Urban Politics Discussion Post

For this weeks discussion you are required to discuss
the posted NYT article. Be sure read chapter one of your textbook along
with the powerpoint presentation located in Module 1 under “Course
Content.” Research the historical development of the city of Houston
and discuss the historical planning of the city and how it impacted the
flooding experienced during Harvey and previous tropical storm events.
Discuss what you believe government officials can do differently in the
planning of cities to avoid such catastrophes and/or if these types of events
are inevitable and if the focus should be on response. THE DISCUSSION POST SHOULD BE NO LONGER THAN 1 PAGE. THERE IS NO NEED TO CITE WITHIN THE REPONSE, THIS IS YOUR OWN BELIEFS AND OPINIONS.Article: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/30/us/houston-floo…Article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/houston-harvey…Required Textbook: Judd, Dennis R.,Kenneth. Swanstrom,Todd City Politics. 8th Edition. ISBN-13:978-0205032464 PowerPoint are attached below


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The Evolution of Cities and
The Growth and Evolution of Metropolitan America: Natural Factors
• According to Edward C. Banfield, metropolitan growth throughout history
has primarily been the product of natural forces – forces so strong that
Banfield called them “imperatives.”
• The first imperative is Demographic: population increases force a city to
• The second is Technological: the available transportation and
communications technology determines just how far outward the
expansion of a metropolitan area will go. (technology also determines if a
city can develop upward – through the construction of high rise buildings
and skyscrapers – and not just outward
• The third is Economic: persons of affluence who can afford the costs of
new housing and the commute to the city will seek to escape older
sections of the city for a ”better life.”
Natural Factors:
• The importance of transportation to the development of cities helps to
explain the location of urban centers. The original settlement of most
American cities occurred near a major locus of transportation – a harbor,
river, canal or important railroad or trail junction. American cities
developed in areas that were easily accessible, where commerce would be
made easy.
• Initially, North American cities, especially in the 1700s and early 1800s
were relatively small in size. These commercial centers had not yet
experienced the influx of population with industrialization and
immigration. The primitive nature of technology also acted to limit the
geographical size of the city; people had to live close to their work.
• As walking was a major form of urban transportation, historian Kenneth
Jackson labeled these pre-industrial communities “walking cities.”
Natural Factors:
• The cities were centers of opportunity. The result was a process of
“Urbanization,” where poorer migrants left the countryside and went to the
American city in search of jobs and wealth.
• However, urban growth soon led to overcrowding and congestion. Persons who
could afford it sought refuge from city life in residences on the edge of urbanized
areas, far from the unsanitary conditions and deteriorated housing stock of the
central city. Each successive transportation innovation – the horse-pulled
streetcar, the electric trolley, and the steam railroad – extended the urban
population farther and farther outward from the city center.
• We can trace the beginning of suburbanization in the U.S. to about 1815,
however, suburbs did not gain significant populations until the latter half of the
19th century.
• Most people in the early American city either had to remain within walking
distance to their jobs or could move only as far out as a horse-pulled streetcar
could take them
Natural Factors
• For a long while, the city simply extended its boundaries with each
new outward movement of the population. Cities often used their
“Annexation” powers to adjoin neighboring areas to the city.
Residents gave their approval to annexations in order to receive
public water, drainage, gas, street lighting, road paving, and other
municipal services that established cities could provide.
Brookline, MA.
• Resistance to annexation accelerated in 1873 when the growing suburb of
Brookline, MA., surrounded on three sides by the city of Boston, refused to
be incorporated into it. Residents of Brookline had come to see
themselves as apart from Boston, and despite the promise of service
improvement, were happy with the way things were.
• By the latter part of the 1800s “Boston was something to be feared and not
controlled,” and opponents of annexation portrayed Brookline as a
“refuge” from an industrial Boston and its corrupting influences. They
charged that “the high levels of city services maintained by Boston meant
higher taxes, and, further, they frankly stated that independent suburban
towns could maintain native American life free from Boston’s waves of
incoming poor immigrants.”
Natural Factors:
• The “Streetcar Suburbs” of the era grew beyond the jurisdictional
reach of the central city. Brookline’s resistance to annexation was the
beginning of a wave; soon, more and more suburbs asserted their
independence and refused incorporation with the central city.
• The rural poor continued to pour into “Industrial Cities” in search of
jobs. In need of labor, the mills and foundries of the North in the
early 1900s even sent recruiters to the South to hire poor black
tenant farmers.
• In the “Great Migration,” millions of poor African-Americans from the
rural South made their way northward in search of civil rights, jobs,
and prosperity.
Natural Factors
• The “Automobile Revolution” truly reshaped the metropolis.
Suburban residents no longer needed to live in close proximity to the
streetcar and railroad tracks.
• Industrial and commercial enterprises followed the move of their
better quality workforce to the suburbs. Manufacturing firms sough
suburban locations where land was cheaper and sites were more
suitable to new, land-intensive “Assembly-line Technology.”
• By the 1970s, advances in “Containerization,” would put a further
premium on suburban sites; city streets were too congested, and
older warehouse loading docks too antiquated to handle the new
shipping technologies.
Natural Factors
• By the latter part of the 20th century, technological advances in the
field of “Telecommunications,” freed white-collar offices from sites in
the old downtown. Suburban office parks competed with central-city
downtowns for new office development.
• The new developments redefined suburbia; high-technology suburbs
or “Technoburbs,” duplicated the white-collar job, retailing, and
entertainment functions traditionally associated with central cities
and became attractive sites for globally oriented, high-tech
companies and foreign-owned firms.
Natural Factors
• Full-fledged technoburbs, also referred to as “Edge Cities” or “New
Suburban Downtowns,” were modernized and seemingly vastly improved
versions of suburbia, especially when compared to the relatively tranquil
“Bedroom” communities of the 1950s.
• The “Multicentered Metropolis” has become a reality, displacing the more
traditional conceptualization of a metropolis as having only a single core
• Advances in communications, computerization, and data technology
allowed firms to decentralize further. Fax machines, satellite
communication, and digital technology were a few functions to less costly
sites that were distant from corporations’ central-city headquarters.
• “Back-Office Clerical” functions could now be located in the suburbs, in faroff small towns, and even overseas.
Natural Factors
• NY, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Houston and Denver are among
the major cities that have greatly changed over the past half-century; they
essentially have lost their older industrial character and have become
“Postindustrial Cities,” with a new focus on corporate offices, conventions,
and tourism.
• By the end of the 20th century, a number of cities were able to carve a new
niche for themselves as centers of international banking, finance, and
corporate headquarters activity in a “Global Economy.”
• While some cities experienced new multinational investment, others could
not find a place for themselves in the new national economy. “Urban
Dualism,” was exacerbated; while some trendy neighborhoods experienced
significant upgrading, other city areas saw their needs ignored as the city
sought to make itself attractive to new corporate investors.
The Urban Situation and
The 9/11 Attacks and the Debate over the Rebuilding of Lower
The Urban Situation and 9/11
• ”On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Al Qaeda terrorists slammed a
jetliner, loaded with passengers and fuel, into the 91st floor of the
north tower of the World Trade Center (WTC) in New York Lower
Manhattan. Eighteen minutes later, a second Boeing 757 hit the
south tower between the 78th and 84th floors. Within an hour, a third
plane dove and crashed into the Pentagon in Washington. Terrorists
highjacked a fourth plane, United Flight 93, which was likely targeted
for the Capitol in Washington; it crashed in the fields of Pennsylvania
as heroic passengers fought the highjackers.”
The Urban Situation and 9/11
• “In all, 3,000 people died in the day’s attacks, 2,749 at the World
Trade Center. All seven buildings in the World Trade Center complex,
including the monumental twin towers, collapsed. Nearby buildings
suffered severe smoke, water and structural damage. The area also
suffered ecological contamination as the fires and the massive dust
cloud spread asbestos, heavy metals, PCB’s and other toxins.”
• “In the midst of the crisis, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliana rushed
to the scene and established his authority. He took to the airwaves to
reassure the nation that someone was in charge. In the days and
weeks that followed, he testified to the nation’s grief and the respect
that the nation gave the first responders. Giuliani’s popularity soared,
and the national news media proclaimed him ‘America’s Mayor.”
The Urban Situation and 9/11
• There was serious debate over what should be built on the Ground
Zero site. Some enthusiasts urged the rebuilding of the twin towers
or the construction of an even taller skyscraper as a testament to
America’s perseverance and spirit. Wall street interests pushed for
the urgent replacement of the large volume of lost office space
destroyed by the attacks, repairing the hole that had been made in
the heart of the nation’s financial center. They opposed demands
that a large portion of the site be set aside as a memorial; instead,
they argued for the national urgency of rebuilding lower New York as
a vital economic, transportation, and telecommunications hub.
The Urban Situation and 9/11
• Critics countered that there was no need to maintain such a large
volume of office space and to build new monumental skyscrapers.
• The families of 9/11 victims lobbied against rebuilding visions that
sought to restore the dense commercial character of the World Trade
• Community activists and the residents of nearby Battery Park City
argued for the construction of new residential areas with parks and
Private Power and the Limits of Urban
• An examination of the events surrounding 9/11 reveals much about
who holds the power in the urban arena. The power to get things
done is not always held by local mayors, managers, and councils. In
U.S. cities and suburbs, private individuals and corporations often
possess, or at least share, the power to make key decisions. Private
power constrains the actions of public officials.
• Urban government in the U.S. is essentially “limited” government;
municipal officials are highly constrained in their ability to solve
problems. The U.S. Constitution limits local authority, making
municipalities highly dependent on the actions of state and national
officials. In fact, as local governments are not even mentioned in the
Constitution, they lack constitutional powers of their own.
Private Power
• Local officials have only the most limited ability to influence private
actors, whose investment decisions go a long way toward determining
the growth and decline of cities. As a result of globalization,
important investment decisions are made in corporate boardrooms
that sometimes even lie outside U.S. borders, beyond the control of
municipal officials.
Just How Powerful was Mayor Rudy Giuliani?
• Amid the national publicity that surrounded Mayor Giuliani as he
responded to the events of 9/11, it might appear that the mayor
possessed the power to run New York City. However, as capable as he
was, Mayor Giuliani could not dictate the city’s affairs. In economic
development and other critical policy areas, Giuliani did not dominate
but had to share power with corporate officials and other
governmental and nongovernmental actors who made key decisions
critical to New York’s health. Giuliani’s post-9/11 aura obscures the
general weakness of the mayoral office and local public authority in
Rudy Giuliani Power
• As mayor, Giuliani had noteworthy successes in instituting new
managerial reforms and in reestablishing New York City as a good
place for business. Giuliani provided large corporations with tax
reductions and other desired subsidies. He did not pay similar
attention to concerns for housing affordability or to the plight of the
city’s welfare and homeless population.
Power: A Definition
• As forceful and dynamic as Mayor Giuliani was, he possessed only a
limited ability to get things done. The ability to get things done is
precisely the meaning of power.
• Power is too often misunderstood and viewed solely as “social
control,” the ability of a political actor to force others to comply with
his/her wishes. Power denotes the ability of an actor to use threats
or sanctions to achieve compliance.
• In city politics, a person with power can get significant things done.
The cooperation of a person of power is often essential to the
accomplishment of important objectives; the refusal of a person of
power can frustrate the actions desired by others
Power: A Definition
• Power denotes the ability to do important things. Power entails not
just social control but also “social production: power to, not just
power over.”
• The exercise of power does not always denote a situation of conflict.
Power can also be exercised quietly when effective cooperative
arrangements are organized. Defined as the capacity to act or get
things done, power is exercised when actors successfully arrange
cooperation in the pursuit of goals.
Private Power and the Building of the World
Trade Center
• Why was the WTC initially built in Lower Manhattan? A brief review
of the decision to build the WTC will underscore the importance of
private power in determining patterns of urban growth, decline and
• By the middle of the 20th century New York was exhibiting clear
symptoms of decline and distress. Private decisions had served to
undermine New York’s economy. Home buyers sought, and
developers built, new housing in suburbs weakening the city’s tax
• The construction of the World Trade Center proved to be a critical
part of New York City’s economic renaissance.
Private Power
• Private power lay behind the original decision to build the WTC
complex, a project that was willed into existence largely as the result
of the vision and political muscle of one man. Chase Manhattan Bank
president David Rockefeller. Rockefeller saw the economic condition
of Lower Manhattan was becoming increasingly desperate. He
sought to clear the area of its many small buildings and antiquated
warehouses to build a massive new office complex that would spur
the economic takeoff of all of Lower Manhattan.
• David Rockefeller, working hand in hand with his brother, New York
Governor Nelson Rockefeller, pushed for the construction of the WTC.
Private Power
• The WTC was built despite the organized protests of the area’s “Radio
Row” electronics storeowners and other small merchants who were
abut to be evicted to make room for the project.
• Despite his massive wealth, he needed the legal authority possessed
by government for evictions, land assembly, various planting and
construction approvals, and continued financial support.
Private Power and the Rebuilding of Ground
• Just as private actors played a dominant role in the initial decision to build
the World Trade Center, they also had considerable say in determining
what would be rebuilt in New York after the 9/11 attacks. The city was not
free to rebuild anything it wanted, even at Ground Zero. Indeed, neither
the mayor nor the city council possessed the authority to decide what
would be constructed at the WTC site. Instead, major decisions regarding
the rebuilding effort were lodged in the hands of narrow-based
governmental agencies dominated by downtown corporate interests.
• The Port Authority owned the World Trade Center site. Just weeks before
the 9/11 attacks, the Authority had leased the towers and their
underground shopping complex to Larry Silverstein and his partner in
return for $120 mil per year in rental payments, payments Silverstein was
legally obligated to pay even after the Center’s destruction.
Private Power and the Rebuilding at Ground
• Silverstein resisted the most expansive memorial visions for the site
and, instead, fought for designs with as much office and commercial
space as possible. Although, Silverstein’s position was formidable, his
power was not absolute. For the rebuilding to proceed, he would
need the financial support and cooperation of the Port Authority,
various other public agencies, and New York’s governor.
Privatism: Limiting the Power of Government
• Private business interests played a large role in the initial decisions
concerning the building, and in the post-9/11 decisions regarding the
rebuilding of New York’s World Trade Center.
• Cities in the U.S. are greatly dependent on decisions made by private
individuals and corporate officials. U.S. cities, unlike cities in Europe, do
not enjoy a tradition of strong governmental planning that helps to
counterbalance private power.
• ”In Europe, government officials possess a much greater ability to guide
private investment to ensure the achievement of public purposes.
European planners can enact strong measures to build affordable housing,
preserve the city streetscape, curb urban sprawl, promote mass transit,
and protect green areas.”
• On the whole, Americans are an antigovernment people who resist strong
urban planning requirements and see land-use restrictions as violations of
their individual property rights. Under the American political culture of
“privatism,” private sector freedom is equated with liberty, government
intrusions and regulations are kept to a minimum, and private sector actors
are allowed great leeway to develop and dispose of their property as they
see fit.
• The essential decisions that determine a city’s health and decline are in the
hands of private actors, not government officials. Municipal officials in
New York, for instance, can do little to guarantee the city’s economic wellbeing if the top officials in private corporations decide to locate production
and headquarters facilities elsewhere – in the suburbs, in the Sunbelt, and
9/11 and the Urban Condition
• The attacks of 9/11 ushered in a new age of terrorism in which cities
across the U.S. have had to pick up the substantial costs of additional
security responsibilities. In a national survey, 275 city officials
reported increases in security-related spending.
• The new security agenda greatly strained the budgets of
municipalities already operating under conditions of severe fiscal
distress. In the two months following the 9/11 attacks, Atlanta spent
$15 mil on overtime pay. In the year following 9/11, Seattle paid an
extra $6mil in overtime to police officers and firefighters for training,
the protection of key facilities, and emergency coordination with
surrounding communities.
9/11 and the Urban Condition
• Cities attempted to cope with these new burdens at a time when they were
facing a constriction of state aid. The states faced budget problems of their
own. The states, too, had to undertake new and costly security
responsibilities. But state officials also faced the reluctance of voters to
raise taxes. Caught in their own fiscal bind, state after state reduced aid to
cities in more traditional program areas.
• Big-city economies were also hurt …
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