THE FUTURE OF CITIES
Some of the literature on the “crisis of the cities” rebukes the present by contrasting it with a mythical Golden Age when community life was neighborly, companionable, and untroubled. But no historian has succeeded in locating such a Golden Age [Fischer et al., 1977, p. 197}, and predictions pf urban collapse are equally unrealistic. It is difficult to see how a modern society could operate without large cities. They may house a declining fraction of our population in the future, but it is unlikely that our “standard metropolitan statistical areas” will shrink, much less disappear [Chudacoff, 1975, p. 267]. The Inner-City UnderclassA half century of effort has failed to stop .inner-city decay. It is possible that, without such effort, the inner city might be even worse, but this cannot be proved or disproved. People, business, and industry are all deserting the centraf city for the suburb and smaller towns. The inner ‘city loses many of its jobs and its better educated and more successful people. Its tax base erodes at the
same time that its infrastructure (streets, bridges, sidewalks, water mains, sewers) are-crumbling, sending up all kinds of urban costs. . ~. The inner city becomes an enclave for the-“welfare poor and the unsuccessful. They cannot follow the jobs to the suburbs and small towns, because most residential areas deliberately zone out any new low-income housing which might attract “undesirables.” Urban public transport works backwards for the , inner city, for it is scheduled to bring people into the central city in the morning and back to the suburbs at night. Any new jobs in the central city are mainly white-collar jobs which demand the good education and facility in !’standard English” which most inner-citypeople lack. Thus inner-city poor, mostly minority find jobs where they live and~annot get to where the jobs are [Brunn and Wheeler, 1980, pp. 203-204]. We may be developing a permanent urban underclass, mostly minority, for whom there . are no jobs and no prospects of ever getting. jobs [Auletta, 1982]. The welfare cost of our inner-city underclass is our society’s price for keeping the poor out of sight and out of min . Present federal policy is to hope that with returning prosperity, market forces will take care of inner-city problems. They will not. Most of the inner-city poor lack the job skills
and the physical access need ed to fill the jobs which increasing prosperity would create. A realistic program would take either of two directions: (1) urban redevelopment, creating new jobs within the city which inner-city
people could fill, or (2) relocation’s, moving inner-city people to where the jobs are located. Some urban specialists favor redevelopment [Cassia, 1980], and some favor relocation [Bruno and Wheeler, 1980]. Either
would cost a lot of money and challenge many vested interests, with no certainty of success. Our present national policy might be termed one of indifference. In the present political mood of the American people, neither
program is likely to be attempted. all federal support for new towns was ended in 1978. A new town would need to be completed every week if even half our expected urban growth were to be ‘accommodated. Consequently,
most of our urban development may be expected to follow conventional patterns.
One commonly recommended antidote (or urban problems today is city planning. Practically every city has a city planning board, although often it does little but decide upon the location of highways, public buildings,
and upon zoning changes. Any comprehensive planning is certain to meet opposition from many ves ed interests. Yet without com-_ prehensive planning and execution 0″ these plans, the American city facet! accelerating decay. Slums are spreading faster than.they are being cleared. Uncoordinated, piecemeal development of the urban fringe and of the “strip” cities is certain to mean great waste and agonizing future problems. Sewers, water mains, an expressways, built after many homes and buildings are constructed, will require expensive demolition. One suburb will wind up with lots of children to educate, while another suburb will have the industrial properties which make up the tax base needed to finance good schools. Certain areas will begin to have costly floods when the development of adjacent areas alters the watershed. Quiet residential areas will become noisy thoroughfares because of developments in adjacent areas. Problems like these are the fruit of uncoordinated,’ unplanned regional development. There are, as yet, few planning authorities with power to make, let alone enforce, the execution of plans for an entire metropolitan area. Eventually, after the problems have become intolerable and most of the mistakes have already been made, we
shall probably create the plans. ‘They will need to include the provision of adequate .