White House Event Report and Follow-up

Photo of participant asking question at White House event.

Congratulations to all those who attended the historic White House Forum on First Suburbs, Inclusion, Sustainability and Economic Growth on Monday, July 18, 2011.

The day was a tremendous success. 170 local elected officials, business, labor and civic leaders from 22 metropolitan regions from across the United States crowded into the White House South Court Auditorium to discuss the strengths and assets as well as the fiscal, social and environmental issues facing America’s first suburbs.

We were joined by some of the Obama Administration’s most important and influential officials, some of the nation's most respected policy experts and an exceptional group of inspired local leaders who served as our panel experts.

The White House leadership committed to continue the conversation about the unique but common challenges facing our communities, to join us back in our regions where we will continue to organize and build support, and we secured support from some of the Administration's most senior policy advisors to the President to hear our proposals for reform.

You can see three of the PowerPoint presentations delivered by clicking here.

The day was co-chaired by Georgine Welo, Mayor of South Euclid, Ohio and a leader of the Northeast Ohio First Suburbs Consortium, along with Rev. Nathaniel Goodson, Councilman from Upper Darby, Pennsylvania and a leader of the Southeastern Pennsylvania First Suburbs Project.

Mayor Welo's impressions are reported in an online article: click here to read it.

Presentations describing the unique challenges and opportunities of the first suburbs were given by the Kirwan Institute’s john powell and by Myron Orfield of the University of Minnesota.

Skillfully moderated by Michael Griffin, Clerk Treasurer of Highland, Indiana, a panel of local elected leaders provided context and feedback on the presentations by powell and Orfield. Mayor Marie Lopez Rogers of Avondale, Arizona (and Second Vice President of the National League of Cities), Assemblywoman Mila Jasey of the New Jersey General Assembly, Michael Summers, Mayor of Lakewood, Ohio (and local businessman), Mayor Jacob Smith, of Golden, Colorado (and Director of the PlaceMatters Institute) and John Durso, President of the Labor Federation of Long Island provided stories and examples that helped us better understand the social, environmental and economic implications of the challenges our communities are facing.

David Rusk presented the Building ONE America agenda for inclusion, sustainability and economic growth and a slew of powerful administration officials addressed the gathering, answered questions and even challenged us to organize and take action. Administration officials included: Michael Strautmanis, Deputy Assistant to the President; Cabinet member Raymond LaHood, Secretary, United States Department of Transportation; Cecilia Munoz, the White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs; Pete Rouse, Senior Advisor to the President; and Jon Carson, White House Director of Public Engagement.

And if that wasn’t enough, after the forum, Building ONE America’s founding Executive Director Mike Kruglik was summoned (in the midst of intense debt ceiling talks) to the West Wing to meet with President Obama in the Oval Office.  The two community organizers discussed the Building ONE America event and Mike listed for the President all the states and metropolitan areas that were represented.

This is the first time a conversation like this has occurred at the White House. It's a powerful beginning and a very important conversation about issues vital not only for our communities but for the future of our country, our economy and our environment.

Now it's up to us to follow up and follow through.

Local leaders will be gathering in their regions over the next 4 to 6 weeks to reflect on what they got out of Monday's forum and to begin to plan to advance a similar program in their region with Building ONE America. For example, Georgine Welo, Mayor of South Euclid, Ohio, and Mayor Ted Andrzejewski of Eastlake (Ohio) organized a meeting with David Agnew, deputy assistant to President Barack Obama and director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs with numerous local leaders, as one of dozens of BOA meetings around the country with White House and congressional officials to press case for suburbs, espeically increasingly diverse middle class suburbs. Read the story by clicking here.

From August 14 – 19, Building ONE America will hold its national leadership training, which will provide some of the tools needed to the build on the momentum started on July 18. Each of the metropolitan regions is encouraged to send at least one leader to this training.

If you are interested in participating in the next steps with Building ONE America and the White House, send an email to whforum@buildingoneamerica.org