A Tale of Two Cities: San Jose and Flint

The fixed costs of infrastructure projects leave cities like Flint struggling to pay their bills with fewer people pooling their resources.

2 minute read

March 3, 2016, 6:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Alana Semuels examines either side of the vast chasm separating American communities: "The contrast between San Jose and Flint illuminates a truism about regional inequality in America: The cities that are struggling the most also have the least resources to deal with their problems."

The article goes into a detailed comparison between the benefits of having a growing population, workforce, and tax base, like in San Jose, and the drawbacks of a shrinking population, like in Flint. The imbalance between the two regions is put into even more stark perspective when considering the Californian drought compared to the city of Flint's proximity to the Great Lakes, which also happens to be the largest supply of freshwater in the world. Yet, Flint's water is expensive and toxic, while San Jose is investing huge sums in new water infrastructure.

Semuels also shares news that the U.S. Senate is considering legislation that would provide relief to communities struggling to cover the expenses of infrastructure that provides the basic human services:

A bill introduced by Michigan Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, both Democrats, would authorize the federal Drinking Water State Revolving Fund to make up to $100 million in subsidized loans or grants for infrastructure improvements to any state that receives an emergency declaration because of a public-health threat due to contaminants in a public drinking-water system.

The article includes more examples of infrastructure challenges that compare to Flint's, as well as more discussion about how shrinking cities can take a page from San Jose in approaching their infrastructure challenges.

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