Fwd: [urb-eco] Livable Cities
- Begin forwarded message:
> From: George Mokray <gmoke@...>
> Date: June 28, 2005 10:31:09 PM PDT
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Subject: [urb-eco] Livable Cities
> Reply-To: email@example.com
> from http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0628-30.htm
> Livable Cities
> by Neal Peirce
> Britain cares about its cities; the United States does not.
> It was tough for Americans attending the Urban Land Institute's World
> Cities Forum here last week to reach any other conclusion.
> And the Brits' visionary urban-agenda setter, Deputy Prime Minister
> John Prescott, made the point without a word of trans-Atlantic
> Instead, Prescott simply described the amazingly broad set of
> activist initiatives that Prime Minister Tony Blair has allowed him
> to lead and champion - in housing, transportation, recycling
> abandoned industrial lands, revitalizing towns and using government
> power to force new malls and megastores back into downtowns.
> All of this is rolling forward with tens of billions of pounds
> invested, pushed with little opposition in a national parliamentary
> system with few of the checks and balances of the U.S. system.
> But the listening Americans couldn't help wonder: What if our federal
> government developed a vision of where American communities need to
> be headed?
> "I can't think of one U.S. national politician who mentions cities or
> urban environment in any meaningful way," noted Urban Land Institute
> President Richard Rosan. "Not one of them is out there talking
> seriously about critical issues of transportation and housing,
> metropolitanwide planning, viability of communities - all ways that
> national government, even without dictating quite the way London
> does, could at least encourage a more secure and livable urban
> Prescott, by contrast, is a hard-charging, one-time merchant seaman
> who's used his broad portfolio of powers to push projects on a scale
> unimaginable in the United States. The biggest of them all, the
> Thames Gateway Project, is intended to provide hundreds of thousands
> of affordable housing units - 128,000 in the first wave - to offset
> what Prescott describes as the "roaring" inflation of housing costs
> in southeast England.
> Like the amazing run-up of housing costs that started around such
> U.S. hot spots as San Francisco and Boston and is now spreading
> nationwide, the London metro region escalation means fantastic wealth
> gain for some, but housing unaffordability for millions more.
> So the Thames River lands, which start with London's highly
> successful Canary Wharf employment center but then run through 40
> miles scarred by abandoned docks and quarries and factories, will be
> built out in a succession of communities offering state-of-the-art
> schools, health-care facilities, even three new universities. Along
> the line of the London-to-Paris "Chunnel" rail service, the area will
> have premier public-transport services. And government's substantial
> up-front monies, Prescott told me, will generate substantial
> private-sector development.
> Can you imagine Washington - or indeed any American state government
> - moving so aggressively? Americans seem quite unaware of
> infrastructure as a true place-maker, notes the Brookings
> Metropolitan Policy Program's Alan Berube. The English, and many
> Asian countries, are building massive new systems and communities,
> linked carefully to transportation, employment centers and amenities
> - new developments, says Berube, "not just plopped 30 miles outside
> with roads and a Target store."
> Or in the words of New York Regional Plan Association president
> Robert Yaro: "Our competitors around the world are spending
> megabillions on rail, brownfield reclamation, urban regeneration in
> their megaregions. And we're frozen on our derriéres."
> Will errors be made, significant sums of money misspent in all these
> ambitious projects? Yes, most likely. What's critical is to learn
> from the past - for example, the 20th century's dreary public-housing
> blocks for the poor, spectacular failures in both Britain and the
> United States.
> Prescott vows not to repeat the errors; he talks instead of
> "sustainable" communities that don't just incorporate good
> environmental standards but assure a sense of place, low crime,
> transportation choices, citizen participation, economic development
> and "life chances for all." Such places, he argues, "create superb
> buildings and open spaces - where people want to be together and feel
> real pride in their own community."
> Prescott's premier test of a sustainable community: housing
> opportunities and a welcome mat for people of many income groups. He
> sees deep divisions of income and class as the scourge of our time,
> to be attacked aggressively with public power and the public purse.
> It's a stunning vision, extraordinarily tough to execute, even by a
> determined national government. The tragedy is that we Americans
> aren't even dreaming it.
> Visit Living Room at http://www.living-room.org
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