Monday, May 15, 2006

Pols gone wild

Most U.S. urban planning and policy curricula include the field of "community economic development". This refers to strategies and plans to revitalize poor neighborhoods. At its worst, it includes primers on the politics of attracting government office facilities and jobs.

The field is also subject to fads and the latest involves Richard Florida's ideas on how to attract a "creative class." A good friend refers to it as the "Sex and the City" fantasy.

The costs of this silliness are nicely summarized in Joel Kotkin's op-ed in today's WSJ ("The Ersatz Urban Renaissance" reg. req.). Kotkin notes that this charade misses the harsh reality that many creative (and other worthy) people like to go where the taxes and the rents are low and where governments do what they are supposed to do, such as provide decent schools and safe streets.

Forgetting about all this and funding expensive baubles (concert halls, museums and even subsidized high-end hotels -- by celeb architects, of course) is poison. But it's not boring.