WASHINGTON -- St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman was in town today as President Barack Obama signed an executive order to create the White House Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities, a program designed to link federal agencies and local governments to spark development in struggling cities.

Based at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the council will pair 19 federal agencies with cities across the country with the goal of changing policies and programs to create local expertise on urban issues and spur economic growth.

“People understand that it’s not going to be just about some agency swooping down and solving the problem,” Coleman said. “It’s about empowering people to come together and solve these changes.”

Coleman joined mayors from Detroit, New Orleans, Fresno, Calif., and Chester, Pa., at the White House to tout Strong Cities, Strong Communities, not as a participant, but as an example of what partnerships can produce.

 “I rarely go into a meeting with any of these federal officials without them pulling me aside and saying, ‘You guys are doing amazing work in the Twin Cities,” Coleman said.

Coleman cited work on the Central Corridor light-rail line between St. Paul and Minneapolis as proof that federal and local partnerships yield results.

 “We’re not just building a transit corridor, we are rebuilding a community,” he said.

During his time in Washington, Coleman has also met with officials from HUD the federal departments of Labor and Housing and Urban Development to discuss community develop block grants and other methods to pay for summer youth job programs. Community develop block grant funding has sunk more than 25 percent in recent years, he said.

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