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Thread: National urban policy in Britain

  1. #1

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    National urban policy in Britain

    This was a quite interesting article, focusing on how many Asian and European countries are actually thinking about urbanism in a coordinated way, the development of high quality communities.

    I know we pride ourself on "local control" and State's rights in the US. But, the reality is the federal government is paying for much of our infrastructure anyways, based on often vague criteria (TEA, anyone) or pork politics.

    So: given a preference for "bottoms-up" planning-what do you all think of the idea of a truly funded national urban policy? Not that we can afford "anything" right now while the "liberation" process continues, but...

    Also curious about the Brits' perspective on this...

    http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0628-30.htm

  2. #2

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    Thanks for the article, BKM. One of Prescotts best features is his enthusiasm and obvious love for the job. He also comes across as very genuine (in a way, that for instance, Tony Blair does not) and straight talking which in my rather limited experience, is quite novel for a politician.

    There will be mistakes made with the Thames Gateway area, but the whole project is pretty far sighted and the amount of British and EU money being pumped into the area will only help the region in the long run. The plans are certainly ambitious, and my one hope is that the major infrastructure and public services required are put in at an early stage. Too often on large projects these issues are put in as an afterthought; I know on this one they are integral to the scheme, but they also need to be provided early on in the project.

  3. #3

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    [QUOTE=noj]Thanks for the article, BKM. One of Prescotts best features is his enthusiasm and obvious love for the job. He also comes across as very genuine (in a way, that for instance, Tony Blair does not) QUOTE]

    [o/t]Blair comes across as a horrific combination of the self righteousness/certainty of a George W Bush and the icky "I wuv you and care" vibe of Bill Clinton at his most empathic. Yucko. [/ot]

  4. #4

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    He does have that tendency now. At the start of his career he seemed to have the sincerity thing sorted, but in recent years he has become more and more smug. Quite possibly as he knows his opposition couldn't organise a proverbial lae fest in a brewery.

    Lots and lots of coverage of him and Bush on the TV this morning, with the G8 conference. Blair being smug and overfamiliar, and Bush continuing to pander to his fossil fuel mates.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian ablarc's avatar
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    Prescott…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.

    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."


    This is what could have made a difference for Kerry, if he hadn’t been such a hidebound, unimaginative drone. It’s still what the Democrats can use to make hay when the next presidential election comes along. Can you imagine the Republicans with an urban policy? Any kind of policy: even a crappy one?

    …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.


    Here’s a hot button issue for the U.S.: make our cities affordable again for those who want to live in them. There’s obviously plenty of demand; why else would prices be so high?

    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…will generate substantial private-sector development.

    Does this sound like a formula for the revival of Pittsburgh? Now there's a potentially great American city; what an underachiever!

    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.


    But: nothing ventured, nothing gained. Sometime around 2050 we wake up and realize: we’re not Number One any more. But we do have low taxes.

    "sustainable" communities…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."

    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.


    Yup.

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