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Managing Urban America

From Academic Kids

Managing Urban America is a 1979 book on urban planning and management, written by David R. Morgan and Robert E. England. There have been four updated editions printed since. The 5th Edition (ISBN 1566430658 [paperback]) was printed in 1999.

In the book, Morgan and England claim that "until recently, many assumed that city governments would continue to grow and prosper. A report from the International City Management Association had suggested that the inevitability of growth was so widely accepted that it functioned as fact. At the time, the concept of virtually endless growth was common, both from the perspective of commercial land development, and from planners seeking to facilitate such growth.

Federal aid began to shrink in the 1970s. Later, between 1980 and 1987, under Reagan's New federalism, federal aid dropped 55%. Cuts were made to governement-funded services and tax rates were raised. Cities were now on their own in an era of fend-for-yourself federalism. City tax bases started shrinking, poverty remained high, and employment opportunities were limited.

The authors claim that "fiscal stress produces dissatisfaction and this means a disenchantment with elected officials. The public infrastructure is deteriorating at an alarming rate. We may see a long-term decline." They add, "In most respects, the problem facing local governments is not a lack of resources, but the ability to use existing resources efficiently and effectively." They conclude, "government must be transformed." It is not for lack of information that the problems remain unsolved." The authors go on, "Bureaucratic infighting and agency imperialism are complicating the task of government. Personnel conflict is anything but unusual in government. Our cities have enormous problems."

Overview of the Book

Morgan and England sought comment from various officials on their views of cities and urban decay — such as New Orleans mayor Sidney J. Barthelemy, who said "cities are seen as hopeless places," Cleveland, Ohio mayor Michael White who said "cities are becoming a codename for crumbling neighborhoods." John Herbers said, "the failure of Washington and the states is a major reason some urban areas continue in distress."

Morgan and England suggests wealthy have moved out of the cities, leaving only those who are so poor they cannot leave. The authors note, "many local officials frequently object to what they feel are excessive restrictions accompanying federal grants. Officials view the grant process as complex, overly detailed, slow, cumbersome and ineffective."

Former Flint, Michigan city manager Brian Rapp and community development director Frank Patitucci believe "the most important consequence of overregulation is excessive administrative costs. If the man-hours required for federal reporting and accounting could be devoted to running programs, performance could be improved immeasurably."

Knoxville mayor Victor Ashe: "Congress has decided that it can impose anything that it wants. It's going to drive us all into bankruptcy." The authors thus argue that political accountability is reduced because citizens are confused about which government is responsible for which activities.

The status quo usually carries the day. In recent editions the book stipulates that groups have urged decentralization and citizen participation. Stating an important need for individuals to exercise a greater degree of control over local services and facilities. off-budget enterprises have placed the Detroit government into the hands of businesses.

In 1976, the regional council for the Oklahoma City metropolitan area (ACOG) received 90% of its funds from the federal government. By 1988, this had dropped to 24%.

The Authors criticize how much democracy really exists in the US. Arguing most that most Americans do not vote and that little incentive exists for going to the polls. Moreover the books research states those who do not vote have less income than does the average electorate..

View on Urban Political Structure

Managing Urban America affirms that Americans want governmental change and that the government favors some groups and puts others at a disadvantage. Throwing the rascals out might not be enough. Basic institutions have to be changed. The problem of corruption has been compounded by the political machine. Through political organization, those holding office have found it possible to perpetuate themselves in power.

The Book urges that politics should be based on public rather than on private motives and should stress honesty.

Suggesting the modern reform movement is not a product of the working-class. Upper-income and business groups seek a political climate favorable to their growth and economic development. They are not true social reformers. They are interested in perpetuating the political agenda of the business community. Edward Banfield and James Q. Wilson both add, "Government must become more democratic."

Putting legislation on the ballot through a referendum is an attempt to make local government more responsive to the people. The same is true of the recall process, whereby a petition can force a new election. The initiative enables electors to force a public vote on an amendment or ordinance. Skeptics feel that voters are not well enough informed to vote intelligently. A recent International City Management Association survey showed strong support for direct democracy.

Scrutiny on Urban Policymaking

The literature suggests America is in the midst of a new age of skepticism regarding government. Arguing some contend that an effective policy can be produced only through a small elite group. Others worry about popular participation. Policymaking is vital to a community's well-being.

Morgan and England fear politicians tend to see themselves not as people required to respond to group demands, but as people elected to pursue their own interests. Business interests are likely to fall into this category, the authors contend.

Assumingly stipulating the discretion of administrative officials is enormous. Contending the government is gravitating towards policies with immediate payoffs, avoiding those that produce long-term effects.

According to Robert Salisbury, "a mayor is the head of locally oriented economic interests. City managers, like mayors and council-members, are overwhelmingly white males. The typical manager has been at his job for over 5 years and has served as an executive for over 10 years. In cities over 50,000 population, the city manager is likely to earn over $110,000."

The book outlines the US is entering an executive era and legislatures are increasingly writing laws in broad terms which allow a great deal of flexible interpretation by those who implement the laws. Suggest

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