Federal Urban Proarams as Multicultural Planning: The Empowerment Zone Approach
In the last two presidential elections, the Democratic Party made a deliberate decision not to confront urban issues as part of its platform. Minority voters, the strategists felt, had nowhere else to go, and proposing programs to meet their needs was likely to alienate more voters than it would attract. So, indeed, no major new initiatives were proposed, either during the election campaigns or thereafter. The federal department most obviously concerned with urban issues, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), spent most of its time reinventing itself in smaller and less controversial fashion, presumably to head off even greater Congressional attacks on its very existence. The only new initiative it proposed that related to multiracial/multicultural issues was the Empowerment Zone legislation of 1993. That proposal constituted (as many before it) an attempt to deal with problems that were essentially social and economic, that were inextricably connected to the development of the United States as a multicultural society, without making any reference at all to race, culture, or ethnicity. Empowerment zones are an attempt to deal, through spatial measures, with problems at the root.
Spatial arrangements, as a solution for social problems, have a long and checkered history. Protecting rulers behind walls, and creating a privileged and protected space for those at the top of the hierarchy of power and wealth, were classic patterns that continue to this day. Ghettoizing 1 the poor is the opposite side of the same coin. Confining the potentially troublesome at the bottom of the hierarchy, where they can be dominated and controlled, has an almost equally long history. But an apparently different approach tries to ameliorate, or even solve, social problems through spatially based policies. These have historically ranged from slum clearance to urban renewal to neighborhood improvement, and from neighborhood rehabilitation areas to poverty program target areas, and model cities