Thursday, November 11, 2010

City Journal's Malanga on The Next Wave of Urban Reform

Steven Malanga of the always-interesting City Journal has published The Next Wave of Urban Reform: Mayors Cory Booker and Dave Bing fight to save two of America's most distressed cities.  From the article: 

Since the mid-1960s, many big-city mayors and Washington policymakers had argued that the problems plaguing America’s cities—rising crime, deteriorating schools, sluggish economies, and social dysfunction—resulted from national and global economic forces that urban politicians were powerless to resist. Out of that period came an array of ambitious federal programs to aid city residents and revitalize struggling urban neighborhoods. Even though the programs—many of them carried out under the banner of the War on Poverty—did little to boost cities’ fortunes, the refrain that urban woes were Washington’s responsibility became commonplace among mayors and remained so for nearly three decades. . . . 

Now, though, at least two mayors of cities perennially deemed hopeless are trying to bring urban reform to city hall: Cory Booker, entering the fifth year of his fight to remake Newark; and Dave Bing, the former Detroit Pistons basketball star barely 18 months into his job at Detroit’s helm. Both mayors battle entrenched cultures of patronage, sleaze, and dependency that have made their cities virtual wards of the state and federal governments. Both challenge residents and policymakers to find solutions at home, not look for them in Washington. In some ways, their jobs are even tougher than those of the reformers of the nineties, since the troubles their cities face are more ingrained. Their efforts nevertheless offer two of America’s most distressed cities the first hope in decades.

Now I've never been to Detroit, but I am originally from Jersey, and I know that Newark has had its problems, such as the mafia corruption exemplified by the story of mobster Jerry "Chicken Delight" Festa, chronicled in the 1984 book Marked to Die.  No relation, so I'm told.  Anyway, the City Journal article is a good read and thought-provoking about the possibilities and problems facing urban reform.  

Matt Festa

Local Government, Planning, Politics, Scholarship, Urbanism | Permalink

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