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Urban Institute Announces New Members of Leadership Team

Len Burman Returns to Direct the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center; Donald Marron, Erika Poethig Appointed to Newly Created Posts

Document date: March 20, 2013
Released online: March 20, 2013


The Urban Institute is adding to its leadership team: Donald Marron, the director of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, will become the Institute's first director of economic policy initiatives in June. Len Burman, former director of the Tax Policy Center and currently a professor at Syracuse University, will return to lead the center he co-founded in 2002. Erika Poethig, most recently the acting assistant secretary for policy development and research at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, will fill the newly created position of director of urban policy initiatives.

CONTACT: Stu Kantor, (202) 261-5283, skantor@urban.org

March 20, 2013 - Today, the Urban Institute announced the following three appointments:

  • Economist Donald Marron, the director of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, will be the first director of economic policy initiatives for the Urban Institute. As an Institute Fellow, Marron will remain affiliated with the Tax Policy Center when he assumes his new role in June.
  • Erika Poethig, who recently served as acting assistant secretary for policy development and research at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, will fill the newly created position of director of urban policy initiatives. Poethig will also serve as an Institute Fellow and will be affiliated with the Institute's Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center. She starts in May.
  • Len Burman, former director of the Tax Policy Center and currently the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Professor of Public Affairs at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, will return to the Urban Institute in June to lead the center he co-founded in 2002.

Donald Marron, Director of Economic Policy Initiatives
A former member of the Council of Economic Advisers (2008–2009) and former acting director of the Congressional Budget Office (2006), Marron has led the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center since 2010. This year, he sought a new perch that would enable him to explore a broader range of economic and fiscal policy issues across the Urban Institute. In his new role, Marron will direct a diverse portfolio of research initiatives. His work will deepen the Urban Institute's engagement with the policy community and bring the Institute's independent and rigorous research to new audiences.

"Donald Marron has wide-ranging interests and an unparalleled ability to explain clearly complex economic concepts and analyses," said Sarah Rosen Wartell, president of the Urban Institute. "In his new role, he can design cross-cutting research, drawing upon the breadth of the organization's expertise and analytic tools, to inform high-level policymakers tackling the biggest spending, revenue, and growth issues facing the nation."

Len Burman, Director, Tax Policy Center
Burman served as director of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center from 2002 to 2009, and he has remained an Urban Institute affiliated scholar while at Syracuse. After working on the Tax Reform Act at the U.S. Treasury Department in the 1980s, Burman went on to the Congressional Budget Office. He later served as deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury in 1998.

"In searching for a successor to Donald, we were thrilled to entice back TPC's very own co-founder, Len Burman," continued Wartell. "Len is an innovator. With the encouragement of former Urban Institute President Robert Reischauer, he imagined that the tax microsimulation model—if maintained at the ready—would allow for timely revenue and distributional analysis of emerging tax policy proposals. This has made TPC indispensable to the media and all those who follow tax debates."

Urban Institute Trustee Erskine Bowles has described TPC as a "national treasure," noting that the Simpson-Bowles Commission recently relied upon the center for assistance in developing the tax elements of its deficit reduction plans. Urban Institute Trustee Greg Mankiw, who recently joined TPC's advisory council, added, "TPC provides some of the crucial inputs necessary so that policy decisions can be based on hard data rather than political rhetoric."

Burman noted, "Working as a scholar at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University for the past four years, I've developed a new appreciation for how TPC's clear, timely, and impartial analysis informs the tax policy debate outside the Beltway. I'm excited about rejoining the fantastic TPC team at a time when tax policy is sure to be front and center on the national—and state and local—agendas. We will maintain the rigorous approach for which we are known and expand our analytical models as we seek new ways to inform the public, policymakers, and the press."

TPC's current tax model allows researchers to assess tax proposals by showing their revenue impact as well as their effects on the taxes paid by individuals and families at different income levels. Other original members of the TPC leadership team will remain in their current roles: co-directors Bill Gale (Brookings Institution) and Eric Toder (Urban Institute) as well as Urban Institute Fellow Eugene Steuerle.

Erika Poethig, Director of Urban Policy Initiatives
Erika Poethig is a veteran of HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research, Chicago city government, and the MacArthur Foundation. As she steps into a newly created role, she will assemble experts from throughout the Institute to tackle policy challenges facing urban America in the 21st century. She will lead efforts to better use the Institute's vast resources to inform mayors, county executives, and local civic leaders across regional economies who are working on the ground to spur growth, expand opportunities, and improve the lives of people in their communities. She will explore the federal role in promoting integrated local initiatives. And she will develop new clusters of work that examine how specific populations are affected by a range of policies.

"Local leaders across the country are testing new, cross-cutting strategies in order to meet evolving family and community needs," said Wartell. "Erika is uniquely qualified to bring the Urban Institute's capacities for knowledge-building to bear in supporting these efforts."

With these new appointments, the Urban Institute capitalizes on its history of rigorous and independent policy research, strengthening and expanding its ability to engage with policymakers using knowledge that is both timely and relevant to the decisions they face.

"This is an exciting time at the Urban Institute," concluded Joel Fleishman, chair of the board of trustees. "Under the dynamic leadership of its new president, the organization is engaging in policy discussions and bringing knowledge and clear thinking where it is most needed—to the public and private actors at the federal, state, city, and community levels who are trying to improve lives and make government work better."

The Urban Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy research and educational organization that examines the social, economic, and governance challenges facing the nation. It provides information, analyses, and perspectives to public and private decisionmakers to help them address these problems and strives to deepen citizens' understanding of the issues and trade-offs that policymakers face.

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