Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Monday, October 8, 2012

An Urban Agenda

I've been hinting at this for a long time, but now it's time poked the bear. We as a country and as a society need to start thinking about urban policies.  A few days ago a New York Times article came out about the GOP's declining urban agenda. Heck a year ago the Metrotimes, had damn near the same article nearly a year ago.

Almost everytime I read an article in the Detroit Free Press or Detroit News I alwasys see comments along the lines of just let Detroit die. I'll address Detroit specifically in a moment but for a moment I just want to speak on why cities, and urban policies are important in general.

Why Are Cities Important ?

The world is rapidly urbanizing. There are social and economic forces behind this trend, but in the United States 80% of the populous lives in urbanized areas defined as areas (the article was unclear as to what constituted an area I am going to say local governmental unit) with more than 50,000 people.

First of cities serve purposes, they tend to be economic, industrial, or governmental hubs. I am going to rip of a line from Urbanized, or at least close to it. They are the places where the larger forces that guide the lives of the people coalesce. They are the places where government and economic leaders make decisions. They are the places where goods are produced. They are the places where services are rendered. And most importantly they are the places where a large portion of the population lives.

They are the places where the forces of progress move. That's not to say that that rural constituants should be ignored, but as stated in terms of number of people the scales are tipped in one direction.

Problems of Cities
As stated cities have numerous purposes, but anytime you have a large population of people it's going to generate problems. Part of the reason why an urban agenda is needed is so that the effects of these problems can be minimized. You need to minimize the the negative effects of an increased population density like, parking, crime, fire, transportation and traffic, housing, sanitation and drinking water, power, air and water pollution, garbage disposal, lighting, education, jobs and more recently public internet access.

These are the things that people deal with in their everyday lives. How are my kids doing in school? If I want access to knowledge and information how do I go about getting it (adult education and the press)? Where am I going to work? How am I going to get to work? What is there to do after work? Where is a good place to park my car? Where am I going to live and how much is it going to cost? Who do I call in the case of an emergency situation that I can't deal with on my own like a burglary or a fire? Where can I get food? Where can I get medicine and medical attention? Where can I find someone to babysit my kids when I have to go to work? Where can I get access to the goods and services I need to live, because as obvious as it sounds, people need things.

And then there are the things we don't think about because we have civil engineers and urban planners to think about it for us. Where does our biological waste go? How do we get fresh drinking water? How far apart should the buildings be so they are safe yet appealing? How wide should the roads be? How do we, especially in Michigan, limit environmental damage, like water and wind damage to buildings and roads so we can maximize their use. How do we bring in new business? How do governments foster, cooperate with and encourage an urban commercial and industrial community? How do we preserve nature in a place that is man made? How do we make roads and bridges safe and economically feasible? How do we direct the flow of pedestrian and automobile traffic?

These are important questions that deserve an active discussion, because we as a society have collectively made our choice to live in urban areas, even if it's not the big city.We need our leaders on the local, state, and even federal levels to think about these things and the only way that is going to happen is if we the people also commit to some contemplation.

An Appeal To Save the Big City
I live in Southfield an innerring suburb of Detroit. That puts me in a weird place. I don't live in Detroit, but I do live literally a half of a mile from it. While I am not of Detroit, the city affects my life. When the idea of the suburb came into being, there was an assumption that people would live in the suburbs and commute to do everything else. Honestly I don't want to live like that, but for the sake of the argument let's say that you, my audience, are fine with that. You are fine with a half-hour to 45 minute drive to do just about everything. Many of your services such as water and electricity are still headed by companies and governmental institutions housed in the big city. Many of your commercial institutions are housed in the big city. Many of your court houses and state legislatures are housed in the big city. Many of your entertainment options are housed in the big city. So goes the city so goes the suburb.

I may be wrong, but when I read those comments on I think that people believe themselves to be insulated from the city, as if Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles or Brooklyn are a world away, but they're not. What separates the suburbanite from the city dweller is often nothing but lines on a map. The people who you are so afraid of are the same people checking you out at the store, counting your money at the bank, building your roads, cooking your food, and writing your laws.

Damn class stratification!

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