Monday, April 07, 2008

Inga to Hillary and Obama: Regarding Cities (I.E. What Should Be Your Forte), You Guys Are Toothless And Your Rhetoric Is Total Bollocks

andy singer cartoon - no exitInga weighed in on the presidential campaign last week and, not surprisingly, she nailed it.

It's a must-read:
There are three times as many urbanites in America as country folk, yet you wouldn't know it listening to the three main presidential candidates, or perusing their Web sites. Instead, you might come away thinking the United States is a collection of Norman Rockwell small towns surrounded by picture-book farms.

For Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, the plight of rural farm families ranks among the urgent crises facing America. Republican John McCain frets about veterans, the unborn, outer space.

But you won't hear much about aging cities on Earth fighting to keep their downtowns alive and their overcrowded commuter buses on the road. Cities just don't figure in the political imagination anymore.
But if there were ever a moment to roll out a bold vision for making cities healthier and more competitive, this is it.

In the next few years, we're likely to hear a lot more about weaning ourselves off imported energy, dealing with greenhouse gases, and retaining economic parity with fast-rising Asian nations. Coming to grips with that triple threat means buffing up our energy-efficient creativity incubators, otherwise known as cities.

So, though the candidates' proposals for ridding America of incandescent bulbs and gas-guzzling vehicles are nice little ideas, the fast lane to energy independence requires significant federal infusions for mass transit, basic infrastructure, and making cities more livable for families. Consider the money an investment in national security.

two andy singer transit cartoonsSupposedly, the reason that candidates are loathe to mention the C-word is that the Suburban Nation of grill-obsessed dads and van-driving moms dominates the electorate.

Since it's assumed that cities will vote Democratic no matter how badly they're treated, there's no percentage for either party to talk up things like pocket parks, waterfront development, or - can you imagine? - wasteful sprawl. Besides, the discussion will only alienate voters who still associate an urban platform with cities in flames.

That assumes "inner cities" are the same basket cases they were 40 years ago. Partly thanks to the Sex and the City effect, cities have been re-glamorized. Over the last 15 years, crime went down and condos went up, notes Governing magazine's Alan Ehrenhalt. Because so many Americans now spend their pre- and post-parenting years in cities, as carefree twentysomethings and again as empty-nesters, we're all urbanites.

Suburbs themselves are more like cities. They're sprouting high-rises and lively commercial nodes. They also struggle now with what were once dubbed urban ills: crime, drugs and poverty.

That's one reason that Bruce Katz, who specializes in metropolitan policy at the Brookings Institute, argues that "what we should really be talking about is metropolitan policy."

So, what do metro areas want? First and foremost, he says, more mass transit.
The Bush administration took America's habitual underinvestment in the public sphere to new levels, preferring tax cuts and individual wealth. So while Amtrak shriveled and funding for affordable housing disappeared, the super-rich collected private jets and Aspen retreats. But just like any big corporation that expects to survive, America needs to upgrade its technology to compete in a Euro-charged world. Let's declare an infrastructure race.

We're probably two decades behind the Europeans, not just in the level of our infrastructure investment, but in how chaotically we do it," says Katz. "The Europeans build high-speed rail. We build bridges to nowhere."

But it's not only about piling on more steel and concrete. Brookings' new study advocates investment in "quality places" along with transit and infrastructure. For Philadelphia, that obviously supports a push to turn Penn Praxis' Delaware riverfront plan into reality.
Apologies for the huge excerpt. It’s just so spot on.

Go read it in its entirety.

In a nutshell, it basically expresses our frustrations with national politics. (Them being a total fucking sham and all.) Sure, Obama is virtually impossible not to love — but unfortunately being "electable" to the Democratic Party apparently means talking about shit in a vacuum.

Changing Skyline: Presidential candidates ignoring urban issues [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]

[ Cartoons via Andy Singer ]


dmac said...

Agreed -- though I'd say local politics are just as frustrating as national ones.

BC Planning said...

Great post, although I do want to say that I do not believe that inner-city residents will continue to vote democrat if they keep bing ignored. I believe that more and more young people are registering as independents and soon both parties will have to fight for their votes and actually take actions on issues that matter to the inner-city.

Also because as a country we embraced sprawl for so long there is no where else to sprawl too and now suburbs, and not just inner-ring suburbs are now beginning to see the same problems of the inner-city.