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6 WHO TAKES RESPONSIBILITY FOR ADDRESSING INEQUALITY?  T he opportunity gaps separating different locations across the region are likely to widen unless they are addressed by public policies. In Chapter 1 we argued that differences between places exacerbate differences in the quality of life for the region’s population. In our chapter-bychapter examination of the distributions of employment, housing, and education, we have paid particular attention to efforts being made to overcome the inequalities in our regional landscape. Looking for those public and private actors who are currently addressing the region’s uneven development, we have been struck by how many of them work in the third sector. Policy research on urban development has traditionally focused on local government as the agent of change. In the period following World War II, local governments became increasingly involved in the physical redevelopment of cities. Our previous book on Philadelphia devoted a chapter to this postwar redevelopment process, showing that during the 1960s, Philadelphia had one of the nation’s most active city governments using federal funds to retrofit the downtown area to accommodate the economic shift from a manufacturing to a service economy. Federal legislation encouraged local governments to form partnerships with profit-making investors to rebuild stagnant central cities. Typically local government took responsibility for purchasing and clearing land, rezoning, and offering tax abatements to private developers to build on the land. That is hardly surprising, since local government officials are essentially stewards of places. They have a strong stake in sustaining the vitality of the places they govern. Their political interests are served by bringing investments into their jurisdictions, especially investments that bolster the value of places. After all, their budgets for public services depend on locally generated taxes. This is true for both urban and suburban officials. They possess powers that are crucial to making and remaking places, particularly the power of eminent domain, which allows them to transfer land from one use to another. In earlier chapters, we have seen several examples of the priority that local political leaders place on bolstering places, from the clearing and reconstruction of older neighborhoods to providing tax abatements that lure corporate tenants to occupy new office buildings, refurbishing aging commercial strips, and competing for malls, office parks, and other tax-producing commercial development . Local government has long been an important initiator of such ventures , as the discussion of the Neighborhood Transformation Initiative in Chapter 3 illustrated. Now, however, the organizational field has become more complex, with a wider variety of actors beyond local government playing important roles. In their efforts to transform places, local governments have increasingly turned to organizations outside of government to carry out place-based development projects. We were struck by how numerous and how important these nongovernmental organizations are. The Expanding Role of the Third Sector Opportunities for redevelopment often occur at a scale smaller than local government or larger than local government boundaries. Rather than trying to adjust the formal boundaries to match these varying problem scales (an approach that regional government advocates have been unsuccessfully touting for decades), metropolitan activists are spawning a host of nonprofit organizations to tackle public issues. These efforts arise from either the inability or the unwillingness of local and state political actors to tackle the issues produced by changing social and economic conditions. In this chapter, we examine how different kinds of regional nonprofits seek to address the region’s developmental issues. Business Improvement Districts Among the fastest-growing of the nongovernmental bodies taking responsibility for revitalizing older urban areas are business improvement districts (BIDs). In Chapter 2 we saw that BIDs have worked to improve commercial districts like Center City and West Philadelphia. But BIDs have been used in both the city and suburbs. About a dozen Philadelphia neighborhoods have W H O T A K E S R E S P O N S I B I L I T Y F O R A D D R E S S I N G I N E Q U A L I T Y ? 169 business improvement districts, known in Philadelphia as “special service districts .” Not content with the public services provided by local government, the residents and businesses in those locations have organized to tax themselves above the normal tax level in order to provide desired services at a higher level than they are receiving from municipal government. They focus on trash collection , street maintenance, security patrols, maintaining...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781592138982
Related ISBN
9781592138975
MARC Record
OCLC
302407067
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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