Friday, February 5, 2010

Urban Policy: Transitions in the United States and Mexico

This morning I read an article that referenced Richard Florida. It's not the first time that I have seen the work of this Urban Theorist referenced; It happens quite often. I find much of his work to be of great interest. It seems that in light of the recent economic turmoil he is changing his approach to the dynamics of cities and their future. Rather than pitch for cities to attract the "creative class", he suggests that some cities will live and some cities will die and we are right as a society to allow this to happen and "Let the cards fall where there may", allowing systems to reorganize so as to build a new economy. To a degree I believe that he is right. So much damage has been done to the communities of the United States in particular that policy needs to favor the strongest locales (primary and secondary cities) and less for the tertiary cities. This shift in thinking will be a difficult transition but it will be necessary if we are to come through this economic crisis intact.

Mexico has already had policies in place for years that are federalist in nature which aims the bulk of their assistance towards the larger cities. Where Mexican policy has failed is that it has often completely neglected the rural areas in its policy making. Even more neglected have been rural and less developed areas that are more culturally Indian than Latin, though the Mexican government has made great strides in reaching these areas with increased social services and infrastructure development there is still a great divide between rural and urban, rich and poor. Corruption at all levels has also payed a huge role in magnifying these problems. Much of this neglect has translated into a great outflow migration to urban areas of Mexico and to the United States which in turn acted as a pressure release valve on forcing the government to make much needed changes in policy. The flip side of this of course is that migrants sent back huge sums of cash back to the rural areas which helped improve living situations when the federal government could not.

Mexico is just coming through this transition and it has been difficult indeed. Complicated by many levels of institutionalized corruption and a volatile drug war that is the direct result of being centered geographically between the drug supply in the south and the demand of consumption in the north, Mexico is finally turning the corner. Fewer people are migrating into the United Sates from Mexico. Surely the economic crisis has impacted this. The truth of the matter is that it makes more economic sense to stay in Mexico than to migrate north. The test will be to see if Mexico continues to move in a positive direction as it battles the worldwide economic downturn. As Mexico moves forward it will be the urban centers that lead the way.

Will the transitions of the United States be as harsh? It all depends on how we approach the looming challenges ahead. While Mexico's approach was harsh, the United States' approach will hopefully be less so. We can predict some outcomes of the situation and other outcomes we cannot. Regardless of how things turn out, government won't be able to solve all our problems. In many cases we are on our own. Some tertiary cities will survive, even thrive, because of their own actions and approaches to the difficult challenges ahead.......but many more will not. The reality is that because of our neglect as a nation, a transition is coming.......whether we choose it or not.

No comments:

Post a Comment