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This article appears in its entirety at In These Times.

At a time when federal lawmaking is at a near standstill, with Republicans in Congress blocking any bold responses to economic stagnation, cities appear to be the last remaining places where innovative policy-making can still occur. This is something progressives have long recognized—since the 1990s, community-labor coalitions have increasingly focused their attention on metropolitan regions. Now, the potential of cities is also catching the eye of neoliberals.

For the neoliberal camp, the future of the American city is clear: In the coming decade, mayors, business elites, philanthropists and university presidents must build metropolitan economies based on innovation, competitiveness and growth. Unfortunately, something is missing from this picture: working people, and the labor unions and grassroots community groups that advocate for them. This omission is consequential. Absent their voices, the chances are slim of creating urban growth whose benefits are broadly shared.

A debate about the future of the metropolis has been kindled by Bruce Katz, a vice president at the Brookings Institution and co-author, with Jennifer Bradley, of a recent book titled The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros Are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy. What Thomas Friedman has done for globalization—promoting a new world order bullish on corporate innovation but blind to the perils of runaway inequality—Katz and Bradley do for urbanism. They offer a neoliberal path forward that puts elites in the driver’s seat and does little to ensure that metropolitan economic development will allow for a robust and expanding middle class.

The question is not whether we need economic growth in cities. The question is whether Americans will grow together or grow apart. In failing to bring grassroots interests to the table in imagining a new urban future, Katz and Bradley—as well as cities such as Chicago and Philadelphia that are already rushing headlong into that future—miss a key lesson that has emerged since the 1990s, when metropolitan regions became a part of the economic planning discussion. If the benefits of a given metro region’s economy are to reach beyond a narrow elite, a broad spectrum of participants must be involved in shaping urban policy.

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Originally posted to amybdean on Tue Sep 24, 2013 at 07:27 AM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Bruce Katz in Cambridge, MA (0+ / 0-)

    The Metropolitan Revolution
    Tuesday, September 24, 2013
    MIT, Building 32-155, 32 Vassar Street, Cambridge

    Bruce Katz, director of the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, discusses his recent book, "The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros are Fixing our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy," co-authored with Jennifer Bradley.

    "...A revolution is stirring in America. Across the nation, cities and the leaders who govern them are taking on the big issues that Washington won't- or can't- solve. They are reshaping our economy and fixing our broken political system.

    "The Metropolitan Revolution is a national movement taking root in New York City, where efforts are under way to diversify the city's vast economy; in Portland, where sustainability solutions are being exported to other cities around the world; in Northeast Ohio, where worker-innovators are using the skills of the industrial age to invent cutting-edge materials, tools, and processes; in Houston, where a modern settlement house helps immigrants climb the employment ladder; in Miami, where leaders are forging strong ties with Brazil and other nations; in Denver and Los Angeles, where leaders are breaking political barriers and building world-class metropolises; and in Boston and Detroit, where innovation districts are powering economies for the next century.  Katz and Bradley highlight success stories to share lessons and catalyze action." (Brookings Press)

    Web site:
    Open to: the general public
    Sponsor(s): Department of Urban Studies and Planning
    For more information, contact:
    Bettina Urcuioli


    A Conversation with Bruce Katz
    WHEN  Wed., Sep. 25, 2013, 7 p.m.
    WHERE  Harvard Kennedy School, Belfer Building, Starr Auditorium, 79 JFK Street, Cambridge
    GAZETTE CLASSIFICATION    Lecture, Social Sciences
    ORGANIZATION/SPONSOR    Harvard Joint Center For Housing Studies
    SPEAKER(S)  Bruce Katz
    NOTE  Founding director of the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program, Bruce Katz is the author of the new book "The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy," a distillation of his word on the emerging metropolitan-led "next economy" and its practitioners around the country working to produce more and better jobs driven by innovation, exports and sustainability.


    I plan to go to the MIT event tonight (Boston resilience plan and Cambridge net zero emissions zoning this morning, water quality at MIT before noon, climate change legislation at Harvard Law this afternoon, Bruce Katz tonight.....  yikes!).  Thanks for the information.  May raise this issue with him tonight if nobody else does.

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