Category Archives: Cities & Towns

Why Aren’t U.S. Cities Burning?

Source: Michael B. Katz, Dissent, Vol. 54 no. 3, Summer 2007

The summer of 2007 marks the fortieth anniversary of America’s worst season of urban disorder. The most famous riots happened in Newark and Detroit. But “nearly 150 cities reported disorders in Negro—and in some instances Puerto Rican—neighborhoods,” reported the 1968 National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders. Today, the most intriguing question is not why the riots occurred but why they have not recurred. With the exception of Liberty City, Miami, in 1980, and South-central Los Angeles in 1992, American cities have not burned since the early 1980s. Even the botched response to Hurricane Katrina did not provoke civil violence.

The Retail Chase

Source: Christopher Swope, Governing, Vol. 20 no. 7, April 2007

Cities will do almost anything to land the store of their dreams.

Next month, legions of retailers, developers, bankers and brokers will descend on Las Vegas for one of the biggest schmooze fests in the world. It’s the International Council of Shopping Centers’ spring convention, and to anyone who hasn’t been there, the scene — literally a city under a roof — can be a bit overwhelming. Exhibitors set up booths as wide as office buildings, and the aisles are platted into a sprawling street grid. At the corner of “38th Avenue & Q Street,” mobs swarm the Cold Stone Creamery booth for free ice cream; a “block” away, they get free pretzels from Auntie Anne’s. But the real business happens behind closed doors, where the bigwigs of chain retail shake hands on hundreds of deals that decide where America will shop and eat for years to come. Because the commercial stakes are so high, the ICSC conference isn’t just an affair for the industry anymore. It’s a big event for local government as well. Mayors, city council members, city managers and economic development officials have become regulars at this annual carnival of deal-making. Some 4,000 public-sector people are now members of ICSC, and they are one of the fastest-growing segments of the association.

Restoring Prosperity: The State Role in Revitalizing America’s Older Industrial Cities

Source: Jennifer S. Vey, The Brookings Institution, Metropolitan Policy Project, 2007

With over 16 million people and nearly 8.6 million jobs, America’s older industrial cities remain a vital-if undervalued-part of the economy, particularly in states where they are heavily concentrated, such as Ohio and Pennsylvania. They also have a range of other physical, economic, and cultural assets that, if fully leveraged, can serve as a platform for their renewal.

Across the country, cities today are becoming more attractive to certain segments of society. Meanwhile, economic trends-globalization, the demand for educated workers, the increasing role of universities-are providing cities with an unprecedented chance to capitalize upon their economic advantages and regain their competitive edge.

Many cities have exploited these assets to their advantage; the moment is ripe for older industrial cities to follow suit. But to do so, these cities need thoughtful and broad-based approaches to foster prosperity.

“Restoring Prosperity” aims to mobilize governors and legislative leaders, as well as local constituencies, behind an asset-oriented agenda for reinvigorating the market in the nation’s older industrial cities. The report begins with identifications and descriptions of these cities-and the economic, demographic, and policy “drivers” behind their current condition-then makes a case for why the moment is ripe for advancing urban reform, and offers a five-part agenda and organizing plan to achieve it.