(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.
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.
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
Part I of Title XIII, Chapter I, Subchapter C, of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation
Act of 1993: "Empowerment Zones, Enterprise Communities, and Rural Development
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.
From the New York City empowerment zone application, as submitted to HUD.
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.
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.
Section 1398(d)(1)(A) and (B) of the Act.
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