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As has been widely discussed, both major party presidential candidates have tended to neglect the environment this election. Romney even jokes about climate change and threatens to de-fund public disaster relief. However, both as well seem to be neglecting the urban, even as cities are increasingly viewed by economists, sociologists, architects, and planners as critical to our future.
I recently wrote a blog post about this, in response to a New York Times piece that discussed the Republican party deserting the cities: http://mvmtbldg.wordpress.com/2012/10/17/urban-candidate/
Thoughts? Should an urban agenda be part of every domestic issues debate, every foreign policy debate?
There's more than a dozen candidates running for this presidency. Pop quiz! Which ones are urban candidates?
Your piece begs the question, "What does a real urban agenda look like?" I think you have to define that before you criticize either of the candidates.
Also, while you accurately note that Romney was born in Detroit (his boyhood home was recently demoed by NSP funds in a great twist of irony), he spent the majority of his childhood in the affluent Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills.
"Sandy" was a preview of coming attractions if Romney wins
Part of the problem is that they don't understand it. Most politicians are ex-lawyers and ex-business people not architects and planners. Having a debate on urbanism would be like haing a debate on string theory... It's just out of their range.
The other part of the problem is that the public don't understand it either. We should be the ones to help form a comprehensive simple argument for urbanism and sustainable development and create a public awareness.
politicians only debate issues that the public votes on. If issues of urbanism can be made political and can stir up public divisiveness and debate, then the politicians will pick a side and swing it out to get votes. Politicians don't define problems they offer "solutions" to problems that a large enough group defines in order to sway votes.
Neither one of these guys is going to make a difference on global warming. With Romney we may die a little quicker....but not much difference.
Ok, I actually just looked through the full list of presidential candidates and it would appear that none of them make any comment on urbanism. It doesn't seem to even be an issue in America.
Of course many of these smaller parties are a bit vague. In my cursory look, the Green Party with presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein looked most promising overall. And I was admittedly a bit surprised to see that the Peace & Freedom Party of Roseanne Barr was also pretty levelheaded.
i thought this had to do with Obama being black
Black makes him "hip-hop" and "basketball" but it doesn't make him urban. Don't forget, he was born on a farm in Africa after all.
black means he had to show id at his polling location.
Romney was a big "smart growth" and "complete streets" supporter when he first ran for governor. He's been very quiet the past several years (I think partly because he had to court the agenda 21 conspiracy theory morons). He did attempt to consolidate some agencies so that things like transit and housing were working together (and he's mentioned he'd do the same at the federal level - although Obama has already done this), but the results under his tenure in Massachusetts were pretty mixed.
Obama has done a bunch of things behind the scenes that don't get much press... but there was that whole debacle with expanding rail service earlier on in his presidency.
anyway - to answer your question - I do think candidates should offer some kind of "planning and development agenda" - but it's difficult politically in this country because the divide between the two parties is primarily urban vs. "rural." I'm qualifying "rural" because this includes people who like to identify as "economically rural." it's a hold-over from the civil war - agrarian south vs industrialized north - except now it's no longer regional.
But pretty much all Americans like New Urbanism. That would seem to be an easy thing to put on the agenda.
It's a pretty micromanagerial kind of task, and doesn't lend itself well to the federal government. You can certainly expand tax credits for green design and make investments in infrastructure, some other clever things around the margins, but it's just not one of those national issues that's easy to legislate from washington. These things are highly situational. An idea that works well in one neighborhood would be senseless in another. It's also slow. Real urban change happens over the course of decades.
Certainly in local elections people should be thinking about it though.
What do you mean by the 'urban'? On the one hand, economists, sociologists and planners anticipate and applaud the 'urban' not solely because of its physical characteristics, but also because of its perceived positive externalities. But on the other hand, it is possible--in the USA--to have an urban fabric yet have very sub-urb politics and by that extension, communities (because of the existence of bedroom communities): one merely uses the city as a vehicle; but life is lived elsewhere. Unless it is possible to establish a strong correlation between the parameters that define a city and how these parameters give rise to political issues, the candidates would not care a bit.
Every single pundit is predicting that in a few decades' time, we would be chiefly an urbanized civilization of the Anthropecene age. But what all of them fail to understand in this piece of second-hand wisdom is that the influx into cities is an accelerating oversight and systemic failure of the human civilization of the greatest proportion.
Planners and architects are all trying to outwit the other in solving problems of informal settlements in the developing South and Creative Class settlements in the stalling North; farmers are abandoning the poverty of rural life in order to find a marginal existence within the service sectors of cities today. Yet very few want to acknowledge that the growth of cities are primarily a phenomenon of the desperation of capital to grow itself--and hence, speculative expansion and supply led demand and truly, serving only as the 'investment' (I call it parking my money!) vehicle for the ultra-rich--only the new urban can absorb this money fast enough. Lefebvre has predicted this as much 50 years ago; but what he did not know then is that we have our QEs--theoretically infinite--that will find itself somewhere on planet Earth in the form of the built environment.
I'm going to ignore the black = urban comments. So unnecessary. If there's something interesting to be said about racial dynamics, spatial development, and politics, then maybe take a few more lines and say it.
And not all Americans like New Urbanism! Why do you say that? That would be a depressing state of affairs indeed.
BE: "Urban" as the conditions of urbanization, and both perceived benefits and disadvantages thereof - yes, potentially more "sustainable," yet also centers of rising inequality and rampant capital accumulation. It's not just, like, yay I love cities. Since, as you say, urbanization is increasing, our leaders and our policies need to engage with it.
I agree, Jia-x, there is a lack of understanding of not only urban, but spatial and spatial planning. We need more architects and planners in those positions.
Obama had a very promising urban affairs agenda before his first term. It seems a little slow to do much (unless there's a lot behind the scenes we don't get to see, as you say, toasteroven). Affordable housing, for one thing, needs both better design and better policies.
Also, congratulations, Mr. President!
The devil is in the details of the actual programs out there. For example, Choice Neighborhoods was a step up from Hope 6 in that it addresses the larger context of public housing and the creation of mixed income communities, but it still struggles to address larger urban market realities and places too much emphasis on public subsidy without addressing the fundemental issues associated with how you strengthen weak urban real estate markets.
I think you could make a similar argument around transportation policy. Sure, it's easy to support transit initiatives, but how do you structure transit initiatives to be successful both from the standpoint of creating a more efficient transportation system and also spurring economic development? It's about more than throwing money at the problem.
Oh yeah, there is definitely devil in those details, “HUD is being run as a criminal enterprise.”
And that surprises exactly nobody. HUD has always been a criminal enterprise.
i want to quickly note that romney openly accused obama of trying to mold america into a vision that involved everyone living in cities.
luckily that dumbass got pooped on last night.
kgoh: these leaders and politicians would therefore be solving the wrong problem, or pursuing the wrong goals as D. Meadows would have called it. The urban problem is a symptom of a deeper problem, which is unfortunately, the runaway problem of the political economy today centered on big capital and their equally big fixes necessary to maintain the system. We can 'engage' with the urban all we like, but someone--or an alien visiting what remains of Earth a few eons from now--down the road is going to look back and mock our efforts as valiantly Pyrrhic. Yes, I can understand how all these valiant projects are going to pay our bills and satiate our deepest intellectual and creative needs. But since we are engaging at this level of the discussion, and you look like a thinking individual, it is vital that you see past what I deem as the smoke and mirrors of contemporary (urban) politics today. All these new needs of the urban is going to be asymmetrically filling the needs of academics always need something to write and architects who are always looking for new work but in the end, no genuine needs are going to be addressed because these are all wrong goals in the first place. The political economy and population in pre-industrial age may warrant the architecture of cities for trading and protection; but it is genuinely silly to think that we should continue this paradigm for the extreme city--as the most recent AD suggests. IF we do that, we will find that we can only come up with foolish heroism for architecture to address the kind of issues that no canon in architecture ever has a solution for. Someone has go to go back and read Murray Bookchin, who once, very roughly, showed us a roadmap of how to attain a more equitable, livable, and dignified social and economic existence without eschewing capital. I am sorry that the young people today are so much less critical.
The urban problem is a symptom of a deeper problem, which is unfortunately, the runaway problem of the political economy today centered on big capital and their equally big fixes necessary to maintain the system. We can 'engage' with the urban all we like, but someone--or an alien visiting what remains of Earth a few eons from now--down the road is going to look back and mock our efforts as valiantly Pyrrhic.
I think it easily could be argued that it is not the place of the public sector to create the small or the incremental, but rather the public sector is there to create the regulatory framework and infrastructure to allow for the small and the incremental. This is not to say that large-scale projects should be put in place to further short-term economic goals, provide a source of revenue for the many planners, contractors, and non-profits dependent upon government contracts or incidentally stroke the creative egos of a handful of architects. Instead at its best government can help provide the framework for a larger urban vision that is then developed by a host of public, private, philanthropic and community players within the larger context of a market-based economy. That is the goal anyway. Sadly all too often this is not the case.
the big thing this country is going to have to grapple with in the near future is the auto-dependent sprawling infrastructure problem. right now it's sucking a far greater share of collective resources than it generates in "user fees" - for example in order for the federal transit to meet their current budget without drawing from the general fund (and this is just for road construction/maintenance) they're going to have to raise the gas tax by over $2 gallon. public transit and ped/bike infrastructure typically has a much better return in terms of economic activity, but non-users resent paying for it. (and I think there are some problems with the sustainability of certain kinds of public transit...)
also - there's a growing shift from economies of scale toward economies of parallel redundancies. We're already starting to see this with the emergence of things like 3D printing, but it has important implications in the urban environment as well - I don't think this is really necessarily about "the urban" per say - but denser (although, I'd qualify this as horizontally denser) environments do have some socioeconomic advantage. Personally - I think this has potential to help achieve a much more egalitarian society if suddenly things are less top-down and monopolistic (and this potentially applies to property ownership - and building scale - as well) - but in order for this to happen I think the real fight to watch is over "intellectual property rights."
i r giv up: i want to quickly note that romney openly accused obama of trying to mold america into a vision that involved everyone living in cities.
source? i'd like the full quote, accurate and in context please