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Reason Foundation

Security and Urban Decline

Leonard Gilroy
July 24, 2005, 8:50am

According to Joel Kotkin, the survival of 21st century cities depends on shifting focus back to the primary function of government -- protecting the lives and livelihoods of urban denizens: Kotkin provides an interesting perspective on the matter, viewing recent urban depopulation and economic decentralization trends in a greater historical context. He also challenges the currently in-vogue notion of "creative cities" (popularized by author Richard Florida) -- the idea that the path to urban revitalization lies in becoming "hip and cool" and attracting young, creative residents:
    The U.S. cities that have declined most precipitously and consistently -- Baltimore and Detroit are obvious examples -- are those plagued by the nation's highest crime rates. Attempts by mayors in these cities to be "hip and cool" have not turned them around, in large part because they are still perceived as unsafe. Baltimore's Mayor Martin O'Malley has cultivated an image of coolness for himself and encouraged other "cool" people, including singles and gays, to add to his city's "creative class." Yet as one Baltimore resident suggested to me recently: "What's the point of being hip and cool if you're dead?"
While cities do face numerous challenges that must be addressed -- such as underperforming schools, a stifling regulatory climate, and aging infrastructure -- Kotkin makes a valid point that cities cannot afford to take their eyes off their primary mission: providing a secure environment for citizens and businesses to pursue their livelihoods. He also wisely cautions that strategies matter; security policy that comes at the expense of personal freedom and privacy can have the unintended effect of degrading the urban quality of life. Read the whole thing. (via Planetizen)

Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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