Monday, May 15, 2006

Cities as playgrounds

Posted by Craig Westover | 2:41 PM |  

From an article by Joel Kotkin in the Wall Street Journal --
Even amidst a strong economic expansion, the most recent census data reveal a renewed migration out of our urban centers. This gives considerable lie to the notion, popularized over a decade, that cities are enjoying a historic rebound. The newest figures are troubling on two accounts. Not only are the perennial losers -- Baltimore, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Detroit -- continuing to empty out, but some of our arguably most attractive cities, like Boston, San Francisco, Minneapolis and Chicago, have lost population since 2000. Even New York, where foreign immigration has managed to counteract large scale outmigration, seems to be slowing down.

Equally troubling may be the reasons why this population shift is occurring, and how profoundly clueless most mayors and city officials around the country seem to be about addressing the problem.
The money quote, relevant to what I wrote here --
Instead of luring the "hip and cool" with high-end amenities, cities need instead to address issues that concern businesses as well as working- and middle-class families. These include such basic needs as public safety, maintenance of parks, improving public schools, cutting taxes, regulatory reform -- in other words, all those decidedly unsexy things that contribute to maintaining a job base and the hope for upward mobility.

Given the growing challenge posed by the emerging boomtowns as well as the suburbs and exurbs, wannabe "hip cool" cities need to realize they can't thrive merely as amusement parks for the rich, the nomadic young and tourists. To remain both vital and economically relevant, they must remain anchored by a large middle class, and by families and businesses that feel safe and committed to the urban place.
(Thanks to David Strom of the Taxpayer's League of Minnesota for the article)

Update: PolicyGuy John LaPLante posts some confirming observations. He also has some excellent observations here.