Monday, February 22, 2010

Bruce Katz and Brookings are Idealogues for Urban Politics in Ohio

Idealogue - an often blindly partisan advocate or adherent for a particular ideology _ (Merriam Webster)

"I'm a political person...We don't fight to lose. We fight to win. So we manipulate language to still achieve our ends but to ultimately score legislative and practical victories. _Katz, Commmonweal interview

“Report says cities key to Ohio's future - Brookings Institution finds bureaucracy, politics, turf wars are blocking advancement”
By Julie Carr Smyth
Associated Press
Published on Monday, Feb 22, 2010
COLUMBUS: Ohio may be proud of its cows and its cornfields, but its Clevelands and its Cincinnatis are the future.
That's the message in a new report from the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program and the Greater Ohio Policy Center. The think tanks paired up for two years to look at how best to establish the hard-hit state as an economic powerhouse after the United States regains its financial footing.
The answer: Invest in the cities.
The report, to be unveiled today Feb. 22, 2010, calls metro regions ''the key functional units in the global economy today'' and sees Ohio as a good national testing ground for its ideas.

''It's the new spatial geography of the country and of places like Ohio,'' said Bruce Katz, co-founder of the Brookings metro program. ''Almost every single Ohioan lives within an hour's drive of an urban area, and 50 percent live within 10 miles of an urban center.''

The report identifies 16 metropolitan areas in the state, regions that include both cities and their suburban, exurban and rural surroundings. The areas range in size from cities like Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland to the Ohio River towns of Ironton, Marietta and East Liverpool.


Bruce Katz, Vice President and Regional Director of the Brookings Institution, ís reported in the press as an objective voice in urban development. He was quoted in the Plain Dealer(1/1/2-10) that we must change our evil suburban ways: "The bottom line is the U.S. just got the biggest wake-up call it received in the past 50 years," Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution said of the recession. We have been growing in the wrong way, he said, and must change to survive. "The American economy is about to rebalance and restructure in a dramatic way," Katz said.

But what's the end game here? Katz says one thing to a gathering of Ohio lawmakers, but quite another when among other urban policy makers. Here are excerpts from an interview with columnist Steve Lender of Commonweal. (Complete interview is here: ) Katz at first is taken to task for not promoting “fair growth” social equity issues. In his answer to Lender, an unusually candid Katz cautions him that although “social equity” and power are the objective, it must be presented in a way that is acceptable to suburbs that make up the bulk of the potential revenue, even if it means he must “manipulate language to still achieve our ends but to ultimately score legislative and practical victories.” so here is Bruce Katz in his own words, putting out the real objectives of "regionalism" and the promotion of cities:

Bruce Katz defines Smart Growth:
The beauty of "smart growth" is that it captures in one phrase a lot of things. It is a big tent... a big umbrella kind of movement. And it is definitely having traction. And no one is going to change that. This is a moving train. You are not going to change the rubric. I think you can fit within the rubric and appropriately so and come to that table and make your case. But that means leaving the margins and coming to the center of the debate. And I don't see that happening.
With a smart growth framework and a smart growth rhetoric urban revitalization issues that have been kept on the fringe for a long time can now be seen as pro-suburban and pro-rural. This should be the heyday of brownfields remediation because people understand that if we redevelop more land in the cities it takes pressure off the fringe and everyone is happy. Is that fair growth or smart growth? It is both.

Katz: Smart Growth or Social Equity?
But if you come in saying "fair growth" and that we are doing this because of equity, people are not going to give you an audience. If you come in and say we are going to do this to take pressure off the fringe, then they will say: let's talk; we have common ground. I think we should think about what we are trying to achieve here and what the rhetoric is and the language is and the political coalitions are that you need to achieve those objectives. And we should understand that we are going to break bread with a lot of strange bedfellows to mix a metaphor.
This is a central question to urban constituencies as to whether they are willing to play in a larger game. I am totally for what fair growth is trying to achieve. To me smart growth is fair growth. The way we define smart growth it is fair growth. But the term sends signals that this is more than just about equity issues. The environmentalists need to be for this and the business needs to be for this. Smart growth sounds like a competitive issue as much as an environmental issue. It is an issue of fiscal equity and metropolitan access. I think the best way to proceed is along a big tent, majoritarian coalition path. Then we can try to steer the conversation at particular points in time. Otherwise you are on the margin. And you are off having some conversation somewhere and it is like: who are you?

Katz: Submerging your Objectives while telling an Audience what they want to hear
I was talking to the Michigan state legislature the other day, this was the urban caucus of Detroit legislators, Grand Rapids legislators, suburban legislators, rural legislators -- it was a broad band. Each one of them wanted to hear a portion of the smart growth debate that they could bring home. The rural guys wanted farm preservation, the urban guys wanted brownfields and renovation, the people in the suburbs said they had a workforce problem. So you want a big menu and then you want to be able to say: you take this part of the agenda, you take this part, and we are all going to work on different committees and agencies. We have to be very strategic or people will say: what does that have to do with what we are doing?
I come out of the legislative arena so for me this is just the way you do business. You have to submerge your own identity and your own mission, in a way, to achieve your own end. And that is what legislators do all the time. It is second nature to legislators. It is different for constituencies that seem to need the message to be clear so they can energize their base. But that may not be the most successful political strategy. I think this is a very important juncture for advocates to decide what the language is because we have a moving train here and it has a big umbrella aspect to it and it is not going to change. It is going to be smart growth.

Katz: Goals for Cleveland
If we reinvest in the core, if we take 20 percent of decentralization in this country [and redirect it back to the city], that is a major change. It is monumental. So people should not dismiss that because the fiscal ramifications of that change are huge. And in a lot of places the displacement is not as broad as people are saying. The country is not Silicon Valley. The country is more like Cleveland where metropolitan decentralization is undermining all the communities in which low-income workers and minorities live. And Cleveland, given projected growth, could stop growing [outward] today and accommodate population settlement and population growth without much displacement if it was done intelligently.

Katz: How the Political game is played
Let's be clear about this. This is not the Judaic/Christian ethic. It is that [smart growth and inclusionary zoning] will make the region more economically competitive and relieve traffic congestion. As such it is as much the suburban self-interest as the self interest of those [low-income urban residents] that are getting access to the [new suburban] housing. This is where we need more conversations. People like me and Myron Orfield are trained to be opportunist and get the 51% of the vote. We focus on what it takes and who are your allies. The poster child for your allies may be the head of the biotech cluster and not the central city advocate. That is just smart politics. In the end you get what you get. You get as far as you can go. And then once affordable housing is ingrained like it is in Montgomery County, then you can go back at it again and again.
We have to win here. We have to win. I'm a political person. Myron Orfield is a political person. We don't fight to lose. We fight to win. So we manipulate language to still achieve our ends but to ultimately score legislative and practical victories. And I think we need to get strategic enough to do that or else we are having side conversations that are not really in the center of the debate.
(Maryland Governor)Glendenning has done this. He did not call it Fair Growth but he basically says we should invest in places where we already have people and where we already have investments because that is smart fiscally. And it is smart environmentally because it takes pressure off our land. We don't want to look like everywhere America. We are better than that. We are Marylanders. We want to preserve our countryside because that is part of our heritage and our cultural legacy. He could have come in and said: Look there are more of us in big urban counties than there are of the exurbs and we are going to outvote you and that is fair because we have the people. But he didn't do that and it was really a smart way of achieving the same end. From the partisan perspective what is Glendenning doing? He is funding Democratic strongholds: Prince George's, Baltimore County, Baltimore City, and Montgomery County. The political people in Maryland know that. But he put it in a framework that made it substantively correct to have a different partisan outcome.
In Minneapolis they said: "Guys, we are 75% and we are going to wire the rules. You can live in your gated communities but we are going to tax the hell out of you. Or at least we are going to take a portion of the up-tick in revenues so that you don't gain it all. That kind of politics works in some places and I am all for it but I am not for it where it doesn't work. Knowing your political culture and the composition of your state legislature it won't take too long to figure out what will work and what won't work.

Katz: How Regionalism and Smart Growth get done
You don't want to start on distributional politics. I think you want to come in and say: Here is a goal we want to reach as a state. We want to preserve our land and rebuild places we have invested in. Everyone who is involved, the cognoscenti, know exactly what is going on. But I think the other approach gets into the lowest common denominator allocation politics which I think you want to avoid. You go down that road and who knows where that ends up because the bulk of the taxes are paid in the suburbs. I'm not sure we want to go down that road. You want to go down a road that allows you to achieve a substantive goal but in a politically smart way.

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