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Federal Policies that will effect Ohio- what can you do?

Two weeks ago, Greater Ohio attended the Revitalizing Older Cities -Capitol Hill Summit in D.C. in order to meet with fellow activists, community organizers, civic leaders, elected officials and to explore case studies, exchange ideas, and communicate to Members of Congress the message that the overall health of our nation is measured by the health of our cities. Jennifer Vey, from the Brookings Institution gave a compelling presentation on the "Role of Federal Policy in the Rejuvenation of Older Industrial Cities" (pdf). Other topics discussed included: Water Infrastructure; Vacant/Abandoned Properties and Brownfields; Innovation; Transportation;  and Job Growth. View the presentations.

As the federal stimulus package is distributed, it is vital that Ohioans impact federal policies in ways that give the state the greatest ability to use stimulus dollars to invest in sustainable, growth projects. Below is a list of actions that you can take to impact federal policies that effect state revitalization:

A Federal Legislative Agenda for Revitalizing Older Cities:

Transportation:

  • HR 5951/S 2686 Safe and Complete Streets Act of 2008 was a bill introduced last year by Representative Matsui (D-CA) and Senator Harkin (D-IA) that would ensure that all users of the transportation system, including pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users- including children, older individuals, and individuals with disabilities- are all able to travel safely and conveniently on streets and highways. The legislation encourages the use of non-motorized transportation modes, a key factor in creating healthier, more livable cities.

Housing:

  • Support additional federal action to stop foreclosures and to give more resources directly to cities, particularly those cities and towns struggling with foreclosures and abandoned properties prior to the most recent wave of foreclosures.
  • HR 1033/ S 584 were introduced last year by the late Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH) and Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR). Enhancing the historic rehabilitation tax credit provisions make them work better with the low-income tax credit. This will further the use of older buildings for affordable housing. This bill will create an incentive for the redevelopment of our city’s architectural treasures and stimulate housing options for less fortunate families at the same time.
  • HR 2075 and S1239 introduced last year by Representative Richard Neal (D-MA) and Senator John Rockefeller IV (D-VW) these bills would extend the New Markets Tax Credit. This tax incentive has been a very successful mechanism in channeling investment dollars to neighborhoods most in need. Past projects that utilized New Markets Tax Credit funding have provided housing choices, stimulated local economies, and significantly reinvigorated challenged communities. HR 2075 and S 1239 would reauthorize the program until 2013.

Water Infrastructure:

  • In order to meet the water infrastructure needs of our nation, Congressman Blumenauer is proposing draft legislation to create a Water Trust Fund. The mission of this trust is to provide a deficit-neutral, consistent and fire-walled source of revenue to states to support the replacement, repair, and rehabilitation of clean and drinking water infrastructure. The overall federal government contribution to total clean water spending has shrunk from 78% in 1978 to 3% today. The GAO, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Congressional Budget Office, and the Water Infrastructure Network, have estimated that the nation faces a growing water infrastructure funding gap of between $300-50 billion between what is currently being spent and what must be spent over the next 20 years in order to upgrade our again water infrastructure.

Vacant Properties and Brownfields:

  • Representative Tim Ryan (D-OH) is introducing The Community Regeneration, Sustainability, and Innovation Act of 2009. This bill would encourage and test innovative vacant property reclamation and urban infrastructure renewal strategies in older industrial cities and metropolitan areas with a history of severe population and job loss. This bill would address blight and decay caused by abundant brownfields and vacant properties, and would provide tools for new strategies.
  • HR 2080 creates a new tax credit to assist states and local governments to clean-up contaminated industrial lands that pose threats to public health and our local economy. Even with state incentives designed to encourage the redevelopment of brownfields, thousands of acres of brownfields remain idle. Federal incentives to bring private dollars to these problem areas would be a significant step toward patting these brownfields back into sage and productive use.

Economic and Workforce Development:

  • S 3078 -introduced in the last Congress by Senator Susan Collins, the National Innovation and Job Creation Act of 2008 establishes in the Executive Office of the President a National Innovation Council, to be responsible for formulating and advocating for the federal government’s innovation policy. The bill requires the Council to collaborate with major statistical agencies, collect data concerning the impact on productivity of the council’s programs, and annually report to Congress on national innovation and productivity. S 3078 places the Council under the direction of a National Innovation Council Board.

Green Jobs and Sustainable Cities:

  • Introduced by Representative Perlmutter (D-Co) last year, H.R. 6078, the Green Resources for Energy Efficient Neighborhoods Act of 2008 or the GREEN Act of 2008 set provisions concerning Housing of Urban Development (HUD) energy efficiency and conservation standards and green building standards for structures (conservation standards). The bill requires the Secretary of HUD to conduct a program to demonstrate the effectiveness of funding a portion of the costs of carrying out energy efficiency and conservation and green building measures for multi-family housing projects for which rental assistance is provided under a covered multi-family assistance program. H.R. 6078 amends the Housing and Community Development Act of 1992 to provide for credits for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for mortgage Association Charter Act, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation Act, and the Federal Home Loan Corporation Act, and the Federal Home Loan Bank Act to include provisions concerning energy-efficient mortgages and location efficient mortgages.