Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Back to the Future

"One of the great challenges of the twenty-first century is to decentralize decision-making down to the neighborhood level."

Richard Florida, Interviewed by Andrew Price, "You Are Where You Live," GOOD, Spring 2010.

This statement of challenge is both puzzling and intriguing. It's puzzling because there was some experimentation with neighborhood decentralization in the 20th century--and it failed. Remember Mayor John Lindsay's neighborhood boards and the neighborhood theorist Milton Kotler. It's intriguing because it wasn't on the top of my list for the 21st century -- but maybe it should be.

Of course considering this challenge raises the question of defining neighborhood -- and my ten square block world may not square with the current administrative geography of planning districts, wards, and schools.

And ultimately the challenge concerns how much decision-making and about what -- and how formalized and resourced the decicision-making process? Moroever, are we really talking decision-making or does it come down to larger advisory role?

Decentralization can mean more bureaucracy, not less,fighting over crumbs and not taking on the big issues, or rubberstamping decisions already made.

For me then, the question is: Can we have substantive decentralization of decision-making to the neighbohrood level that enhances democratic decision-making and meaningful control over key problems and resources?

Seems like a question worth answering.

No comments: