Urban Planning in a Multicultural Society

By Michael A. Burayidi | Go to book overview

(1/3 are appointed by the governor; 1/3 by the mayor; the local community plays a minor role) with a strong element of politically dependent technocracy.

The relationships that are established are not those that would be considered appropriate to a multicultural society committed to just treatment and democratic opportunity for its diverse members. It ends up, in spite of the efforts of some of those involved, as fostering a top-down approach whose objective is rather gilding the ghetto than eliminating its barriers. The prospects do not look good.

And what is promised is more of the same, but with even less behind it. In the balanced budget legislation, twenty more empowerment zones are to be created -- fifteen urban and five rural. Whether they will be funded even at the limited level of the first round remains, however, in doubt. 12 The underlying approach, tackling the issues of a multicultural society by measures spatially designed and spatially limited, is not being questioned. Unless major changes are made in the program, it will not make much difference; it is as likely, in the long run, to hurt the cause of multicultural justice in the United States as to help it.


NOTES
1.
I use the term "ghetto" here in the specific sense of an involuntary spatial concentration of members of a dominated group. For a detailed discussion, and the differentiation from an enclave or similar immigrant areas of concentration, see Marcuse Peter "The Enclave, the Citadel, and the Ghetto: What Has Changed in the Post-Fordist U.S. City". Urban Affairs Review, vol. 33, no. 2, November 1997:228-64.
2.
Among the best short critical discussions are those of Ed Gramlich, prepared for the Center for Community Change and the Coalition for Low Income Community Development, both in Washington, D.C. For my own comments on the New York City application and the politics behind it, see Marcuse Peter "Empowering New York", City Limits, March 1994:20-21.
3.
Part I of Title XIII, Chapter I, Subchapter C, of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993: "Empowerment Zones, Enterprise Communities, and Rural Development Investment Areas".
4.
The history of federal efforts to impose an effective planning requirement on municipalities goes back as far as the idea of geographically zoned assistance itself (see below) and with as few results. The lineage includes Workable Programs, H.A.P.s, C.H.A.S.s, and most recently Consolidated Plans.
5.
From the New York City empowerment zone application, as submitted to HUD.
6.
For a biased history of some of these programs that has attracted wide-spread attention, but which ignores the changes discussed in the next paragraph, see Lemman Nicholas. "Rebuilding the Ghetto Doesn't Work". The New York Times, January 9, 1994:27.
7.
For a more detailed discussion, see Marcuse Peter "The Targeted Crisis: On the Ideology of the Urban Fiscal Crisis and Its Uses", in International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, vol. 5, no. 3, 1981:330.
8.
Section 1398(d)(1)(A) and (B) of the Act.
9.
Op. cit., 4.
10.
The very term "empowerment" is ambiguous in its social impact if empowerment is defined as "a necessarily long-term process of adult learning and development" (Wright and

-232-

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