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Chapter I



Great cities have given way to metropolitan areas as the centers of American life. To many observers, the emergence of the modern met ropolis is a cause for concern as much as for celebration. Metropolitan development confronts, and helps to create, a long agenda of problems that can be solved only by public action. The agenda includes providing public investments and services to keep pace with population growth and changing needs, rebuilding the older urban centers, eliminating the inequities of social and economic segregation, and offering equal opportunities for all to share in the benefits of urban life.

This array of urban problems has been widely recognized but subject to varying interpretation. A fundamental issue, whether governments are capable of dealing with these problems, is often slighted. Thus social critics, noting the contrast between splendid new suburban homes, an abundance of high-powered cars, and recurrent crises in such areas of public responsibility as education and water supply, conclude that there is a striking imbalance in national priorities. Galbraith, in The Affluent Society, attributes this curious urban blend of private splendor and public squalor to a national folklore that assigns high value to private production, with a corresponding neglect of important public investments. If the American public assigned higher priority to government undertakings, presumably government would respond with vastly improved programs.

While public attitudes are surely important factors influencing government performance, a more searching examination of the state of public business in metropolitan America will reveal that the organization of government also has much to do with current inadequacies. Even where demands for improvement are voiced loudly and persistently, governments in urban areas often seem unable to hear or to respond. To meet the needs of a metropolitan age, it is essential to remove obstacles within the system of government itself. Efforts to arouse public awareness and concern for urban problems are unlikely to produce tangible results unless there are channels for transmitting this concern to government, and unless government is equipped to take effective action in response.

This book is concerned with the metropolitan areas of the United States, the problems posed by their rapid development today, and the disabilities that prevent governments from coping effectively with these problems. Numerous books and articles have been devoted to this subject, reflecting many points of view and different levels of research and analysis. Since 1959, the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations has conducted a number of studies focusing on governmental responsibilities and performance in urban areas. The Commission has endeavored to direct its work so as to provide a sustained program of research, attention to political realities as well as technical factors, and an application of research findings to point the way toward concerted intergovernmental action in metropolitan areas.

The Commission's reports on metropolitan problems have ranged over such issues as government structure and organization, the performance of specific urban functions, alternative approaches to governmental reorganization in metropolitan areas, the impact of Federal urban development programs, metropolitan social and economic disparities, intergovernmental responsibilities for water supply and sewage disposal, and the complexities of relocating people and businesses displaced by government action. This book is based on the series of Commission studies in order to present both an analysis of the subjects they cover and the program for improvement proposed by the Commission. Taken together, the separate analyses constitute a diagnosis of the state of metropolitan America and its governmental capabilities. In addition, the specific proposals furnish the basis for a workable philosophy of intergovernmental relations in an urban age, and for å unified program of needed Federal, State, and local action on metropolitan area problems.



The rapid pace of metropolitan expansion poses one significant set of challenges to local government. The great majority of people and economic activities in the United States are now concentrated in over 200 metropolitan areas, and virtually all future growth is expected to take place within these areas. Inside metropolitan areas, however, growth does not take a concentrated form but tends to spread well beyond the established cities into fringe territory. By now, more than half the metropolitan population lives outside the central cities. This pattern of growth imposes major new service demands on local governments in outlying areas, many of which have never before had to cope with the pressures of sudden population increase.

President Johnson outlined the national magnitude of the urban growth challenge in his 1965 message to Congress on the cities:

Our new city dwellers will need homes and schools and public services. By 1975, we will need over 2 million new homes a year. We will need schools for 10 million additional children, welfare and health facilities for 5 million more people over the age of 60, transportation facilities for the daily movement of 200 million people, and more than 80 million automobiles.

In the remainder of this century-in less than 40 years—urban population will double, city land will double, and we will have to build in our cities as much as all that we have built since the first colonist arrived on these shores. It is as if we had 40 years to rebuild the entire urban United States.

Urban growth is a complex process requiring a wide variety of public and private resources. The expansive pattern of urban development in the United States means, first, that a large supply of land is needed to accommodate increases in population and economic activity. In fact, the need for urban land tends to grow at a faster rate than population increase. In the New York metropolitan

. region-defined broadly to include several contiguous metropolitan areas in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut—the population is expected to grow from 16 million in 1960 to 22 million in 1985. If recent trends in land development continue, the urbanized land area will more than double during the same period, growing from 2,400 square miles in 1960 to 5,200 square miles in 1985. In other parts of the country, as well, the increase of population requires more than a proportional commitment of fringe land to urban development.

There is no shortage of land in the United States. Even the densely populated eastern seaboard contains abundant reserves of open land that can be used for urban expansion. Problems arise in making this land suitable for urban living. Highways and other transportation channels must be provided to make fringe areas accessible to the core cities and to metropolitan job centers. Schools, water supply, parks, hospitals, utilities, local roads, and shopping centers are all needed to serve a growing population. In the New York region, the necessary public service investments alone will cost an estimated $16,800 for each new household. The high public cost of servicing urban growth has tempted many local governments to provide inadequate levels of service or to rely excessively on facilities supplied by private land developers. Thus, one of the major shortcomings in water supply and waste disposal is the continued reliance on private wells and individual septic tanks in communities where the growing density of population calls for public water and sewerage systems. Local governments often supply services haphazardly and only after crises have developed. Where local land regulation is inadequate, potential sites for parks, schools, and public buildings may be taken for private development before the community can act to acquire them. Housing, shopping centers, and industry may destroy irreplaceable natural resources by leveling woodlands, polluting streams, and filling in wet lands so that natural drainage patterns are interrupted and flooding becomes a problem.

The plight of suburbanites can easily be exaggerated. Despite crabgrass and faulty septic tanks, most new residents of the suburbs enjoy good living conditions. But public expectations are rising quickly. Many government officials as well as private developers have sensed increasing dissatisfaction with the quality of the new environment being built in the suburbs and are seeking ways to build better communities.

SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC DISPARITIES Other metropolitan problems are more ominous than the inadequate services of newly developing suburbs. Metropolitan growth in the United States is producing patterns of racial and economic segregation, with severe consequences for disadvantaged groups, for the communities where they are concentrated, and ultimately for the entire urban society. While large numbers of people have been moving from the older central cities to the suburbs, others have been moving from rural areas into the central cities. Since World War II, there have been vast migrations of southern Negroes, Puerto Ricans, and people from Appalachia to the great cities. And while more prosperous groups were moving to the suburbs to find better housing, many earlier residents of the cities remained—some because they preferred to live in the central cities, many because they could

· Regional Plan Association (New York), Bulletin 100, "Spread City," September 1962. ?Ibid.

not afford the cost of a suburban house. Within the suburbs, there has been further segregation as different builders produced new oneclass communities with housing entirely in a particular price range. Local government policies have had a hand in limiting the range of families who can afford to live within their borders. Because of the high cost of providing public services for new residents, many communities have made use of zoning and other land development controls to hold down population growth and to exclude middle and lower income families whose modest houses would not yield enough in property taxes to cover their service costs. In addition, racial discrimination on the part of builders, real estate brokers, and mortgage institutions has reinforced economic segregation with direct policies of racial exclusion.

As a result of this combination of forces, low-income families, broken families, the elderly, the unemployed, and Negroes are concentrated in the central cities of most large metropolitan areas. This segregation can lead to cultural isolation of disadvantaged groups from the rest of society. Current interpretations of urban poverty stress the self-reinforcing character of the culture of poverty in which economic deprivation leads to low levels of aspiration and destroys incentives for self-improvement. Concentrations of poor people lead also to impoverished governments, unable to supply services to people who are particularly dependent on government help: People in the central cities need many kinds of government services: welfare, education, health, police, and fire protection. Yet the tax resources of these cities are limited by the very nature of their population. With the loss of middle and upper income families, as well as industries and retail firms, the central cities have been increasingly unable to raise sufficient tax revenue for their mounting service needs.

Thus the social disparities between suburban and central city communities give rise to economic and fiscal disparities as well. Taxpoor governments provide inferior services for their citizens and deny them significant opportunities to participate in the benefits of metropolitan life. As James B. Conant has noted, the great disparities between public education in the slums and in the suburbs are incompatible with the American ideal of equal opportunity for all. Educating slum children is far more difficult than educating middle-class children; yet many schools in wealthy suburbs spend $1,000 per pupil annually and provide a staff of 70 professionals per 1,000 students, while slum schools are likely to spend only half as much and to provide 40 or fewer professionals per 1,000 pupils.3 The low level of education and other public services that the poor receive is closely related to the pattern of urban development and to its impact upon government finances.

Other detrimental consequences result from suburban growth that serves privileged groups and excludes the poor. Where residential choices available to the poor are sharply restricted, public programs that involve relocation of low-income families create severe hardship for them and retard progress toward national housing goals. Relocation for urban renewal and highway construction is one of the most troublesome elements of these programs. The disappointing results

8 James B. Conant, Slums and Suburbs (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1961), p. 3.

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