New Orleans selected for Strong Cities, Strong Communities

U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis joined Mayor Mitch Landrieu today in announcing New Orleans’ selection as one of six cities nationwide chosen for the Strong Cities, Strong Communities program or SC2, an Obama administration initiative that will take top government officials from Cabinet agencies in Washington, D.C., and place them in the cities to help cut through the red tape and time it takes to make things happen.

“New Orleans was chosen because of the Mayor’s visionary plan to rebuild the city as a model in economic growth,” Secretary Solis said. “(Strong Cities, Strong Communities) is about supporting communities from the bottom up. We are providing human capital to help New Orleans achieve its own vision. The Obama administration looks forward to helping you build a new New Orleans.”

Some Washington bureaucrats will live and work in New Orleans on a full-time basis and others will be here part-time for the duration of the program, which has not been clearly defined.

For its part, Mayor Landrieu said the city of New Orleans will use benchmarks measured in ResultsNola, his administration’s quarterly examination of the yearly goals set for each city department and progress made in achieving them to also gauge the progress of SC2.

In response to the question of whether emphasis would be placed on ensuring local businesses and workers benefit from SC2, Secretary Solis said “We’re interested because the whole point is to put local people to work.”

And while SC2 does not contain any specific directives related to ensuring the involvement of minority owned businesses, the city of New Orleans has its own—an ordinance that sets participation standards for local businesses and Disadvantage Business Enterprises in city contracts as well as an executive order that establishes a provisional certification program for DBEs and creates an advisory panel to reform and strengthen the city’s DBE program.
The assumption, of course, is that the city government will follow its own mandates as SC2 develops.

Mayor Landrieu repeatedly described SC2 as a program that would “close the gap in time and space between the federal government and city government.”

In the next 60 to 90 days, New Orleanians can expect to have 12 to 18 “very high ranking government officials in New Orleans on the ground,” the Mayor said.

According to Secretary Solis those officials will include top administrators from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Justice Department, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Health and Human Services who will have decision-making ability and will work in an integrated and lateral manner with city officials.

Other cities chosen include Cleveland, Detroit, Memphis, Chester, Penn., and Fresno, Calif.

Through this pilot, the Obama administration will focus on three key goals:
• Improving the way federal government does business: cutting through red tape and rationalizing the federal bureaucracy to help deal with the overlapping maze of agencies, regulations and program requirements that are sometimes confusing to local governments.

• Providing assistance and support – working with local communities to find ground up, not top down solutions: providing on the ground technical assistance and planning resources tailored to local governments’ needs, and helping them use the federal funds they already receive more efficiently and effectively.

• Partnering for growth: developing critical partnerships with key local and regional stakeholders that encompass not only municipal and state governments, but also new partnerships with the business community, nonprofits, anchor institutions, faith-based institutions, and other public, private and philanthropic leaders.
In addition to building the capacity of local governments, SC2 aims to encourage partnerships among local community organizations, anchor institutions, businesses, foundations and government agencies, helping to leverage federal investments and increase impact. The four components of SC2 include:

• SC2 Community Solutions Teams: These are comprised of federal employees from several different agencies who will work directly with cities to assist cities with issues mayors have identified as vital to their economic strategies, including efforts to build on local assets, strengthen regional economies, develop transportation infrastructure, improve job-training programs and support community revitalization.

• SC2 Fellowship Program: A complement to the Community Solutions Teams, a new fellowship program will select, train and place early- to mid-career professionals to serve multi-year terms in local government positions to give cities additional capacity. An intermediary will be selected to run the fellowship program, and fellows will be selected through a competitive national process. The program will be funded primarily by philanthropic partners; the Rockefeller Foundation is providing $2.5 million in initial funding.

• SC2 Economic Planning Challenge: In addition to the six pilot locations, SC2 includes an Economic Planning Challenge designed to help additional cities develop economic blueprints.

• National Resource Network: Pending authorization of funding, the National Resource Network will aggregate public and private resources to provide a broader set of cities, towns and regions with access to a one-stop portal of national experts to provide holistic policy and implementation support.

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