Wednesday, February 28, 2007

There is hope for reclaiming our cities. I found a good book by Jane Jacobs entitled The Death and Life of Great American Cities which gives part of the answer. I encourage you to go on Amazon and purchase it.

The cities would naturally attract certain economies. They have infrastructure, population, and easy access to a wide variety of resources. The Rudy years of New York and the Reclamation of Atlanta show it is possible to begin a turn around without even getting to some of the root cultural causes. These natural advantages are being destroyed by misguided city planning, high taxes, poor security, and a culture of despair.

The first step is to restore common sense to a community. We need to support our authority structure. We have to enforce quality of life rules. For that approach to work, we have to admit the authority structure undermined its own legitimacy. Of course we recognize Bull Conner and his ilk as undermining it, but we also have to come to grip with the fact that if Sen. Obama, Speaker Gingrich, and Vice president Gore had to cope with the same drug laws that we have today, we would have been deprived of our most popular leaders. The drug laws are not set up fairly, they do not target drugs based upon their danger to others, but based upon a political apartide which adversely affects minorities. People should not have their futures ruined because they went through a period of despair in their lives. As people are being disenfranchised by the millions from mainstream society (jobs, voting, educational opportunities), they become segregated from the institutions which in the past reclaimed them. We create an underclass which is resentful of all the institutions of authority that make up society family, police, government, schools, etc. We can’t just turn loose the drug lords in our cities. We need to dry up their market. The faith based initiative fought by numskull Dems in Congress needs to be passed immediately. We need to stop mandatory minimums for non drug king pins and repeal felony laws on drug abuse for users except for those few drugs proven to spark violent behavior. We need to use misdemeanor laws as a tool to encourage treatment. Those who do not respond should be placed in work camps and not traditional prisons. Those work camps could teach new skills, offer education and treatment, and give a sense of accomplishment and worth. The dealers are a different story. They should be harassed OUT OF BUSINESS.

The second step is to work with the free market and not against it. The entire template of city planning taught in our colleges is wrong. The places with the least planning--like Houston are doing the best. Suburbia did not have the same planning until recent decades (it prospered) and now we are seeing decaying cores in much of it. So people are moving to exurbia and rural counties to escape the problems. The solution is complex and will take its own essay to get started.

The third step is to make security the first priority in our cities. Basic economics says that people trade to get what makes them happy. You trade your time to get money to buy a house because you are happier watching digital TV in a climate controlled house than sitting outside in nature. Money does not matter as much as perceived happiness. If I think I will be killed in a year running a business in the city, it does not matter how much money they say I can make. Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs; we need to fulfill the basic requirements and then move up the scale. We need to teach skills of relating to one another and human relations in the schools. Those start with communication. We need to start being judgmental again. The person who starts a fight is guilty not the victim. This goes back to common sense. If someone starts pounding on my face because he wants my lunch money and I defend myself, I should be praised not punished along with him. That undermines authority. We should not let crime be in the open. Once you allow criminal enterprises to flaunt the law they become bolder. They think they can run neighborhoods. Next we need to target those who enable the active criminals. We need to give landlords tools to evict people who run criminal enterprises out of the landlord’s property then we need to hold them accountable if they don’t use them. The same houses become drug houses again and again with different tenants. These places become criminal hubs for all sorts of gang crime. If the landlords won’t seek help then we should shut them down and pressure them to sale. We should place cameras in our parks and at streets in need of help. We have to make public crime not pay. Singapore is the best example of how to make a successful modern city.

Next you get into changing the economics. Then you go into the changing the culture. The cities have failed governments which have to be replaced. These could use essays on their own.

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