourage research in the life sciences by lifting the ban on stem cell research and doubling funding for key priorities at the National Institutes of Health. He will also strengthen elementary, secondary, and post-secondary education in math, science and engineering.

Strengthening Urban Schools

Every child should have a chance to get a great education, a commitment that is at the core of John Edwards' plan to build One America where everyone has a chance to succeed. But more than 50 years after Brown v. Board of Education, we still have two school systems that are separate and unequal. Many urban schools are hamstrung by a lack of funding and inability to attract good new teachers. American teenagers – particularly black and Hispanic students – trail their international competitors, and these gaps are most evident in high schools in the nation's largest urban and older suburban school systems, dozens of which fail to graduate even two-thirds of their students. [Brookings, 2007]

  • Prepare Every Child to Succeed: Quality preschool education should be as common as kindergarten. As president, Edwards will create Great Promise early childhood education programs, and make them available to all four-year-olds. He will also create a national Smart Start initiative – based on North Carolina's successful initiative – to link together health care, child care, education, and family support services for children under five.
  • Put an Excellent Teacher in Every Classroom: Nothing is more important in a school than the relationship between a teacher and a child. Edwards will raise pay for teachers in successful high-poverty schools by as much as $15,000 more a year. He will create a national teachers' university – a West Point for teachers – to train excellent teachers for our worst schools. He will also help teachers with extra support in their early years with mentors and extra planning time.
  • Make Every School an Outstanding School: Edwards will radically overhaul No Child Left Behind to live up to its goal of helping all children learn at high levels, rejecting cheap standardized tests, arbitrary formulas for school success, and unproven cookie-cutter reforms. He will help 1,000 great schools expand or start new branches. Edwards will invest more in low-income children, put us on a path to fully funding special education, and raise graduation rates with adolescent literacy programs and Second Chance schools for former dropouts.

Expanding Affordable Housing

In central cities, homeownership is half the national average. Nearly 6 million Americans live in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty inside big cities. Nearly every big city has at least one very poor neighborhood – including 46 of the largest 50 cities – and they often include a racial as well as economic dimension. These neighborhoods isolate willing workers from entry-level jobs and children from good schools. [Berube and Katz, 2005]

  • Create a Million New Housing Vouchers: Edwards will create a million vouchers over five years to help low-income families move to better neighborhoods. At the same time, he will phase out housing projects that tie families to certain locations and are often lower quality and more expensive than private sector alternatives.
  • Revitalize Devastated Neighborhoods: It is better to invest in struggling neighborhoods than abandon them. Edwards will reform and expand the HOPE VI program to replace dilapidated housing in areas of concentrated poverty, while ensuring that current residents benefit.
  • End Predatory Lending: While subprime mortgages can benefit families with poor credit histories, predatory mortgages include deceptive terms without any benefit to homeowners. Millions of families with subprime mortgages have lost their homes or could lose them in the next few years. Edwards will create a Home Rescue Fund to get these families into mortgages they can afford and pass a strong national law against predatory lending.
  • Strengthen Enforcement of Fair Housing Laws: Housing discrimination is still too common. Edwards will strengthen enforcement of the Fair Housing Act and Equal Credit Opportunity Act by the Departments of Justice and Housing and Urban Development.

Ending Poverty in a Generation

More than 37 million Americans live in poverty. Poverty rates are increasing in nearly half of large cities, a higher share than in suburbs, and child poverty is rising even more quickly in these areas. Edwards has outlined a Working Society initiative to lift 12 million Americans out of poverty in a decade and end poverty within a generation. [Census Bureau, 2007; Berube and Kneebone, 2006]

  • Create 1 Million Stepping Stone Jobs: Every American should have the chance to work their way out of poverty, but some willing workers cannot find jobs because of where they live, a lack of experience or skills, or other obstacles, like a criminal record. Edwards will create a million short-term jobs to help individuals move into permanent work.
  • Make Work Pay: Edwards will increase the reward for working by raising the minimum wage to at least $9.50 an hour by 2012 and setting it to rise over time. In 2001, a $1 increase in the minimum wage alone would have lifted an estimated 900,000 people out of poverty. He will triple the Earned Income Tax Credit for adults without children and cut its marriage penalty for couples. The EITC is particularly important to urban areas – it delivers over $8 billion to large cities – and is used primarily for purposes like buying clothes, repairing furniture and appliances, and other activities that create a positive ripple effect through the economy. [Berube 2006; Sawhill and Thomas, 2001]
  • Help Working Families Save: Edwards proposed a new tax credit to help low-income, working Americans save for the future. The credit would match savings up to $500 per year. As many as 28 million Americans don't have bank accounts. Edwards will subsidize bank accounts for working families. [Federal Reserve, 2007]
  • Support Responsible Families: Welfare reform required mothers to work and helped them find jobs, but it failed to do the same for fathers. Edwards will help fathers find work, require them to help support their children, and increase child support collections by more than $8 billion over the next decade and use those payments to benefit children. The U.S. has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the industrialized world. Edwards believes we should have more support for teenagers struggling to beat the odds.

Fighting Crime and Reforming Criminal Justice

Violent crime increased in 2006 for the second year in a row, reversing a long trend of lowering crime. Violent crime in metropolitan counties grew by 3 percent and murder in those counties grew by 6 percent. Urban households also suffer higher rates of property crimes. [AP, 6/2/2007; FBI, 2007; BJS, 2005]

  • Put More Cops on the Beat: Edwards supports the COPS program, which helped hire 117,000 police officers and bring down the crime rate. Legislation extending COPS is currently stuck in the Senate. Edwards believes the legislation should be extended to hire 50,000 more officers. He also supports funding for state and city initiatives to prosecute gangs, drugs and illegal guns, while supporting effective youth intervention and crime prevention programs. [Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 11/26/2007; Brookings, 2007; GAO, 2005]
  • Help Ex-Offenders Undertake Productive, Law-Abiding Lives: Edwards will help ex-offenders return to productive lives with literacy education and drug treatment, stepping stone jobs, and voting rights in federal elections. He also supports strict oversight for probationers and parolees with certain, swift and graduated punishment for probation and parole violations. He wants to increase resources for overworked parole officers and backs greater community oversight and support for former offenders so that people leaving prison don't go back to crime.
  • Stop Racial Profiling In Law Enforcement: Law enforcement based on racial stereotypes, such as arrests for "driving while black," violates our principles as a nation. Edwards will ban racial profiling in law enforcement. He also supports efforts to reform mandatory minimum sentences and alternatives to imprisonment – such as drug courts – for non-violent, first-time offenders.

John Edwards, Edwards Campaign Press Release - Edwards Unveils "Cities Rising" Agenda For Urban America Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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