Tags: urban decline | vacancy | crime

Cities Are in Crisis

Cities Are in Crisis
(Dean Riley/Dreamstime.com)

Wednesday, 31 October 2018 01:38 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Our once great cities, magnets for hope and opportunity that crossed economic, social, and ethnic boundaries are under siege.

Evolving over centuries of conflict resulting from war and depression or more prosperous times, are they in danger of becoming bastions of the rich while serving as wardens of the poor with little or nothing in between?

In "Scientists Are Key to Making Cities Sustainable" for Scientific American, Mark Fischetti opens with “More than half of the world’s people now live in cities… [which] already suck up much of the planet’s resources and generate much of its waste,” while Kevin Baker in "The Death of a Once Great City" for Harpers observes, “the systematic, wholesale transformation of New York into a reserve of the obscenely wealthy … devoid of the idiosyncrasy, the complexity, the opportunity, and the roiling excitement that make a city great.”

Homeless are being attracted to our cities in record numbers.

Ethan Epstein, writing for the Weekly Standard reports that, “Here in Seattle, the homeless population skyrocketed by 44 percent between 2015 and the end of 2017, mirroring the experience of other Pacific coast cities, notably those in the Bay Area.” Gale Holland writing for the LA Times tells us, “The number of those living in the streets and shelters of the city of L.A. and most of the county surged 75 percent — to roughly 55,000 from about 32,000 — in the last six years.”

These homeless are creating problems which are only escalating as local governments appear powerless to cope with the problems.

Heather Knight, in the SF Chronicle, describes life on the streets of San Francisco for us: “People injecting themselves with drugs in broad daylight, their dirty needles and other garbage strewn on the sidewalks. Tent camps. Human feces. The threatening behavior of some people who appear either mentally ill or high.”

In “SF’s appalling street life repels residents — now it’s driven away a convention,” Matier and Ross tell us “…postconvention surveys showed their members were afraid to walk amid the open drug use, threatening behavior and mental illness that are common on the streets.” The Los Angeles Daily News informs us, “An illegal cooking fire at a homeless encampment was determined to be the cause of the Skirball fire” in December 2017 destroying several Bel Air homes.

The local storefronts, the lifeblood of neighborhood commerce and community support, are rapidly disappearing.

Abigail Savitch-Lew writes for City Limits that “many advocates and policymakers say the problem of empty storefronts [in New York City] is growing, especially in affluent neighborhoods.” Steve Cuozzo wrote in the New York Post that for “nine blocks along Broadway from 57th to 48th Street … the total number of stores comes to precisely one.” Shaban, Campos, Rutanashoodech, Carroll, and Horn report for NBC Bay Area News that “Commercial real estate brokers tell the Investigative Unit their agents are having a harder time selling San Francisco in light of the amount of the trash, feces, and used needles scattered along the city’s streets and sidewalks.”

All this as the cities descend into the depth of lawlessness.

The Chicago Tribune, trying to paint an optimistic picture reflects that in the six months ending June 9, 213 people have been killed this year. Although 65 fewer than 2017 that is still 34.8 percent, 28.3 percent, and a 16.3 percent greater than 2013, 2014, and 2015, respectively. Aamer Madhani tells us in USA Today that, “Baltimore had the highest per capita homicide rate of any big U.S. city in 2017 as it tallied 343 murders.” While CBS Los Angeles reports “300-400 people … descended on several Los Angeles-area neighborhoods Saturday night to view the potentially dangerous and ill-advised street takeovers.”

In "'Bread and circuses’ could strike down America like it did Rome" for The Hill, I noted that “Rome in the first two centuries AD faced a yawning gulf between rich and poor,” leading to the decline of the Roman Empire.

Are there currently symptoms of an urban crisis with a growing separation between rich and poor in the urban centers foreshadowing the decline of our western society?

Patrick Wyman in "How the Roman Empire's Cities Crumbled" reminds us that Roman cities “were the key points that held together the entire economic system. As the Roman Empire fell apart, though, so did the cities."

Is the social fabric of the cities declining while “in just a few decades more than two thirds of the globe’s rapidly growing population will be urban” as Mark Fischette points out?

What are the common threads in these once great cities that have created and continue to aggravate these problems? What makes it such that the local governments are powerless to successfully confront these issues with program after program only resulting in billions expended while the cities continue to deteriorate?

John M. DeMaggio retired after 30 years of service as a Captain from the U.S. Naval Reserve Intelligence Program. He holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Forensic Science from John Jay College and a Master’s of Science from Whiting School of Engineering, Johns Hopkins University. Privately consulting in counterterrorism, forensic science, and investigations, he also conducts international counterterrorism training, having retired as a Special Agent in Charge and serving as Co-chairman, Investigative Support and Forensic Subgroup, TSWG, developing interagency counterterrorism technology. He is also an op-ed contributor for The Hill. He previously published “Mitigation of Terrorist Effects on Victims’ Motivation” in U.S. Army Counterinsurgency Center Colloquium. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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Our once great cities, magnets for hope and opportunity that crossed economic, social, and ethnic boundaries are under siege.
urban decline, vacancy, crime
Wednesday, 31 October 2018 01:38 PM
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