Candidates address urban issues

New York – Marc Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League, applauded Senators Barack Obama and John McCain for attending the civil rights organization’s conference this past weekend in Orlando, Florida. More than 3,000 conference attendees and guests attended the sessions where Senators McCain and Obama addressed their plans to revitalize urban communities.

\”The National Urban League was proud to receive the two presumptive presidential nominees at our 98th annual conference,\” said Morial. \”With the presidential election approximately 90 days away, it is important to give our audience the opportunity to hear the candidates’ views on critical issues facing urban communities.\”

Senator Obama focused on economic and social issues that are plaguing the nation ranging from education, unemployment, healthcare, and the fallout from mortgage foreclosures that are devastating communities across the nation. He also gave a strong endorsement of \”The Opportunity Compact\” the National Urban League’s blueprint for economic equality.

\”Change does not happen from the top down but from the bottom up,\” said Senator Obama. \”We cannot have a thriving Wall Street and a struggling Main Street. There are 47 million Americans who do not have healthcare. Children in public schools in our cities have a fifty – fifty chance of graduating from high school. There are 2 million homeowners facing foreclosure. If we can bailout Wall St. and the investment bankers, we can help the average American.\”

Obama told the audience that as President, he would support creating a $60 billion National Infrastructure Bank to help correct the problems facing our schools, roads, and bridges, including investment in a high speed rail system to connect cities in various regions across the nation that are in dire need of repair or replacement. On education, he emphasized the need to retrain teachers, review how much they are paid, and revise public school curriculums with a strong concentration on math and science.

\”Hard work is a ticket to the middle class but somewhere we got off track,\” said Obama. \”We have had 7 straight months of losing jobs in this country. Our cities are faced with a shrinking tax base and a need for social services they can not meet. As President, I will propose tax breaks for companies who create jobs here in America and a tax cut up to $1,000 for Americans to help offset fuel costs, insurance, and other bills. If a family makes less than $250,000 a year, your taxes will not go up.\”

Obama said he plans to create new manufacturing jobs around \”Green Energy\” and invest $15 billion in the initiative. As President, his goal would be to reduce fossil fuel usage by 30 percent and utilize the nation’s outstanding community colleges to provide training to support emerging business requirements in energy and other sectors.

Senator John McCain, who addressed the National Urban League on Friday, also honed in on education and economic opportunity. The Senator stressed an urgent need to reform the public schools. His primary approach would be to put additional funds in the hands of school principals and allow them to decide how and where to make changes to improve their public schools.

\”Over the years Americans have heard a lot of tired rhetoric about education,\” said McCain. \”We’ve heard it from politicians who accept the status quo rather than stand up for real change in our public schools. Parents ask only for schools that are safe, teachers who are competent, and diplomas that open doors of opportunity. Some parents may choose a better public school while some may choose a private school. Many will choose a charter school. No entrenched bureaucracy or union should deny parents that choice and children that opportunity.\”

If elected President, McCain pledged to support school choice for all who want a choice, an expansion of Opportunity Scholarships, and alternative certification for teachers as part of a serious agenda of education reform.

\”We will pay bonuses to teachers who take on the challenge of working in our most troubled schools because we need their fine minds and good hearts to turn those schools around,\” said McCain. \”We will award bonuses as well to our highest-achieving teachers and no longer measure teacher achievement by conformity to process but by the success of their students.\”

McCain disagrees with Obama on how to fix the troubled economy stating that higher taxes are the last thing Americans need. McCain proposes to double the personal tax exemption from $3,500 to $7,000 for every dependent in every American family and offer every individual and family a large tax credit to buy health care.

\”To get our economy running at full strength again, we need to stay focused on creating jobs for our people and protecting paychecks from the rising costs of food, gasoline, and most everything else, said McCain. Above all, we need to get a handle on the cost of oil and gasoline and to regain energy independence for America.\”

\”The Urban League is tasked, charged, and inspired to provide leadership particularly at this point in our history,\” said Marc Morial. \”We will continue to keep our communities informed about the candidates’ positions on the issues, so that they can vote as informed citizens in the upcoming presidential election.\”