Bruce Katz and Jeremy Nowak reply to Minton’s recent Prospect review of their new bookby Prospect Team / May 10, 2018 / Leave a comment
We read Anna Minton’s review of our new book, The New Localism: How Cities Can Thrive in the Age of Populism, with extreme disappointment given our high regard for this magazine.
We always expected our main thesis—that cities are now the vanguard of problem solving in the world and need to gain and deploy power—to elicit controversy in Britain. Despite recent moves towards devolution—City Deals, the recent election of Metro Mayors—Britain remains one of the most centralised and compartmentalised governance regimes and political cultures in the world. This has left city governments and city networks weak and excessively dependent on national largesse at the very moment when Brexit requires communities to exhibit agency and action.
To Minton’s credit, she bemoans the fact that Britain has a “democratic deficit.” That was a main reason why the Brexit vote passed, particularly in northern cities and towns left behind by globalization and national policy.
Yet she simply ignores the central thesis of New Localism and the inextricable link between local democracy, city power and problem solving. Rather Minton spends the bulk of her review focusing on the rise of gentrified and exclusionary global cities and the inadequacy of many current policies, at the national or local level, to address this phenomenon. She chides us for promoting 1990s-era policies around networked governance and place making which, in her view, have contributed to the housing affordability crisis (even though she later mentions the central government’s retrenchment on council housing under Thatcher).
We appreciate and recognize Minto’s arguments; the challenges she identifies are all too real in “hot” cities. But our response is three-fold.
First, London is not Liverpool just as New York City is not Detroit. The evidence shows that poverty, not gentrification, remains the central challenge facing low-income families in most U.S. cities. In 2016, for example, researchers found that just 15 of Philadelphia’s 372 residential census tracts gentrified between 2000 and 2014. They also found that over 160 Philadelphia neighborhoods saw a significant decline in the median income during the same period.
For these cities and communities, it is essential that local governments and stakeholders have the capacity and authority to grow and diversify local economies, invest in schools and skills and reform local institutions for a new world. National governments do matter, particularly around “safety net” policies; yet waiting for national action and political reform…