Urban Wire Urban’s year in events: Sparking discussions about current policy challenges
Leigh Franke
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Urban held more than 50 public events this year, convening experts on a range of subject areas to explore the biggest policy challenges we face at home and abroad. A few events and conversations stood out, however, for their influence, relevance, and ability to bring together diverse opinions to truly elevate the debate.

Cory Booker and Freeman Hrabowski on improving the life chances of boys and men of color
Civil unrest in Baltimore, Ferguson, Staten Island, and Chicago shed a harsh light in 2015 on the many injustices faced by communities of color in the United States. In May, Urban Institute President Sarah Rosen Wartell facilitated a conversation between Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and University of Maryland, Baltimore County President Freeman Hrabowski about how we can reduce these disparities and improve the life chances of boys and young men of color.

New Orleans: Ten Years Later
The tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in August called for a reexamination of our progress on disaster recovery and resilience in New Orleans and the nation. Together with the Urban Institute, The Atlantic brought together local and national leaders, journalists, and artists to evaluate the city’s remaining challenges and potential solutions.

Show Me a Hero: A Conversation with HUD Secretary Julián Castro and David Simon
By retelling the story of a public housing battle in 1980s Yonkers, New York, David Simon's HBO miniseries, Show Me a Hero, deeply explored the intersection of race, place, and housing policy. In September—just months after the Supreme Court’s historic Affirmatively Restoring Fair Housing rule—Simon, HUD secretary Julián Castro, and other housing experts joined Urban Institute to screen a segment of the show and discuss the legacy of housing segregation today.

The Future of Pay for Success with OMB Director Shaun Donovan, Civic Leaders, and Innovators
Pay for Success is an innovative financing mechanism facilitates better evaluation of social programs by shifting financial risk to private investors and away from the government. In October, the Urban Institute, White House Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan, and civic leaders examined lessons learned from the earliest pilot programs and how they can help us advance evidence-based policy.

Data, Demand, and Demographics: A Symposium on Housing Finance
At the annual Urban Institute and CoreLogic housing symposium in November, numerous housing finance experts gathered to discuss the most pressing changes facing the industry: shifting demographics, surging rental demand, and limited credit accessibility. Opening speaker and Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Jason Furman illustrated just how distinctly housing contributes to the country’s economic health—and its growing inequality.

Should Governments Tax Soda, Sweets, and Junk Food?
Increasing the price of products that contain sugar can get people to consume less and thus improve nutrition and health—in theory. Many nations already have such a tax, but are they effective? In December, an expert panel assembled to weigh the costs and benefits of policymaking amid uncertainty.