Metropolitan development has continued to define the development of nations around the world. Moreover, there is a growing emphasis on urbanization, which has come to be associated with economic development. The books, “Contemporary Urban Planning” by John Levy and “Governing the Metropolitan Region” by David Miller and Raymond Cox, – delve into the different aspect of urban development and give insights into the future. This paper aims at reviewing the two books and critiquing their idea of how local governments deal with economic development. Moreover, the review will examine a different aspect of economic development, such as jobs, job growth, labor workers, and elements of the built economy, as presented by the authors.
Miller and Cox (2014) examined the metropolitan regions around the US. The authors define a city as an urbanized area with many jobs and people living therein. However, the metropolitan differs from the city, when thought from a politico-legal sense. The metropolitan region brings a structured relationship between institutions of governments and the city. The authors also examined theories that explained the local governments of America. Here they note that there is no normative nor positive general theory that can explain the concept of the local government.
In defining the concept that defines local governments in the US, the authors bring in the idea of democracy. In further examining how their development Miller and Cox (2014) looked at the financial relationship between state and local governments. The authors also examine the creation of wealth by local governments, conflicts that exist as well as the future of metropolitans (Miller & Cox, 2015). The book by Levy (2016) revolves around the same idea of metropolitan but refers to it as “urban.” The book gives the history of urbanization in the 19th century through to the 20th century. The authors delve into the politics of urban areas and the power relations that exist. In addition, the book revolves around the central idea of planning to touch on economic planning, transportation planning, land planning, as well as the idea of growth in urban areas (Levy, 2016).
Jobs and Economic Development
Urban areas are the most economically organic components of local geography and demography affecting people’s daily lives. Levy (2016) observed that states spend a lot of money amounting into billions of dollars to economic development. Economic development is largely aimed at providing employment. That is, ensuring that there is a match between the supply of labor and demand for labor.
A mismatch leads to structural unemployment, which can be due to technological change or geography. Interventions on structural unemployment by states have aimed at attracting investments by offering tax credits, infrastructure grants, low-interest loans. Local governments follow the same pattern in a bid to reduce local unemployment. Development at the local level is aimed at cushioning locals from immigrants who may take up jobs.
Local economic development also allows for property tax relief, which is the largest source of locally raised revenue. The idea by Levy (2016) that local governments protect by local jobs from immigrants is supported by Molotch (1976). Molotch argued that the distribution of job opportunities was a must because if jobs did not go to the workers, workers would go to the jobs, which in this case may disadvantage locals.
Miller and Cox (2014) observed local governments created jobs through administratively approved projects. The author notes that these projects, publicly and privately funded, provided employment and on-site training (Miller & Cox, 2015). Some of the projects include road works, which feature as the highest priority for most local governments. However, Miller and Cox (2014) raise concern on a mismatch between road works and existing properties that must, at some point, be brought down. Put differently, job training on opportunities that do not exist serves no purpose.
Metropolitan regions tend to be denser with more job opportunities within a given distance of the worker. In this way, density plays an important role in the employment and upward mobility of low income. Moreover, several kinds of literature have examined job distribution in urban areas. Centralization or decentralization of jobs plays an important role in urban planning.
Levy (2016) argued that job distribution played an important part in transportation planning in urban areas. Levy notes that while most jobs are located in the urban core, employees housing tend to be located in the suburbs or outside the city hence a need to bridge the distribution problem. The author highlights the Interstate Highway System as an example of transportation planning that has proved successful in linking urban areas.
While improving transportation strengthens the centralization of jobs, Ingram (1997) explored the decentralization of the job. This idea is almost similar to that fronted by Levy. Ingram argues that decentralization also involves transportation only that this time a worker commutes from a residence more distant from the center to a workplace less distant from the center. Put differently; employment is not concentrated in the central business districts of larger cities.
Miller and Cox (2014) observe another perspective into this scenario by involving politics. The authors argue that center cities have simultaneously become isolationist and isolated from the region of which they are part. The position taken by cities means that they cut off engagement with other municipalities.
Miller and Cox note that the isolationist approach by cities also means that their communication with suburbs is limited. The authors trace this crisis to policies by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The policies have continued to reinforce the separation of the center city from the region of which it is part.
The argument presented by Miller and Cox shows that there is a disconnect between cities and other areas, which might greatly impair job distribution and mobility of workers. This is captured Ingram (1997) noted that some local governments required municipal workers to live within the municipality, a requirement that made workers worse off. It thus follows that local governments have performed poorly on job distribution.
Land an Economic Growth
Land use is a crucial policy area that can further economic development. Local governments are tasked with deciding on land use.
One of the ways local governments use the land to promote economic development is through zoning. Levy (2016) and Miller and Cox (2014) have extensively touched on the relationship between land use and economic development in local governments. Levy (2016) argued that local governments adopt zoning measures to achieve goals that the community favored.
In zoning is the practice of allocating different areas of a city different uses. Local governments have the legal obligation to attach usage to every piece of private property in relation to the safety, health, and wellbeing of the community. Furthermore, local governments use zoning laws to control and regulate the purpose and characteristics of buildings, structures as well as land within their boundaries. Levy argues that zoning can either be effective or ineffective.
Zoning ensured that places were set aside for industries. The land would be given to firms or factories that wished to set base in the city. Moreover, giving land to companies acts as an incentive to have them settle in the area. The benefits of having the company’s presence in the city is that they pay taxes to the local governments and the community benefits through employment.
However, the idea of zoning, especially in cities, can be overwhelming for cities that have already matured. Levy (2016) supported this claim by noting zoning was relatively ineffective in older urban areas where patterns of land use were already established and where growth forces were not powerful. Put differently; zoning appears to be effective when the urban area is at its initial phase when land is plenty.
Chapple (2014) weighed in on the matter and argued that though modern industrial zones were under pressure from market forces to change their use to commercial and residential. Where this pressure has been successful, industrial businesses have been displaced. This may have an impact on reversing the employment gains realized. It thus follows that local governments have successfully used land-use rules to create economic development through this is challenged by mature cities that can longer accommodate zoning.
The two books have widely mentioned urban renewal in the arguments. Urban renewal is an initiative by local governments that aims at improving or rehabilitating urban neighborhoods or areas. The term urban renewal is associated with the term “blight,” which is a threat to healthy urban areas to turn into slums. Additionally, local governments identify blighted areas and label them as dangerous to the future of the city, which enables them to reorganize property ownership. Blighted properties are transferred to developers who would use it more productively (Levy, 2016)
Levy (2016) argues that urban renewal programs had good intentions for economic development. In this case, investment in the renewal of blighted areas would create jobs and income and possibly the retention of existing jobs and income that would otherwise be lost. Levy (2016) notes that this would be achieved by replacing substandard housing with purely commercial development. However, Levy is quick to note that such programs were associated with major side-effects.
The author argues that replacing old, dilapidated housing with new ones displaced the poor locals who could not afford the new rent. The author points out that indeed economic development was stimulated, as evidenced by the Lincoln Center, which attracted millions of tourist dollars and created jobs. However, as expected, the damage to the existing economic structure was huge and tore the obsolescent urban fabric.
Miller and Cox (2014) also touch on urban redevelopment, especially on the AlsoUrb. The authors define the AlsoUrb as an emerging model of the metropolitan region build on a transitioning boundary and separating the city and the suburb. Miller and Cox (2014) argue that the AlsoUrb is characterized by a population that is poor and predominantly black and Hispanic. The authors identified several efforts that aimed at advocating for the interest of this dense AlsoUrbs.
One of the projects identified includes the 2004 Community Revitalization Initiative Strategic Plan in Cincinnati, which was a comprehensive economic development plan for the AlsoUrbs within Hamilton County. Miller and Cox’s (2014) observations about the project align with fears raised by Levy (2016).
In a bid to evade the negative impact that is associated with the urban renewal program, the project called for public policies that did not create disposable communities and one that balanced investment with the existing infrastructure. Some of the organizations identified, such as the Michigan Suburb Alliance and Chicago Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, fall under what Levy (2016) describes as Community Development (CD) programs. The author notes that CD programs are less radical than urban renewal. CD programs have similar goals to urban renewal but with less damage to the existing urban fabric.
Inequalities are part of the larger socio-economic system, particularly as they relate to economic development. Inequality presents themselves in diverse ways, which means local governments must adapt to diverse socioeconomic needs. Miller and Cox (2014) observed that US metropolitan regions were considering adopting policies and strategies to share resources across jurisdictions. One of the approaches adopted includes “fiscal regionalism” that aimed at addressing the issue of equity in the region in a manner that did not threaten the existence of local governments.
The author looks into the tax sharing, which involves distributing regional tax sources to constituent local governments. The distribution uses objective criteria that reflect on the needs of the region. According to the authors, this leads to a more effective and equitable impact on economic development and growth. The argument by Miller and Cox (2014), however, fails to capture the full impact of inequality and instead focuses on tax sharing. The author does not highlight the impact of inequality on employment.
Levy (2016) paints an insightful picture of inequality and acknowledges that in growth, there are winners and losers. The author argues that inequality arises when either there is a slow commercial or residential growth. By slowing residential growth, homeowner’s win. However, in relation to employment, the slow down means builders, construction workers, and real estate brokers lose. Owners of undeveloped land also become losers.
With regard to general economic development, the authors give an argument on the issue of “defense of the privilege.” The authors observe that the privileged do not yearn for the good of the first type but of the second type, which means that others can have access to the first type of goods. However, the privileged become a barrier to economic development when they use political action to deny others access or enhance the value of the second type of goods. This generates inequality.
The paper has examined how the idea of economic development by local governments has been advanced in the two books by Levy (2016) and Millan and Cox (2014). The paper finds that, indeed, local governments have been at the forefront of economic development, creating jobs and employment. The paper has also explored the idea of job distribution and finds that isolationist position by cities is a barrier. Moreover, local governments have utilized land rules such as zoning to stir economic development through zoning for commercial properties and industries. The urban renewal on blighted areas has also been dominated by local government agendas though this has been associated with negative side effects besides the economic achievements. The paper has also explored the inequality and how this impacts economic development in local governments.
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Chapple, K. (2014). The Highest and Best Use? Urban Industrial Land and Job Creation. Economic Development Quarterly, 28(4), 300-313. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891242413517134
Ingram, G. K. (1997). Patterns of Metropolitan Development: What Have We Learned? Policy Research Working Papers. https://doi.org/10.1596/1813-9450-1841
Levy, J. M. (2016). Contemporary Urban Planning (11th ed.). Taylor & Francis.
Miller, D. Y., & Cox, R. (2015). Governing the Metropolitan Region: America’s New Frontier: 2014: America’s New Frontier. Routledge.
Molotch, H. (1976). The City as a Growth Machine: Toward a Political Economy of Place. Cities and Society, 15-27. https://doi.org/10.1002/9780470752814.ch2