Independent Cities: Rethinking U.S. Urban Policy

Independent Cities: Rethinking U.S. Urban Policy

Independent Cities: Rethinking U.S. Urban Policy

Independent Cities: Rethinking U.S. Urban Policy


In "Independent Cities", Robert Waste suggests an array of solutions to real problems affecting urban America and explores dynamics of urban politics. He examines a range of policy alternatives and proffers his own creative solutions.


This book is both a history of national and sub-national urban policies, and a prediction of the trajectory that those polices will need to take in the future if, as a society, we are to solve the mounting crisis in America's cities. Since at least 1990, American cities have been stuck in a seemingly permanent crisis, involving high levels of poverty, hunger, homelessness, crime, and low levels of funding for infrastructure needs, mass transit, and education. Perhaps unsurprisingly, metro voters are more alienated and less likely to participate in elections and civic affairs than at any time since the late 1950s. Worse, if there needed to be anything worse for America's cities, cities and their surrounding metro areas have become virtually "invisible" in American national and presidential politics.

Is there a way out of the permanent crisis and the invisibility problem for American cities? I think so, but the "answers" I have arrived at are bound to alienate both traditional academic and political readers. The academic world and the political world are in many respects polar opposites. Academics are wholesalers, while politicians are in the retail business. Politicians are looking for a few good, "big" ideas. Academics, on the other hand, distrust any analysis that does not have numerous levels, multiple causalities, and a complex multitiered set of intervention strategies. For such scholarly readers this analysis may strike some--but not all--ears as reductionist or simplistic. For readers primarily from the political world, there will probably still be too many causes and interventions reviewed and suggested in the text.

A final source of discomfort for many readers--but, hopefully, not for all--is a certain lack of ideological consistency in a book that argues that the two most effective urban aid interventions in the past fifty years are the Head Start program created under the liberal War on Poverty/Great Society Administration of Lyndon Johnson, and the Revenue Sharing program created under the aegis of the conservative New Federalism administration of Richard Nixon. After a good deal of reflection, I have opted to abandon ideological consistency in favor of trying to put together a set of programs and policies that, if they were really given a fair trial at the national level, might actually solve the current crisis in American cities.

Every fifteen minutes a child in an American city is wounded by guns. Every two hours an American child is killed by gunfire. Every night thirty million Americans go to bed hungry. Twenty percent of the bridges in metro areas are functionally obsolete, yet Americans continue to resist car pools and . . .

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