By Scott Minkoff (SUNY New Paltz)
When we started the Urban Affairs Forum last year one of our goals was to become an outlet for scholars to offer thoughts about current events based on their years of expertise. Today we are launching our first (of what we expect to be many) Urban Affairs Forum Scholars Series. The topic: What the Trump administration should know about cities.
During the second presidential debate President Trump described cities as, “a disaster education-wise, job-wise, safety-wise, in every way possible,” adding, “you walk down the street, you get shot.” It is true that American cities and towns face an array of daunting problems including deepening racial and economic segregation, budget shortfalls, the loss of low and middle-wage jobs, persistent poverty, failing infrastructure, rising oceans, and yes – in some cities – an increase in the violent crime rate. But to say that America’s cities are a “disaster in every possible way” ignores the variation between and within cities across the country and many of the important positive things that are happening in them. Here are just five:
- Over the last 25 years the violent crime rate is down 51%.
- People are increasingly embracing mass transit.
- Cities are using new technologies to improve service provision and responsiveness and decrease energy usage.
- Cities crippled by declines in manufacturing like Detroit are seeing new investment.
- Graduation rates are rising and the educational achievement gap between high and low income kids has begun to narrow.
We should also remember that millions of Americans are living happily and productively in cities – small, medium, and large – where they are dining in restaurants, visiting museums, enjoying parks, going to school, going to work, and making money.
Whether the country is able to make progress on the myriad challenges that face American cities and continue the positive trends will depend a lot on the choices that the Trump administration makes in the coming years. So, over the coming weeks the Urban Affairs Forum will be publishing essays from a diverse array of scholars who were invited to write what they think the administration should know as it prepares to govern. I value the perspective of these scholars because of their years of education, teaching, research, and public engagement. I think you will too.
Scott Minkoff is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at SUNY New Paltz and the Forum Editor at Urban Affairs Review. His research focuses on American local politics, public policy, public goods, social capital, and inequality and strongly emphasizes the use of mapping and spatial statistics. Among other topics, Scott has published on the spatial and network relationships that exist between cities in metropolitan areas and how they impact budgetary decisions. He recently published an article in UAR about 311 contacting rates in New York City.