Today's Obsession: Cities on the Brink

Here’s a disturbing essay from Sustainable Cities, which is a blog about urban growth. The article is about cities abandoning notions of long-term revenue sources for quick-fix plans, such as privatizing public facilities. This is happening far and wide because local governments are dealing with huge budget shortfalls, and revenue shortfalls at the same time.

In the article, New Jersey Transit’s used as an example, by privatizing parking formerly hosted by the city. Chicago’s done this as well, and it’s turned into a huge money sink—Daley leased all of the city’s parking spaces off to LAZ parking for a hastily-arrived-at amount over 75 years to plug an immediate budget gap, which he bullied through the aldermanic approval process without any real analysis. Nobody’s really sure if we got a good deal or not.

That activity like this is spreading freaks me out—it says to me that cities are in no way prepared to deal with future budgetary shortfalls, which says to me that the very design of our society needs to change, and fast. We probably can’t go on selling off our facilities to private interests every time the public good goes broke. We’ve already seen what a pure market economy will give us in return for that sale—in the form of the mortgage market collapse.

Image from the article from flickr user Hunter-Desportes.

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