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Fwd: [urb-eco] Livable Cities

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  • Richard Risemberg
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 29, 2005
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      Begin forwarded message:

      > From: George Mokray <gmoke@...>
      > Date: June 28, 2005 10:31:09 PM PDT
      > To: urban-ecology@yahoogroups.com
      > Subject: [urb-eco] Livable Cities
      > Reply-To: urban-ecology@yahoogroups.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
      > criticism.
      > 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
      > future."
      > 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 derriƩres."
      > 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.
      > --
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