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Citistates: How Urban America Can Prosper in a Competitive World.

Two new books confirm and further develop the view that localities throughout metropolitan regions are "all in it together" and that the futures of cities and suburbs are clearly entwined.

David Rusk, former Mayor of Albuquerque and a recent Guest Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, published Cities Without Suburbs in April. Citistates: How Urban America Can Prosper in a Competitive World, released in June, was written by Neal Peirce, the syndicated columnist, with Curtis W. Johnson, and John Stuart Hall.

The economic, social, and fiscal conditions of central cities has depended heavily on their geographic "elasticity," says Rusk. "Elastic" cities, he explains, were able to capture a substantial share of suburban-type growth within their city limits.

Inelastic cities had high-density neighborhoods locked within fixed city boundaries. They lost their middle class to new suburbs, resulting in acute racial and economic segregation.

"Racial and economic segregation, creating an urban underclass in many inner cities," says Rusk, "is America's true urban problem." "Any attack on this problem must treat suburb and city as indivisible parts of a whole - because the real city is not just what's inside the city limits, it's the whole metropolitan area."

Rusk develops an "elasticity index" for all 522 central cities in America's 320 metropolitan areas. He finds that only elastic cities, capturing suburban-type growth, have grown in population since 1950.

Rusk also finds that the more fragmented a metro area is into multiple local governments, the more segregated it is racially and economically. Larger jurisdictions can promote diversity "if they have the political will and courage to do so," Rusk notes.

While suburbanites may feel increasingly independent of inner cities, Rusk cites studies that show a high degree of interdependence.

Peirce and his colleagues reach similar conclusions in their book. They say that metropolitan areas are increasingly "on their on" in an era of dynamic worldwide economic competition and the decline of the nation state in the post-cold War world. They portray the shared economic and social challenges within American city states, from Dallas to Baltimore and Phoenix to Seattle. The book is built around the in-depth analyses they prepared for the leading metropolitan newspapers in six regions of the country.

The authors outline the major initiatives American "Citistates" must take to establish their special "niches" in the world economy: guarantee the preparedness of their work force, alleviate destructive social and racial tensions, plan their use of land more rationally, and establish the rudiments of regional governance.

"Declarations of interdependence," the authors assert, must be concluded by the center cities and suburbs of any great urban region that expects to compete and excel in the 1990s and beyond.

Peirce and his colleagues warn "most American citistates lag well behind their European and Asian counterparts. They can't compete effectively today because of destructive social and racial tensions and the deep socio-economic gulf between poor cities and their affluent suburbs; their inability to contain growth within a compact geographic area; and their unwillingness to establish. regional governance."

These studies challenge conventional wisdom and raise important questions. Rusk and Peirce et. al. offer bold explorations of significant terrain, travelogues into tough policy territory, that should be considered seriously.

NLC's forays into this area include reports, cited by both Rusk and Peirce, that explore the economic connections between central cities and suburbs. City Distress, Metropolitan Disparities, and Economic Growth documented increasing disparities and found that metro areas with greater disparities experienced less overall employment growth than areas with lower disparities. All In It Together, released in March 1993, reported that the per capita incomes of central cities and their suburbs, although disparate, go up or down together.

These NLC reports conclude that localities in the same area are bound together in a "local economic region" whose underlying performance shapes the condition and the future of each jurisdiction.

Cities Without Suburbs (Johns Hopkins Press 1-800-537-5487) and Citistates (Seven Locks Press 1-800-354-5348) can be ordered at your local bookstore. NLC's reports are available through our Publications Office at (202) 626-3150 or 1-800-658-8872.
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Author:Barnes, Bill
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Aug 23, 1993
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