Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Most innovative US mayors, according to Newsweek

-- the article

1.  Education, New Orleans, charter schools, Mitch Landrieu;  Umm, charter schools aren't a solution, really, to poorly functioning school systems, but that's another argument for a later date.

2.  Public Safety, New York City, Michael Bloomberg and Ray Kelly, Police Commissioner; Interestingly, the NYC police department has received a great deal of criticism for their stop and frisk tactics, especially the arrest of residents (not visitors to) in public housing projects.  However there is no question that the continued drop in murder in NYC and the greater sense of security on the streets of New York City is a significant and stellar achievement.  Although the recent murders of people pushed onto the subway tracks in front of oncoming trains is quite disturbing.

It demonstrates, along with the governmental response to various public safety and public health issues in the post-Superstorm Sandy environment, that safety isn't just about crime, and that we need to consider the issue of "public safety" more broadly.  Certainly, the subway killings are an illustration that our system for dealing with the mentally disturbed is quite faulty.  (Not that this fact is new.)

But we need to figure out what's truly behind the reduction in crime--really the murder drop, because other crimes may be rising, or if not rising, may be more violent.  And the drop isn't uniform.  For example, while Chicago's mayor is lauded below, Chicago's murder rate is escalating significantly.  (Oakland, California, Philadelphia, and other cities are equally troubled on this measure as well.)  DC's murder rate has dropped as has the rate in many cities.  In some cities, violent crime and gun-related crime hasn't dropped, but emergency medical care has significantly improved, leading to murder rate reductions, while gun crime is still in fact a problem.

3.  Digital Government, Chicago, Rahm Emanuel;  Umm, the issue isn't using data, creating apps, etc., since CompStat under William Bratton (who deserves, maybe more than most public officials, including the mayors listed in this blog post, much of the credit for the revitalization of center cities more recently, because more police departments are changing their tactics toward reducing crime rather than just merely responding to it), more city governments have been doing data-based analysis.  I've been writing about this for almost 10 years, or more recently pointed out in "All the talk of e-government, digital government, and open source government is really about employing the design method," the real issue is whether or not governments are willing to empower residents and open up the process of governance in a variety of ways, including through participatory budgeting and similar methods, and open source applications related to government.

A long time ago, someone criticized my use of the term "civic engagement."  I was pretty shocked because of course, we want citizens to be able to be more involved in their communities.  But the respondee I think was more focused on how typically, civic "engagement" initiatives are top-down endeavors that don't "empower" citizens.

I guess I have to agree.  I am trying to speed read a tome about civic engagement in Toronto in advance of a New Year's Day post on what the city's agenda should be for 2013, so I have been thinking about this a bunch.  Most of DC's efforts on engagement, e.g., the Mayor's "Office of Neighborhood Engagement" are top-down rather than being focused on building the capacity of individuals, organizations, and neighborhoods to help themselves.

4.  Entrepreneurial Infrastructure, Kansas City and the "Silicon Prairie," Sly James; actually I've been intending to write about this example in with my intended "review" of DC's economic development plan and the approaches most local governments take up with regard to "economic development."  In short, I think this is interesting. press release, Think Big Partners and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce Announce “IgniteKC” as Kansas City’s New Innovation and Entrepreneurship Conference

5.  Quality of Life, Oklahoma City, Mick Cornett;  the Republican Mayor is focused on rebuilding his city's attractiveness through urban design and walkability.  Initiatives include school building renovations, the building of a 77 acre downtown park, a community wellness initiative including a weight loss campaign resulting in people collectively losing more than one million pounds of weight, attracting a professional basketball team (ugh...), etc.  Governing Magazine interview; "Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett plugs city's success at Republican National Convention," Oklahoma City Daily Oklahoman.

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At 2:00 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

Your point about the design method and open government is an important one. Particularly since google. MS, oracle etc would love to run and manage governmental informational flows and push for more data for them to store.

In terms of "entrepreneurship" it isn't just business development.

1. Reducing transaction costs. In DC, for example, city provided title insurance and/or the ability to spread recordation fees over a period of time to reducing closing fees and open up transactions. That's just real estate, they are a lot of other examples.

2. Smooth. Jim Fallows make the point that advanced infrastructure can make things smoother. Very true. And is there a role, for example, for city-provided broadband to do that. There is a reason we nationalized roads, water, power (in some places) but is balance between investment needs and the ability to lower prices for consumers.

3. Capital. Ultimately it is about the ability of a city-region to provide capital for investment. Can a government play a useful role here? NB. Your ethics idea would make it easier for governments to move into this role.

At 6:29 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

wrt capital one of the biggest issues in "local" government is not having access to it. That's why the Growth Machine is so big.

Organizing infrastructure banks on a regional basis, not unlike how the Federal Home Credit Bank works, or some USDA loan programs, etc., to fund civic infrastructure would help out cities and counties and states a lot.

It's just as important, if not more so, than quantitative easing.

But it would be hard for it not to be gamed, e.g., the articles in the NYT on tax credits/financings, such as in Texas.

At 10:30 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Yes, that is bascially what happened in spain.

The local credit unions (cajas) started booming because of increasing real estate prices, and the local politicans controlled the cajas. They took the extra money and dumped it into local project...some great, most not so great.

I'd say that is what is missing from your ethics piece; it isn't just "ethics" in terms of goo-goo but being able to balance politicans out. Another reason why terms limits are a good thing (Jim Graham, Evans and Barry would long be gone)

At 1:02 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

SF has term limits.


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