Hillary Clinton takes on inequality in remarks to liberal group

Hillary Clinton takes on inequality in remarks to liberal group
Hillary Clinton departs after speaking at the Center for American Progress on March 23 in Washington. (Win McNamee / Getty Images)

Hillary Clinton addressed the promise of urban renewal as an engine for economic expansion Monday but stressed the need for fostering growth "in a way that lifts everybody up."

As she closes in on the launch of a presidential campaign in which she will immediately be the Democratic Party front-runner, Clinton used her remarks at a liberal think tank in Washington to show her commitment to an issue important to the party's base: the equality gap.

"One of the biggest issues we face is income inequality, combined with wage stagnation," she said during a panel discussion at the Center for American Progress, an organization founded by her likely campaign chairman, John Podesta. "We need to think hard about what we're going to do, now that people are moving back into and staying in cities, to make sure that our cities are not just places of economic prosperity and job creation on average, but do it in a way that lifts everybody up."

She described herself as very supportive of an effort by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio to launch universal prekindergarten, calling it an example of ways to keep middle-class families from being priced out of increasingly expensive cities.

While her remarks touched on issues that have become top priorities for her party, she avoided a laundry list of policy proposals of the type a candidate might offer and instead sought to associate herself with what she described as a more pragmatic approach to governance in big cities.

"We have cities that are working well because they have been reinventing themselves, and they have done so in a collaborative, inclusive manner," she said, while other cities are struggling in a "political battlefield" where people are "in their ideological bunkers."

Clinton's participation in the panel, which also included Compton Mayor Aja Brown and Dixon Slingerland, the executive director of Los Angeles' Youth Policy Institute, was limited to brief opening and closing remarks. After the discussion, she singled out Brown's work combating gang violence, at which point she offered the morning's only hint of what might be in store for her in the near future.

"Don't be surprised if you get a call to come, and maybe we'll start not too far from here," she said, before clarifying she had a "beautiful domed building" in Washington in mind for Brown -- the Capitol, not the White House.

After the event, Brown praised Clinton's depth of understanding on the challenges urban communities face and said she looks forward to "seeing her back on the national stage."

"If we can really focus on the things that unify us and the issues that really matter, then we can come to some real conclusions," she said.

Clinton is also scheduled to speak at a journalism awards dinner in Washington on Monday. The former secretary of state is expected to formally launch a presidential bid as soon as next month.

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