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Publication explores 'A New Agenda for Cities.' (from the National League of Cities and the Ohio Municipal League)

In the wake of the recent civil disorders in Los Angeles and other cities, Americans are asking themselves the same two questions the Kerner Commission grappled with following the urban violence of 1967: Why did it happen? What can be done to prevent it from happening again?

These questions are discussed in a lively and timely new book, "A New Agenda for Cities," just released by the National League of Cities and the Ohio Municipal League. The book is the first in a series of unique publications that take a critical look at the future of the American city through the eyes of some of America's foremost urban scholars, writers, and practitioners.

In 1968, the Kerner Commission identified racism as the problem and more social programs as the cure. Is racism the central problem in our nation's cities today? Do the answers of twenty-five years ago provide meaningful guidance to solving today's urban problems?

In "A New Agenda for Cities," urban scholar Richard Nathan contends that the deep distress of the inner city is the urban challenge of the future. He argues that this challenge is one that is marked by issues of race and space.

Nathan, currently Provost of the Rockefeller Center for Government of the State University of New York at Albany, once served as associate director of the Kerner Commission on Civil Disorders and was a key advisor to the Nixon administration on welfare reform issues.

Nathan's view is that the pervasive problems of inner cities and the underclass will be solved principally by better program management that yields incremental progress in meeting today's urban challenges.

"A New Agenda for Cities" chooses management improvement, institution-building, and steady progress over vision, bold leadership, and "big fix" solutions for cities. Despite a reliance on strong local government execution of programs, the hub of progress, in Nathan's view, is still Washington and financial assistance from the Federal government.

The 122-page book incorporates commentary, criticism, and strongly contrasting views to Nathan's thesis by three leading urban thinkers and practitioners: Nicolas Lemann, national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine and author of The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America; Charles Royer, Director of the JFK Institute of Politics at Harvard University and former mayor of Seattle, Washington; and Dr. Donald Weatherspoon, who has been active in many inner-city development programs in Detroit.

For ordering information on "A New Agenda for Cities," see the advertisement on this page.

"A New Agenda for Cities" is the first in a series of publications called "The Challenge of a New Century: The Future of America's Cities." The "Challenge" series is the product of series of forums sponsored by the Ohio Municipal League's Education and Research Fund.

Each forum asks one of the nation's foremost urban thinkers to create an original monograph focused on key issues of importance to the future of urban areas. The monograph is then challenged by other scholars and urban experts and, before it is published, is opened up to criticism from a group of experts who face the challenges of municipal government every day, as well as representatives from the business, academic, and labor communities.

The first three forums of the series focused on the future social well-being of cities, the future of municipal finance and taxation, and the future of education in cities. Future forums in the series will focus on the environment, small cities, space and demographics, governance and politics, service delivery systems, and infrastructure. Publication of the "Challenge" series is made possible through the support of the Cleveland law firm of Calfee, Halter and Griswold. Publication of the books in the series is a joint project of the Ohio Municipal League and the National League of Cities.
COPYRIGHT 1992 National League of Cities
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Fletcher, Jeff
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Article Type:Bibliography
Date:Jun 1, 1992
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