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THE CREATION OF WASHINGTON, DC
by Kenneth R. Bowling, 1991 George Mason University Press

For those interested in a thorough discussion of the origins of our nation's capital city and questions about "exclusive jurisdiction" over it, there is probably no better source than Kenneth Bowling's authoritative 300-page book on the arguments and discussions that preoccupied the Founding Fathers from the first Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1774 through the tortuous compromise finally reached in New York in 1990. It is enlightening to read the extent to which the choice of a site was influenced by a) centrality between the differing interests of the northern and southern blocs of states--including the matter of slavery; b) the great importance given to rivers as the main transportation lines for the opening of the interior of the county; and c) the potential economic gains to be made by various large landowners, including George Washington himself.

For several interesting excerpts from this book please turn to The Creation of DC in our History section.

COMEBACK CITIES: A Blueprint for Neighborhood Revival (Westview Press)
(Condensed from a review by Neal Peirce at Citistates)

This new book is written by two individuals well-versed in the problems of run-down, poverty-stricken communities that are now being revitalized after being written off for years as unfixable. The recovery is apparently not because "poverty has been banished", but because "a measure of stability and civic order have returned", again making these neighborhoods places "where people want to live, shop, run businesses and go to school".

Credit is given to four important new factors. The first is the successful evolution of Community Development Corporations--now some 3600 strong--that nudge entire neighborhoods back to life by constructing hundreds of thousands of homes and apatments as well as day care centers, neighborhood hopping centers, and, increasingly, schools to compete with the troubled public school systems.' Though many of the CDC's apparently started as confrontational, ideological groups in the '60s, they have developed into sophisticated, savvy operations forging multiple partnerships with local governments, businesses and non-profits. Authors Grogan and Proscio, deeply involved in these efforts, consider the CDC's "a vast new decentralized apparatus for urban neighborhood problem solving", and that their results are already "monumental".

The second factor has been the essential role of the central government in helping to trigger this "rebirth" of private markets in inner cities as a result of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). This act obliges banks to include even troubled neighborhoods in their lending activity. Between '94 and '98, banks pledged more than $355 billion in inner city investments to satisfy CRA obligations!"

The authors claim that a third factor has been the reductions in violent crime. They credit the expanded use of community policing practices for bringing about a "revolution in police practices".

The fourth factor encouraging fallen neighborhood revitailization has been "deep and profound changes in public bureaucracies that for generations had a deeply negative impact on urban communities". The authors call this the "deregulation of American inner cities", and illustrate that during the '90s, two of the public systems that have inflicted some of the greatest harm on inner cities--welfare and public housing--have been overhauled top-to-bottom. In fact, they point out, over 100,000 public housing units--many so afflicted that they approached the status of leper colonies--have been demolished, with mixed income developments rising in their place.

Grogan and Proscio go on the emphasize that "the tide of reform and competition is starting to engulf a third great public bureaucracy--the public school system". They call school reform, including the charter school movement, "the final frontier of inner city revitalization", because they expect competition and new school choices to neutralize the biggest factor driving working and middle-class families out of cities.

The authors conclude that today's successful urban reforms are "the common invention of both Left and Right (Wings), big government and tiny neighborhoods, grassroots volunteers and corporate CEOs", suggesting that "the construction of cities may be among the first truly post-ideological issues of the 21st Century".

NARPAC Commentary

While NARPAC has not read this book in depth, it is struck by the underlying themes that Government bureaucracies aided--albeit inadvertantly--the decline and fall of many inner cities, and that nothing short of the revamping of welfare, public housing, and the public school system is required to reverse urban futures. It also seems to point up how the Federal Government and local communities can find their best roles in cooperatively effecting major socioeconomic changes. It remains to be seen whether similar initiatives can begin to address the larger issues of leveling the playing field across sprawling metro areas.

CONTEMPORARY CONTROVERSIES AND THE RACIAL DIVIDE
by Robert C. Smith and Richard Seltzer

Everybody knows that men and women have different views on many issues. So do parents and their kids. Democrats and Republicans have somewhat differing views. And this book demonstrates that there are very different views between blacks and whites. This book combines the results of several older polls, plus the 1996 General Social Survey with its 2904 respondents and over 200 questions. The book makes much of the very large differences in views, coining the terms "gaps" (1-19 point spread), "gulfs" (20-39 points); and "chasms" (over 40 point spread) of which there are quite a few. Many of the issues treated in detail by the authors deal with subjects on which large differences might be expected: from the Rodney King, O.J. Simpson, and Marian Barry (DC Mayor) affairs, to the LA riots, the Gulf War, and the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court.

Of more interest to NARPAC were eight issues of more direct relevance to local governance, involving over 50 different questions. All were positive statements or questions and the percent of the respondents agreeing with the assertions tabulated. For instance, one statement about government spending essentially asks "Do you agree that spending is either adequate or too low on social security?" 71% of blacks agreed, 49% of whites did--for a point spread of 22%, on an average position of 60% agree. NARPAC calls this a spread of 22 and a difference of 37% (22/60). Here is NARPAC's own aggregation in each of the eight chosen areas (with NARPAC's--certainly not the authors'--very abbreviated summaries of the contributing questions):

Religion is Important spread: 22; difference: 37%
(daily prayer, school prayer, literal truth of bible, Americans must be Christians, etc.)

People Are Alienated spread: 33; difference 59%
(people can't be trusted, looking out for themselves, will take advantage, no sense planning for future, etc.)

Racial "Leveling" is Needed spread: 31%; difference: 67%
(race relations poor, busing and preferential hiring good, close to own racial group, etc.)

Main Causes of Racial Inequities spread: 20; difference: 36%
past discrimination, lack of motivation or education, belief in Farrakhan, etc.)

Social/Criminal Justice Is Not Fair spread: 42; difference: 81%
(Gov't and CIA use drugs and AIDS virus against blacks; Gov't officials killed Pres. Kennedy; Navy shot down TWA Flt 800, etc.)

Government Should Spend More spread: 29; difference 52%
(too little spending for environment, health, cities, welfare, social security, black housing; Gov't should raise taxes for health, schools, jobless, etc.)

Government Is Obliged to Help People spread: 35; difference 73%
(Gov't is obliged to: assure health, standard of living, and unemployment benefits; help provide college tuitions, decent housing; protect minority cultures; and reduce income inequities, etc.)

Government Should Own More spread: 30; difference: 90%
(Gov't should own electric utilities, hospitals, banks)

In a purely arithmetic averaging of these categories, the spread between blacks and white is more than 30, and the difference, more than 60%. These differences are by any measure huge. The book points out that:

"[Previous authors have pointed out that] 'the black middle class is basically salaried from the public sector, and this circumstance largely determines the sort of hard self-interest positions this class will take on certain public policy issues'. [This book's authors go on to conclude:} Therefore, in black America in the late twentieth century, there is a kind of "historical cultural-structural liberalism" that bridges class and status differences to foster an ideologically homogenous or monolithic community."
While NARPAC has no basis for confirming or denying such assertions, the mayor's stated goals of proving that blacks can, essentially by themselves, competently run a leading American city, seems misplaced. With such differing views, it is unlikely that it would be run to the satisfaction of a primarily white metro area, county--or Congress!

Based on these findings, additional polls would also be useful concerning other more mundane aspects of government service: business/gov't/financial ethics, hiring/firing policies, proper supervisory roles, role of policy, etc.

REFLECTIONS ON REGIONALISM: Edited by Bruce Katz

In April, 2000, Brookings published a new book on regionalism. It is a compendium of essays by experts in urban affairs. As Katz describes this informative new addition to the literature:

"Some of the chapters in this monograph directly address regional coalitions. But all of the chapters, whether they talk explicitly about coalitions or not, can be read as part of a larger conversation about how coalitions do or do not work and how they shape decisions about economic and spatial growth. For example, Robert Fishman (Rutgers)); Robert Yaro (Regional Plan Assn, NY); Henry Richmond (Nat'l Growth Management Leadership Project); Rossabeth Moss Kanter (Harvard Business School) and Margaret Weir (UC, Berkley) all address some aspects of coalitions and regional growth, whether to outline the possibilities for new groups or to evaluate the successes and failures of previous efforts. The essays by john a. powell (no caps, University of Minnesota) and Kenneth Jackson (Columbia) show how race has shaped space, something that new coalitions cannot afford to ignore. Finally David Rusk (former mayor, housing administrator) and Paul Dimond (former White House domestic policy advisor) present two very different arguments about the policies that regional coalitions should pursue."

For those serious about the prospects for increased regionalism in US metro areas, (generally agreed to be the "economic unit of choice" for the foreseeable future), the book amply describes the magnitude of the problems of large American urban areas, and sometimes unintentionally, describes the huge odds against achieving true regional governance, even for the new rationale of controlling urban sprawl.

NARPAC Commentary:

NARPAC found two chapters to be of particular interest. Paul Dimond's chapter is billed, quite properly, as a "contrarian metropolitan view" for his largely iconoclastic efforts to dispel most of what he considers to be the "myths" about urban decline and the appropriate remedies. Entitled "Empowering Families to Vote with their Feet", he suggests that enhancing household mobility for the poor will largely eliminate urban slum areas. As an interesting case in point, he suggests that the startling growth in "poverty tracts" (census tracts with 40% or more of the households below the poverty line) from 1171 in 1970 to 2726 in 1990 is not the result of greater concentration of the poor, but of the departure of the less impoverished--as indicated by the declining population density of those poverty tracts.

On the other hand, john a. powell's chapter entitled "Addressing Regional Dilemmas for Minority Communities", is probably closest to NARPAC's views on the primary need to focus on those depressed, largely minority, largely black communities of the poor. He espouses the need to "regionalize" the planning for only those items which effect the entire region (i.e.,, transportation grids, but not bus stop locations) and to make possible the transfer of resources where needed. He comes closest to NARPAC's belief in the fundamental need for "poverty-sharing" within metro areas, though he does not use that phrase.

On the other hand, NARPAC was disappointed to find two elements missing from the discussion:

o Within the essays, there are several valuable references to the consequences of long-standing federal policies in the creation of urban slum areas. These include a) the construction of large clustered affordable housing units for the poor, and b) perhaps more basic, the choice of qualifications for home mortgage guarantees which not only favored single family homes over apartments, but color-coded areas within cities to essentially exclude those with minorities, thereby creating what NARPAC calls "poverty traps". But despite the undoubtedly correct assertions that past federal government policies have (unintentionally) helped cause urban blight, there is virtually no acknowledgement that new federal policies could help alleviate urban blight.

o Of all the various reasons offered for enhancing cooperation between metro area jurisdictions, the one least (if ever) mentioned is the rudimentary notion of simply enhancing the efficiency of providing various relatively non-controversial local government functions. There is not only the more obvious advantage of utilizing "economy of scale" for purchasing (from rock salt to text books), maintenance (from truck fleets to data bases), and specialized services (from bio-med labs to special ed schools). There is also the less obvious opportunity to avoid premature capital obsolescence due to inevitable demographic migrations within expanding metro areas--which leave some jurisdictions unable to keep up with school and hospital construction needs, while neighboring facilities become severely under-utilized.

INSIDE GAME, OUTSIDE GAME: Winning Strategies for Saving Urban America

This 1999 Century Foundation Book by David Rusk is his third dealing with the basic problems of urban America, building on the prior two (listed below). The first part, Inside Game, deals again with "how many of our cities got into their present sad state and the attempts to counter urban neighborhood decline over the past three decades". Separate chapters are devoted to "the sprawl machine", "the poverty machine", and "the deficit machine". NARPAC expands on various aspects of "the poverty machine" in this site's sections on the face of poverty, and the special role of auto insurance in poverty traps.

The second part, Outside Game, deals with key policies for controlling sprawl, dissolving concentrations of poverty, and reducing fiscal disparities, primarily among the metro areas on the Northeast and Middle West. The third part examines other tools and organizing strategies for regionalism. There is also an excellent exposition of the struggles in the federal government to end the impact of the federal public housing programs "as the greatest instrument of economic segregation in American life". According to the book's fly leaf:

"According to David Rusk, focusing on programs aimed at improving inner-city neighborhoods--playing the "inside game"--is a losing strategy. Achieving real improvement requires matching the "inside game" with a strong "outside game" of regional strategies to overcome growing fiscal disparities, concentrated poverty, and urban sprawl.

"....Rusk argues that state legislatures must set new "rules of the game". He believes those rules require regional revenue or tax base sharing to reduce fiscal disparity, regional housing policies to ensure that all new developments have their fair share of low and moderate income housing to dissolve concentrations of poverty, and regional land use planning and growth management to control urban sprawl.

"State government action, Rusk argues, is particularly critical where regions are highly fragmented by many competing city, village, and township governments. He provides vivid success stories that demonstrate best practices for these regional strategies along with recommendations for building effective regional coalitions."

NARPAC finds virtually nothing to disagree with in this fine book, but does lament the lack of consideration of Washington DC's special case, and the need for a federal role in stimulating regionalism as discussed at the 1999 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association.

SOMEBODY ELSE'S HOUSE: America's Unfinished Struggle for Integration

This recently published book by Tamar Jacoby documents--in excruciating detail, and with hundreds of valuable references--the decline and fall of three of America's leading cities (New York, Detroit, and Atlanta) to the ravages of racial separatism in the '70s and '80s. Though dealing primarily with race relations themselves, and the failure of the integrationist movement in the US, the battleground was clearly America's cities, and the outcome was a deep-seated alienation between those who "took over" the cities, and those who "escaped" to the suburbs. Though Baltimore and Washington, DC are not mentioned, similar patterns clearly still exist here, including the divisions which inhibit the balanced growth of most American metropolitan areas. The following endorsements appear on the book's cover:

"Tamar Jacoby's book captures much of the modern history of race relations in America......" Senator Bill Bradley;

"Someone Else's House is the best documentation yet of how--after the '60s--a burgeoning black power came into sharp conflict with the very racial idealism that had opened the way for it to emerge......(and) takes us through the devolution of the integrationist dream into the aggressive, race-based urban politics of New York, Detroit, and Atlanta during the '70s, '80s, and '90s.....it is also the finest history of this period yet written." Shelby Steele, author

"Past efforts at racial integration in education, housing, and elsewhere offered a noble experiment. But somewhere along the way America, black and white, abandoned its commitment. With brilliant insight and anguished honesty, Jacoby narrates and analyses this tragic failure of nerve." John P Diggins, CUNY professor of history

NARPAC, Inc. has no stock in Simon and Shuster's The Free Press, and no desire whatsoever to rekindle the dying flames of racial extremism. But it seems clear that what started as a generally racial confrontation has devolved into a socioeconomic class segregation in which America's urban underclass is generally hemmed in by, but divorced from, its more prosperous, optimistic suburban counterparts of all color and persuasion. For more discussion of this issue, refer to its impact on urban public school systems.

Mark Richards National Opinion Poll on DC Governance

A new professional poll was released in the spring of 1998 indicating that the vast majority of Americans want DC to have Congressional representation (79%) and home rule(87%)--just like other US citizens--and think that home rule is an important example of democracy for the world (78%). Over 70% also think replacing elected officials with unelected officials goes against our "American principles". A slimmer but real majority object to state or federal authorities preempting local government in DC (51%) or in their own home town (60%).

The level of positive interest in our capital across the nation is welcome news to NARPAC, Inc.--as well as to all the local activist groups who want instant achievement of full democracy. The more difficult questions of what should be done when a local government runs itself into the ground, and just how good the government in the nation's capital should be are not addressed.

Nevertheless, this report is very well written, thorough, gives pertinent background information, and deserves the attention of those who hope to restore pride to America's capital. A PDF facsimile of this document may be downloaded for offline reading. To read a PDF file, will need a copy of the Adobe Acrobat Reader or an Acrobat "plugin" for your browser, available free of charge from Adobe Systems, Inc..


There is a wealth of available and highly relevant reading material:
  • A serious History of the Capital from 1800 to 1950 by C M Green
  • Between Justice and Beauty (about rebuilding efforts) by H Gillette
  • At Peace with all their Neighbors by William Warner
  • Dream City (about DC under Home Rule) by H Jaffe and T Sherwood -- which also contains one of the finest bibliographies.
  • Inside Game, Outside Game: Winning Strategies for Saving Urban Americaby David Rusk
  • Cities without Suburbs by David Rusk
  • Baltimore Unbound by David Rusk
  • Citistates by Neal Peirce
  • The Orphaned Capital by Carol O'Cleireacain
  • Metropolitics by Myron Orfield
  • Worthy of the Nation: The History of Planning for the National Capitol Photographic Essays by Robert C. Lautman, Editor Ruth W. Spiegel
  • Regional Excellence by William R. Dodge for the National League of Cities
  • The Regional Imperative: Regional Planning and Governance in Britain, Europe and the United States by Urlan A. Wannop, Regional Studies Assn, London
  • Someone Else's House: America's Unfinished Struggle for Integration by Tamar Jocoby

---((TO BE EXPANDED AS TIME PERMITS -- SUGGESTIONS WELCOME))---


HardCopy Reports Developed by NARPAC, Inc.

For the unit costs indicated, the following hardcopy reports can be ordered by sending your check to:

NARPAC, Inc.
2 Wisconsin Circle, Suite 700
Chevy Chase, MD 20815
  • Alternative Futures for the District of Columbia,June, 1995 ($6)
  • The DC Economic Recovery Act, August, 1996 ($4)
  • DC Population Trends, February, 1997 ($2)
  • Racial Trends: Implications for the DC "Exodus", February, 1997 ($2)
  • Regional Income Tax Trends, February, 1997 ($3)
  • Governance Changes Are Key to DC's Future, March 1997 ($4)
  • The Special Role of Regionalism in DC's Future Governance, rev July, 1997 ($6)


This page was updated on Apr 5, 2001


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