Monday, 23 February 2009

White House urban policy - is the pot boiling again?

One of my main (if not the main) research interests is urban policy. So, the newly created White House Office of Urban Policy, to be headed by Adolfo CarriĆ³n, is of great interest to me. It also makes me wonder whether this will spark a much wider interest/debate about the way urban policy is developed, applied and evaluated (too optimistic?). Either way, it seems to be a recognition that urban issues need to be given more attention than they had been given in the past. In 1987 Donald Hicks said that urban policy was a 'pot no longer boiling' - there has been an upswing since then, but is the pot now really back on the boil? Or, is this all post-election gesturing?

I'm enthusiastic about these new developments, but realistic about what can be achieved and more than a little cautious about claiming this is a new dawn for urban policy, or some other such thing. Is this simply the US equivalent of the UK's New Labour re-dedication to urban policy in the late 1990s? Let's all wait ten years before we answer this question. For now, it's interesting, welcome and encouraging.

The image below is from behind the Lake Michigan skyline in Chicago's Near North Side - just on the edge of Cabrini-Green. As you can see in the photo, urban policies often involve demolition of existing neighbourhoods. Will this approach (much criticised) continue?