Seeds of an anti-sprawl
Urban critics such as David Rusk call for a grassroots movement to heal America's citiesa movement on the scale of the civil rights movement or the environmental movement. It would involve all the constituencies harmed by the sprawling development patterns around our metropolitan areas.
A movement is needed because in places like Northeast Ohio the scale of our existing political institutions (local and county government) does not match the regional scale of our problems. Every mayor and county commissioner is looking out for his or her own turf. No one is elected to represent the region (although there might be room for a state representative or senator to speak out).
If all the constituencies hurt by sprawl could be organized, however, they would make a powerful political force. Below we offer a preliminary list of such constituencies. Then we list some of the organizationsin the city and the countrythat are already working on pieces of the sprawl problem.
Linking the city and country is key, for we have to fight the sprawl battle at both ends. We have to revitalize inner-city neighborhoods so people will want to move into them. And we have to stop subsidizing the sprawling development on the metropolitan fringe, which saps the strength of the central cities.
Constituencies hurt by sprawl and
- Residents of declining inner-city neighborhoods, with all their community development organizations whose hard work is being undermined by outmigration.
- Residents of older, inner-ring suburbs, who are also victimized by the spreading disinvestment (and who typically have fewer resources and amenities than the central city with which to stem decline).
- Everyone who can't drivechildren, senior citizens, people who can't afford a car.
- Institutions with fixed investments in the citychurches, schools, hospitals, arts organizations, banks, utilities.
- Environmentalists working to protect natural areas and wetlands, save energy, and prevent air pollution.
- Transit and bicycle advocates.
- Fair and affordable housing advocates.
- The many ad hoc groups fighting Wal-Marts, highway interchanges and road widenings in their communities.
- Historic preservationists.
- Country residents who want their communities to remain rural.
- Farmers who want to keep farming without the threat of encroaching subdivisions.
- Business leaders who realize that their sprawling metropolitan areas will have a hard time competing with compact, efficient cities in Europe and Asia.
- Developers who are tired of fighting anti-development NIMBYs and who would like to see a consensus on where development is appropriate.
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