Urban Agenda -- 21st Century Political Renewal


Reprinted w/permission-Washington Post Writers Group & the artist

Building a pro-city platform and Urban Agenda for the next Presidential campaign & locally.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Mike Turner, Republican from Dayton, a Congressman to watch

(I heard Congressman Turner speak at a small conference of the Preservation Development Initiative of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He said the right things. And, as a former Mayor of Dayton Ohio, he actually has experience on city issues. I am not saying we should get him to run for President. I think the "Urban Agenda" is a democratic agenda, but still, this is interesting. See this article about Dayton's Rehab-a-Rama, which was one of Mayor Turner's initiatives.)

COMMENTARY from the Dayton Daily News, Wednesday March 23, 2005

Martin Gottlieb: Turner gets boosts from friends
Bush plan on cities goes to his subcommittee
(registration required to access article on newspaper website)

By Martin Gottlieb
Dayton Daily News

Mike Turner's Republican friends in Congress have made a new committee for him — again.

This is the second consecutive Congress in which that has happened. Last time, it wasn't an official committee of Congress, but a "working group" of Republicans called "Saving America's Cities." House Speaker Dennis Hastert agreed to Turner's proposal, which was for a vehicle to focus on urban issues from a Republican perspective.

The idea was to address a political problem the party has in the cities, to show concern for urban issues and to help Turner deliver on the "urban Republican" label he had embraced for himself.
Of course, it doesn't take any great sacrifice on the part of the speaker to agree to a "working group." Still, the party leadership had been trying to cut back on the number of such groups, which had proliferated on the watch of Speaker Newt Gingrich.

This year, the new creation is an actual committee of Congress, complete with Democrats and legislative power. It's a subcommittee, to be precise, of the Government Reform Committee, which has a fuzzy jurisdiction having to do essentially with how government is structured, as opposed, say, to how it is funded.

The full committee chairman and Turner's benefactor is Rep. Tom Davis, a relatively moderate Republican from the Virginia suburbs of Washington. He is the mild-mannered fellow who became known to some television viewers last week when he chaired the hearing looking into steroid use in baseball.

His name first surfaced in Miami Valley politics in 2002, when he was in charge of the national effort to elect more Republicans to the House. Turner was making his first race for Congress. Davis took the unusual step of placing the national party on one candidate's side in a primary. He favored Turner over Roy Brown, saying Turner was obviously the more electable in November.
This blessing from the party undercut Brown's charge that Turner was insufficiently conservative, taking some of the steam out of Brown's campaign. Brown retaliated by denouncing Davis as "left-leaning."

This year Davis has created a subcommittee on "federalism and the census." Its description, from a release by the subcommittee, makes clear that it is made for Turner. It even lists "brownfield cleanup and redevelopment," a pet Turner cause, as part of the jurisdiction. Generally, the subcommittee is all about how the feds relate to the cities. Perfect for a congressman who is a former mayor of a typical city.

Republican ranks in Congress are not exactly full of such people. Turner is playing his former-mayor card to the max.

The subcommittee isn't as important as it sounds, because it isn't much involved in the budgetary process. But juicy things can end up there. Take President George W. Bush's proposal to consolidate 18 urban aid programs into one, dramatically shrink the total budget, and move them all into the Commerce Department. The reorganizational aspects of that would go through the subcommittee.

Indeed, Turner has already held hearings. He took testimony from administration people and from opponents of the plan who were representing national organizations of mayors and other local officials.

Turner opposes the plan, which, under some circumstances, might put him in a difficult spot. After all, he has no interest in developing a reputation in Republican circles as a rebel. And he is already committed to opposing the president's big thrust of the year: carving private accounts out of Social Security.

As things have turned out, however, so many people in Congress — Republicans as a well as Democrats — oppose the administration plan that the spotlight will not particularly be on Turner, unless, as he hopes, he can be the one to work out some sort of compromise.
Davis, as chairman of the full committee, had an essentially free hand to create the subcommittee. Doing so took the party just a little farther along the path Hastert took in blessing the "working group."

In the big picture, these are minor developments, not necessarily suggesting any more than that one junior congressman has some well-placed friends. Major policy will still be set at much higher levels. The Bush consolidation proposal shows that not much has changed in the Republican Party's approach to cities.

Still, it's a start, perhaps even in more ways than one.

Martin Gottlieb is an editorial writer and columnist for the Dayton Daily News. He may be reached at 225-2288 or by e-mail at mgottlieb@DaytonDailyNews.com.


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