by Fernando Centeno
“An economic development program does not economic development make.” -- Anonymous
Over many years in the public arena, much has been said and done relating to our community’s business prosperity, but these activities have been carried out in the name of “economic” or “community” development. Though well-intentioned, this practice has in effect, institutionalized a narrow economic public policy approach at the expense of the broader community, whose basic needs account for the alarming growth in income inequality across our country, unequaled since our last Great Depression.
From the perspective of local (or regional) economic policy, I find an arena dominated by pundits, press, and politicians, rather than by professional planners, community leaders or those in social science professions, who better understand and deal with the consequences of narrow economic public policy carried out in the public’s name. A major failing in this regard is the fact that “urban” planners, concerned with the built environment and who dominate the planning profession, have chosen to limit their role in the interests of the private sector -- primarily the commercial real estate industry -- at the expense of their natural constituency, the broader public. A major realignment of public resource distribution is in order.