One of the greatest challenges for US cities is the perceived failure of public schools. Both as a means for attracting and retaining the middle class and for providing upward mobility public schools are crucial. Consequently, any effort to build livable cities must include successful public schools so as to provide a ladder for the poor and to attract and retain the middle class. Although education typically falls out of the purview of planning, planners can ill afford to ignore such a key component of what makes a place livable in the minds of many.
It was the collapse of the housing bubble that triggered the current economic crisis. As is the case in the aftermath of many calamities finger pointing abounds. There are an ample number of would be culprits. Take your pick; The Federal Reserve for keeping interest rates too low, mortgage brokers for pushing inappropriate loans, ratings agencies for blessing dubious securities, the list goes on. A common criticism aimed at all of these culprits is that they lacked the foresight to see the inevitable housing bust. It was the housing bubble that camouflaged all of the bad decisions.
The on-going foreclosure and subsequent credit crisis should offer important lessons for housing policy and public policy more broadly. Chief among these lessons might be the falsity of the notion that government regulation is always bad. But some conservative commentators cling to the dogma that government intervention is the root of all evil. An explanation being offered by some is that government intervention in the form of Community Reinvestment Act encouraged irresponsible lending and led to the subsequent housing bust.
Deindustrialization has wreaked havoc across many American cities and towns. One only need visit the landscape of the rust belt, places like Buffalo, Detroit or Flint, Michigan to get a sense how damaging this transformation can be. Behind the ugly ruins of abandoned factories and shuttered stores are the lives of real people who have suffered. Manufacturing provided jobs, good paying ones at that, that helped create a blue collar middle class.
Last Year Planetizen published their first Guide to Graduate Urban Planning Programs. The Guide includes basic information about the programs (location, specializations, faculty, etc) and an overall ranking of the schools and ranking by specialization. It is these rankings that are the source of much consternation within the planning academy.
This year in Parents Involved in Community Schools Inc. v. Seattle School District and Meredith v. Jefferson County (Ky.) Board of Education the Supreme Court ruled that school districts could not assign students on the basis of race, even if the goal was to promote integration. To some this is the end of an era, with affirmative action and other diversity promoting programs in jeopardy as the court has now come full circle using the Brown decision to outlaw programs that promote integration. Most commentators on this ruling have highlighted the implications for school integration programs and even affirmative action more broadly. But the ruling also speaks to an issue pertinent to planners as well—racial segregation in American cities, and by racial segregation I am referring to the segregation of African Americans who are by far the most segregated group in America.
Although the latest immigration bill being debated upon in congress has attracted relatively little attention from planners, the planning implications of reforming or not reforming current immigration policy are huge. Immigration impacts labor markets, and thereby commuting patterns, transportation planning and economic development. Immigration swells the population of many cities and towns forcing planners to rethink their plans for housing, schools and other public services. Often overlooked, however, is f immigration’s impact on the planning process itself.