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.

Monday, January 13, 2020

New York Times article on community decline associated with loss of work

Comparable to the New York Times Magazine cover story last year on Baltimore ("Tragedy of Baltimore"), Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn just published a powerful article in the New York Times about the decline of Kristof's boyhood home community of Yamhill in Southern Oregon, "Who Killed the Knapp Family?"

Apparently the article is an excerpt from a new book, Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope (review).

They point out that deindustrialized cities are rural areas share common characteristics. "When Work Disappears" people and communities break.

And the US has a very weak social support network, so such decline isn't staunched.

In the last few weeks there was reporting on a study that found in communities where manufacturing plants closed, drug use was up ("Auto plant closures tied to surge in opioid overdose deaths," Reuters)

This shouldn't be news.  When I was in college I worked for a time at the University's Survey Research Center, and one of the studies we did was on the impact on health from the loss of work and health insurance coverage.  It was grim talking to those people...

I have only come across work about "the precariat" in the last couple years.

But with the backlash against "globalization," I've come to realize that the real problem is the failure to provide systems of support to communities and individuals that lose out to globalization -- health care, access to quality education and work retraining programs, economic development programs, etc.

As Robert Reich says, it's not like corporations are out to help communities or countries, just their shareholders ("American firms aren't beholden to America – but that's news to Trump," Guardian).

Instead, the US cuts health care, food stamps, unemployment support, etc. (As does Britain, and this was a major factor in the Brexit vote, as people were convinced to blame the European Union for the Conservative Party's austerity program.)

Investment is social infrastructure such as health care, "social urbanism" ("Social urbanism and Baltimore," 2019), rural development, is the necessary response.

But a problem with rural development is that people and communities can be very hard to help, because the idea that government can be helpful is ideologically oppositional to the conservative political narrative. From the New York Times article "In the Land of Self-Defeat":
His comment reflected a worldview that is becoming ever more deeply ingrained in the white people who remain in rural America — Washington politicians are spending money that they shouldn’t be. In 2016, shortly after Mr. Trump’s victory, Katherine J. Cramer, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, summed up the attitudes she observed after years of studying rural Americans: “The way these folks described the world to me, their basic concern was that people like them, in places like theirs, were overlooked and disrespected,” she wrote in Vox, explaining that her subjects considered “racial minorities on welfare” as well as “lazy urban professionals” working desk jobs to be undeserving of state and federal dollars. People like my neighbors hate that the government is spending money on those who don’t look like them and don’t live like them — but what I’ve learned since I came home is that they remain opposed even when they themselves stand to benefit.
The article discusses community opposition to a library in Rural Arkansas.

Also see the New Yorker article, "Arlie Russell Hochschild's View of Small-Town Decay and Support for Trump" which discusses the book Strangers in their Own Land, a study of the Tea Party movement and conservative support for Trump and the Republican Party.

Also see "An outline for integrated equity planning" (2017) and the comments, which lists other best practices not compiled in the original piece, as I come across them.

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At 10:36 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

RE: globalization. Your solution is the "neoliberal"one that Clinton et al were espousing back in the 1990s -- globalization will make us richer and our job is re-training people who get killed by it.

I can't think of a single successful workforce training program that addresses that.

And honestly the germans who are the best at it don't have answers either (ie east germany). Or even the japanese.

I'd say this is classic exit/voice; those with "privilege" get out while a lot of are stuck and basically handed a death sentence.

Off topic:

Back to globalization, I think you can basically model the west in that places that have thrived in the past 30 years are the ones to touch "globalization" and those that have died have not been part of it. Again more about capital flows than productivity.

At 11:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The idea of a domestic resettlement policy deservedly would creep a lot of people out, but we need some carrots and sticks to get people to move.

At 12:30 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

1. charlie, not just work retraining. Social support system like in Scandanavia.

2. But yes, some resettlement... the other thing though, as charlie said no real solution, the problem is that as everything becomes increasingly automated there isn't work to be done.

Reminds me of the 2000 A.D. comic series/Judge Dredd.

3. Will check out the cites. WRT Shenzen, did see a really interesting documentary on NHK.

"Life at the bottom of China's Labor Market."

Very disturbing.

And now that they've got the surveillance state + the "social capital" link to people in real time. Scary.

At 12:47 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

People do get weirded out about resettlement. But I think about that, and cities too.

A novel I read in the early 1980s, I can't seem to figure out who wrote it (I thought Lawrence Sanders), figuring a more apocalyptic future, talked about "Abandoned Areas" A.A. where municipal services weren't provided. They were like "Escape from New York."

The thing is that some cities. like Baltimore, where you figure there ought to be resettlement, if you added a real, robust fixed rail transit network, would be able to compete.

At 8:51 AM, Anonymous h st ll said...

Resettlement does seem quite un-American (and what would be done with all the abandonded cities/infrastucture? - removing it would be quite expensive, too)

But if resettlement came with a strong financial incentive - ie $10 or 15k or more plus re job prospects etc - ppl would do it in a heartbeat in my opinion!

Of course not enough housing in cities as is, though!

At 10:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Resettlement is not the same as retreat or orderly abandonment, although that needs to be on the table with rising sea levels, flooding, etc. Until recent times Americans often moved domestically for economic reasons and were notably far more mobile than citizens in other places, so I don't think the idea itself is "un-American".
Perhaps incentivized migration is a better term. People economically displaced could get assistance in relocating to or from another place, whether either place is urban or not. The economically displaced in rural extractive or manufacturing economies could benefit, but so to could low income and low education urban dwellers who cannot compete in a changing jobs and housing context.


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