One quote struck me from the reports on this ancient speech. That was where candidate Obama said:
We need additional federal public transportation dollars flowing to the highest-need communities. We don’t need to build more highways out in the suburbs. If we have people in the cities right now who want to work but have no way to get into those jobs, we've got to help connect them to the jobs that exist. We should be investing in minority-owned businesses, in our neighborhoods, so people don’t have to travel from miles away.What's wrong with building more highways out in the suburbs? Check out this story in the LA Times making the connection between municipal bankruptcies filed by the cities of San Bernardino and Stockton, and suburban sprawl. City leaders in these cities were seduced by the promises of speculative real estate developers to generate up front fees and increased property tax revenue when they build sprawling new subdivisions. Later on, however, these same cities find that the increased costs of maintaining the roads to those new subdivisions, as well as the greater cost of fire protection, police, ambulances, school buses and other costs, gradually bleeds the municipality dry. The only way out is to attract even more new subdivisions, in a Ponzi scheme of development that eventually bankrupts the city when demand for new housing is tapped out, as happened in a big way in San Bernardino and Stockton and elsewhere. The outskirts of these cities now contain many empty monuments to the promise of easy development.
Urban infill development is not only more fair to the poor and minorities; it also makes good financial sense. Building more highways out to the suburbs invites financial disaster. And that should make conservatives who are supposedly against wasteful government spending applaud the prescience of candidate Obama's 2007 warning against the pitfalls of excessive suburban development.