Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Cool Cities

In democracies, it is unlikely that governments (politicians) can actually live up to the ideal of doing few things and doing them well. The opposite usually occurs. Most big cities end up being badly managed and declining and/or loosing market share to powerful decentralizing forces.

Most big-city governments in the U.S. respond to their plight by committing to Economic Development campaigns, signing on special staff and really extending the reach of politics -- and, thereby, often making things worse. It is hard to find an Economic Development success. When areas do bounce back, it is often for reasons that have nothing to do with city hall's programs or it is after outlandish time and money have been invested. When advocates claim "success", it is never in cost-effectiveness terms. It's not their money, after all.

"Lonely Town Seeks Hip Young Professionals ... To Combat Brain Drain, Cities Boost Efforts to Court Graduates ... As college students and recent graduates ponder what to do next, a range of midsize and smaller cities -- and even some larger ones -- are launching new programs designed to lure them there ... Cleveland's program, which started last year, now offers 55 interns 10 weeks of living, working and schmoozing with civic leaders ... Other cities are looking into everything from building museums and art spaces to encouraging the development of loft apartments ... Michigan has even embarked on a statewide 'Cool Cities' initiative that hopes to remake overlooked communities into hip neighborhoods ..." reports yesterday's WSJ.

Very cool ... and much less boring than lowering taxes, cutting regulation, politics and bureaucracy (including the economic development staff), improving schools by offering choice to parents, etc.