An argument for decentralized government at the urban and municipal levels, where interesting economic and political trends are shaping up in the bargain.
Urban studies scholar Katz (Centennial Scholar/Brookings Institution; co-author: The Metropolitan Revolution, 2013) and community investment leader Nowak (Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation, Drexel Univ.) observe that power of various kinds is “drifting downward from the nation-state to cities and metropolitan communities [and] horizontally from government networks of public, private and civic actors.” This comes as a result, at least in some measure, of cities actively campaigning to recruit industries that require high skill levels and education in order to achieve productivity. Kansas City is a case in point: its civic leaders within and without government are in agreement that they want five things to happen, including building “a workforce for tomorrow” and “making the city the most entrepreneurial in America.” Many things have to happen to bring about such developments, including forging political alliances and investing in urban infrastructure. Beyond that, the authors show that leading urban areas in the “new localism” movement are those that have invested in “innovation districts,” or clusters of business development mixed with academia and, often, government. A good example is Erie, Pennsylvania, where the strong presence of the insurance industry and cybersecurity think tanks has led to a hybridization in risk management, “following the path of customization and alignment.” Financial innovation is necessary to fund such development, but cities are often wealthier than they think; as the authors note, cities are very good at reckoning how much they owe but not how much they own. To this end, they counsel putting “public asset corporations” to work in developing long-term strategies and capturing public wealth that can be reinvested in making cities better places to live—as increasing numbers of people around the nation and world have concluded they are.
Of great interest to urban activists and workers at the interface of the public and private sectors, with much food for thought for investors as well.