Washington, DC- Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced that he is urging the White House to include Reading among a select group of cities in its ‘Strong Cities, Strong Communities Program.’ The program is a White House initiative that links a small group of cities with top experts in municipal finances and economic development. The Administration would then work closely with Reading to develop economic growth strategies.
“Reading is an ideal city for this White House initiative that could benefit the city and all of Berks County,” Senator Casey said. “Reading is a vibrant city with untold potential. Linking the City’s municipal leaders with some of the country’s foremost experts on growth and municipal management will be a major boost to the entire region.”
The Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) initiative, first announced in July 2011, seeks to strengthen neighborhoods, towns, cities, and regions around the country by enhancing the capacity of local governments to develop and execute their economic vision and strategies, providing necessary technical assistance and access to federal agency expertise, and creating new public and private sector partnerships.
The SC2 Economic Planning Challenge is a key component of the Obama Administration initiative that includes a series of competitions in which six separate cities will work closely with the Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration (EDA) to offer cash rewards for new solutions to Strategic Economic Transition planning in each community. Winning plans will be selected by local leaders.
The full text of Casey’s letter is below:
Mr. Matthew Dalbey Deputy Executive Director White House Council
Strong Cities, Strong Communities Program
Dear Mr. Dalbey:
It is my understanding that the City of Reading, Pennsylvania, has submitted an application to the White House's Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) program. The purpose of this letter is to express my strong support for this proposal and urge you to give it full and fair consideration.
Reading is currently experiencing severe financial hardships. In fact, the City is currently enrolled in the Pennsylvania Distressed Municipalities Program (Act 47), which was designed to help cities develop a fiscal recovery plan. Moreover, the Census ranks the City as having the second highest rate of poverty of all cities in the United States with a population of 65,000 or more. In 2011, the City was listed as number one on that list. It is my understanding that along with these struggles, Reading has experienced shrinking tax revenues, which have created a rising demand for human services and an unprecedented need for long-term strategies to help the City progress.
As I understand it, providing a Community Solutions Team (CST) to help with technical assistance and expertise will be of great benefit to the City of Reading. It appears this type of support, among other things, will help the City to use federal funds more effectively, leverage other resources, secure and strengthen partnerships that will assist in economic growth, and aid with comprehensive plans to improve the City's economy and the community.
Thank you in advance for the consideration of my views. Please include this letter in the official record of the application. Consistent with all applicable laws, rules and regulations, I also respectfully request that you keep me informed of the status of this grant application. Finally, if you have any questions, comments or concerns, please feel free to contact me or my staff.
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator