the future of our cities


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Philadelphia Inquirer Commentary “Put cities’ health on to-do list“: a letter to the future president, written by Norman J. Glickman of Rutgers and Robert H. Wilson of University of Texas-Austin, with illustration by Eric Sailer


my good friend, Eric Sailer, a visual communications major out of the University of Delaware, has busted his butt all summer making contacts with newspaper and magazine editors, and just officially started his hopefully life-long and legendary career as a freelance illustrator. last sunday, his work was published in a major metropolitan paper, the 3rd oldest surviving newspaper in the country, the Philadelphia Inquirer. already, the class of 2008 is off doing great things. very happy for him, i know Eric’s gotten a lot of skeptical reactions when he’s said he is going to be an artist, specifically an illustrator. but he’s gone about it in a very realistic fashion, and he’s made incredible strides. he’s published at the age of 23. amazing. check out his comic strip: Lost Without Eve.  i just started reading Susan Shapiro’s Only as Good as Your Word: Writing Lessons from my Favorite Literary Gurus – to be a freelance artist, whether with word, drawing, or craft sounds wonderfully romantic. more power and my total admiration to those who have the talent and work hard to follow their passion, despite the doubts and calls to “get a real job”.

the editorial is a brief, but detailed summary that reads like Urban Studies 101, the professors start off with LBJ’s various programs such as the Head Start and Medicare that were specifically targeted towards addressing the problems of major urban areas in America. but in recent years, cities have been neglected: suburbanization, exurbanization, rise of middle class, globalization, rise of the service-sector, decrease in federal aid, etc, etc. Here, Professor Glickman and Professor Wilson write to the next president of the United States and hope they will add the troubles of urban areas onto their agenda.  they advice for 6 steps towards revitalizing urban areas, and trying to reverse as much of the damage already done. using urban theory and specific policy or legislation, they push for ending the mortgage crisis, making housing more affordable, supporting working families via the earned income tax credit, repealing Bush tax breaks for the wealthy, making cities more sustainable: investing in infrastructure and encouraging smart growth.

this all makes perfect sense but breaking apart the 6 steps reveals how deep and intersectional the issues of each really are: to support working families, cutting taxes and increasing min. wage to be comparable to cost of living is not enough, this also calls for increase in education, healthcare, community programs and social services. to make cities more sustainable and attractive, huge changes need to be made in infrastructure and development, but also economic advances in decreasing oil dependence, making hybrid more accessible, encouraging bicycling by building bike lanes, improving public transportation and changing the landscape of american freeways and suburbs. it’s a lofty task, but Glickman and Wilson demonstrate that it’s been done before, and LBJ made lots of progress. however, neglecting to keep up with these programs and issues has resulted in more troubled cities that struggle daily with poverty, crime, and violence. let’s hope the next president has plans to address these problems of health, education, and urban sustainability – they should no longer be disregarded or brushed aside, things have gotten bad enough already.

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