Here are a few excerpts from Joel Kotkin at his recent best...
- The great work of cities is best accomplished in small steps, block by block. It confirms a sense of place and permanence. Rooted in ephemera, a city can only lose its historic relevance, or at best fade into a graceful senescent dowager who everyone admires but no one takes seriously anymore.
- Having lost the economic and demographic initiative to the hinterlands, cities have two alternatives. They can work to become more competitive in terms of jobs, attracting skilled workers and middle-class families, or they can refocus their efforts on providing playpens for the idle rich, the restless young, and tourists. All too often the latter strategy is what many municipalities appear to be adopting. A number of cities now regard tourism, culture, and entertainment as "core" assets.
- Just look at the sad example of Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm's "cool cities" initiative, which stresses the development of the arts, hip districts, and downtown living. Despite the hoopla, Michigan's "cool cities"--Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, Jackson, Grand Rapids, and even Lansing--have experienced some of the most severe job losses in the nation during the last few years. Under the leadership of its young "hip-hop" mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, Detroit continues to fall toward what former Comerica Bank chief economist David Littman calls "a graveyard spiral."
- Perhaps most important, an economy oriented to entertainment, tourism, and "creative" functions is ill-suited to provide opportunities for more than a small slice of its population. Following such a course, it is likely to evolve ever more into a city composed of cosmopolitan elites, a large group of low-income service workers, and a permanent underclass--or into what San Francisco is already becoming, what historian Kevin Starr describes as "a cross between Carmel and Calcutta."