Executive Summary

Lessons from the Past for Urban Policy in the Era of Trump

The stunning election of Donald Trump as president throws the future of urban policy into doubt. During the campaign he promised to bring new jobs and improved infrastructure to the inner cities, but so far he has furnished no details. Some of the strategies carried out by cities and states in the past may offer the incoming administration some guidance.



Patchwork Nation

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Patchwork Nation is chiefly about "electoral diversity and change within the U.S. federal system" (P. 1) but for us the local economic developer, it really serves to remind us that, despite our pardigmatic one size fits all economic development strategies, our state and local economic developers toil the fifty gardens of the American federal system. The reinjection of federalism into economic development is the central obsession of this blather. Federalism is about choice, individual rights, the right of communities to define their own vision and values, the right to be right--or wrong.The diversity inherent in federalism, for the Curmudgeon, is the heart and soul of the American experience and America's success in governance and economic prosperity.This diversity is not about efficiency and certainly at times to some it appears absolutely irrational. Federalism can be anathema to economic developers and their various economics-based approaches and concepts. All economic developers, for instance, are certainly aware of the war that supposedly exists among the "good and bad" state business climates. The Curmudgeon must confess that he is not especially concerned with Patchwork's focus on electoral politics per se, but with the Patchwork's inherent interaction and interrelationship of geography with population movements, shared human values and historical cultural traditions. These latter forces can coalesce to produce entities (political jurisdictions, for instance), distinctive bureaucracies (such as your EDO), patterns of governance (such as state constitutions, mayor-council or city manager form of governments etc) all of which give rise to distinctive programs, policies, strategies and creative and stupid employment of the various economic development tools and approaches. In other words, Patchwork can help us understand the diversity and variation of local economic development in our counties and communities.An important concept, essential to Patchwork, and to the study of cultural and political regions in general, is the notion of boundary. Boundaries are not central to either cluster theory or to many policies and programs derived from economics based theories but for socio-political regions boundaries matter! "(B)oundaries are important because they define territory, and the laws and customs governing a territory structure human activity". (P. 7) "State boundaries (in particular) have taken on great meaning partly because of the social and economic practices that are legally permitted or prohibited within them" (P. 9). Boundaries separate us from others and within each state and census defined region (and economic region, as well) we see differences, variations, and even contradictions. In Patchwork Nations the core boundary is between states and within states there exist sub-state regions. The thrust of the book is best expressed in the title of its first chapter, "Going Inside States: The Geography of Local Political Behavior". Given that the book is concerned with electoral behavior (which we are not), Patchwork Nation really delves deep into the sub areas of ten politically interesting states. Although there may be many ways of measuring political regionalism, Patchwork evaluates political diversity (or similarity) within states in terms of support for a particular party. ... Partisanship is a good way to recognize (identify) political sections because partisanship has direct, demonstrable impact on election outcomes.... We also know that political political viewpoints and partisan affiliations are affected by group traits and memberships. ... (These traits and memberships are caused by) race, income, occupation, mobility patterns, and religion (and) are relevant to patterns of social interaction and, ... to the formation of people's political values. (P.18) Patchwork believes that sectionalism is the logical consequence of differences in five critical underlying social, economic or religious identities of a region's population. They suggest that there are at least five types of distinctive socio-political regions in which the uneven distribution of partisanship creates a distinctive section based on (i.e. dominated by) (1) race-based settlement patterns, (2) geographic concentration of ethnic groups with distinct identities, (3) uneven distribution of economic occupational groups (and economic classes), (4) uneven geographic concentrations of voters based on political-ideological differences, and (5) uneven distributions traceable to differences in the religious traditions and moral beliefs of the underlying population. (see PP.18-19) The most popular and the most used dynamic forces is the economic based on the uneven distribution of occupation groups and professions. (P.19) The salience of a particular population group is directly related to its size. Geographic concentration and the size of population groups salient to the five driving forces are therefore key to shaping the patterns of partisanship and voting in a Patchwork political region (they call them "sections"). Finally, Patchwork acknowledges that sections are not timeless, fixed for eternity. Just the opposite! While voting behavior emphasizes critical elections and infrequent political realignments, other forces such as (1) conversion of existing populations from one party to another, (2) mobilization of new voters into the electorate, or (3) generational replacement of one group with another--all can result in new reconfigurations of sectionalism. Perhaps more important that such overtly political factors is the simple but powerful reality of shifting populations which Patchwork believes has been "the most important force shaping the political identity of regions within states". (P.27). Continue Reading...