State and local governments can expect a new, stronger relationship with the federal government than the one they have had for much of the past decade, Valerie Jarrett, assistant to President Obama for intergovernmental relations, told members of the National Association of Counties yesterday.

"I understand ... that your partnership with the federal government has been a little lacking in the last eight years ... We're here to change that. Not beginning today, but beginning on the day of the election," Jarrett said, speaking at NACo's annual legislative conference here.

The senior White House adviser said the "only way" the administration can figure out different ways of addressing the basic needs of everyday people is "with a partnership with you."

"I know that my team is working with you. We have been trying our best to make sure the lines of communication are open and that we have an opportunity moving forward to establish that true partnership the way you and your constituents deserve for it to be. It is a new day," she said.

Obama championed better intergovernmental relationships during his campaign and has followed through with that promise during the transition and the first weeks of his presidency, state and local groups have said.

In addition to the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, which is directed by Cecilia Munoz, Obama created a White House Office of Urban Affairs, which is aimed at boosting the relationship between the federal government and localities.

The administration created the office to "develop a strategy for metropolitan America and to ensure that all federal dollars targeted to urban areas are effectively spent on the highest-impact programs," according to a statement from the White House. It is expected to work in tandem with the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.

Speaking before introducing Jarrett, NACo president Don Stapley, asked NACo members to lobby Congress to "restore the partnership between the federal and county governments." He also touted the group's campaign, "Restore the Partnership," which in a brochure emphasizes the "importance of federalism to the American system of government, in which power is divided among federal, state, and local governments."

"NACo and county officials will work to educate and inform administration officials and members of Congress about counties ... through meetings with administration officials, issue briefings for congressional staff, visits with congressional officials, letters on critical issues, and background information on priority issues," NACo states.

State and local groups have lauded Obama's choice of former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion as director of the urban affairs office, and Derek Douglas, former Washington counsel to New York Gov. David Paterson, as special assistant to the president.

The groups also said the recently appointed deputy directors of the White House's Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, David P. Agnew and Shaun McGrath, will further strengthen the ties between levels of government.

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