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Congressman Dan Kildee Hosts Congressional Forum Focused on Changing the Way Congress Approaches and Invests in America's Cities and Towns

Date: July 12, 2017
Location: Washington, DC

Forums on Capitol Hill and Across Country Seek to Better Align Local, State and Federal Policies with the Unique Challenges of Older, Industrial Communities
Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05), the co-chair of the Congressional Urban Caucus and Vice Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Committee, hosted a congressional forum today in Washington, D.C. as part of his new "The Future of America's Cities and Towns" initiative that seeks to change the way Congress and policy makers think about and invest in communities.

Today's forum included remarks by Congressman Kildee as well as House Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Maxine Waters (CA-43), Karen Freeman-Wilson, the Mayor of Gary, Ind., and representatives from The Brookings Institution, National League of Cities and Center for Community Progress. Each of the panelists provided their perspective on several issues including the current fiscal constraints facing cities, how a lack of investment has stalled redevelopment, and the challenges vulnerable communities face.

Today's forum is a part of Kildee's new nationwide initiative to highlight the many challenges that cities and towns across the U.S. face regarding infrastructure needs, economic development, housing, blight and jobs in the twenty-first century economy. Kildee's new initiative will include policy discussions in Washington, D.C. and in other communities across the country, along with local, state and federal elected officials and public policy experts. The initiative will focus on the unique challenges and opportunities facing many older, industrial communities throughout the country. Additional forums around the country will be announced in the coming weeks.

Congressman Kildee today also raised the issue of older, industrial communities in the House Financial Services Committee, where the chair of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, was testifying today.

Congressman Kildee's opening remarks at the forum are below:

"Good afternoon. Thank you all for being here. I'm Congressman Dan Kildee from Michigan, specifically from Flint, which is a story unto itself and really is a story that is very much a part of the work that we are launching today.

"This is the first of a series of discussions and roundtables that will take place not just here in Washington, but for those of you who work with Members that have a particular interest in this, this is something we are going to take on the road.

"There is a conversation that many of us have been involved in for a long time. When I arrived in Congress, I was immediately frustrated by the fact that it was not taking place so much here. The challenge of America's cities and towns, particularly the challenge of older cities that have been struggling to sort of make that transition from the great contributions that those communities made in the previous economy, to struggling to figure out what their place is in the new economy. They suffer population loss, disinvestment, abandonment, blight--all those significant problems.

"The conclusions that many of us--and this panel is really a set of experts on this--have come to, is that the challenges of these older places is not some case of bad luck. This is a result of policy choices that have been made. Some drivers go beyond the control of government, but for sure we have not responded to the needs of these cities in the way we ought to, in order for those places to be the contributors to the American economy and provide the kind of opportunity that every community ought to provide its residents. The idea of this forum is to highlight this question, to raise this issue, and to explore ways that policy--federal policy, but also state and local policy--can be aligned with the needs of these older communities.

"As I mentioned, I come from Flint. The mistake of the Flint story and the crisis that it has been going through, is to consign Flint's story to the history books as some sort of an anomaly, some extraordinary set of events that could never occur anywhere else that were a result of some bad choices that were made by an Emergency Manager.

"Did that happen? Yes. But the backdrop of Flint's story is a long history--decade's long history--of disinvestment without adequate policy to support reinvestment. The government and its role is clear. Part of the conversation has to be how we create opportunities, incentives, interest and private investment in these older places.

"Congresswoman Maxine Waters is here, the Ranking Member of the Financial Services Committee. We are working together on this, Maxine and I, to try to highlight this question. And it's not just about America's cities. It is America's cities and towns. We need to really focus on that.

"This is an agenda that is really important to American growth and prosperity. Not just for the people who live in these places, although that is a lot of the focus, but in order for us to grow our economy to be the competitive nation that we need to be, we have got to have everybody pulling, everybody rowing together in the right direction--and that includes all these places.

"We cannot continue to treat older cities that are facing stress as if they are problems we manage. They are communities that have incredible opportunity. We have to unleash that opportunity and we need policy to do that.

"So what we have done today is to assemble a pretty remarkable group of folks. Now, my Ranking Member, let me introduce the Ranking Member Maxine Waters, who has been a great champion. She and I have recently worked very closely on this. Maxine."