Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Urban Policy?

"Urban policies are the rules and incentives that shape the prosperity, equity, and environmental sustainability of the metropolitan regions in which 8 in 10 people live...Urban policy is distinct from the much bigger category of domestic policies that affect the lives of individuals in urbanized areas."

Xavier de Sousa Briggs, "Urban Policy Next," Shelterforce, September 2008

Manuel Castells once asked, "What is urban?" in The Urban Question when society is fully urbanized, 8 out of ten fully qualifying as fully urbanized. So, what is urban policy? Mayor Jerry Abramson of Louisville recently talked about the Louisville metro area having many kinds of poverty, even the rural poverty of Appalachia.

Xav Briggs does not evoke Bruce Katz of Brookings' notion that the "world is spiked," not "flat," and that metro areas are concentrations of people, economic activity, innovation, interactions, creativity, diversity, and pollution. Place matters because agglomeration economies still matter. And unfortunately, bad things like concentrated poverty still concentrate in cities.

"Urban policy ought to focus on coodination of human and capital resources of the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to address local concerns and problems..."

Everybody likes new money and "bold initiatives," but this "coordination" problem is always the elephant in the room when talking about urban, metro, or regional policy. We've made some progress -- but a next federal administration could create the incentives and leadership to do much more.

1 comment:

Colin Austin said...

Much of our work in metro areas should be about coordination. Not only because of existing resources, but also for political reasons - getting attention at the highest levels. It will be interesting to see how the National Fund for Workforce Solutions uses local philanthropy to organize and nudge this kind of work.