America's Farthest-Reaching Environmental Issue
Henry Richmond, chairman of the National Growth Management Leadership Project in Portland, Oregon,
One illustration, says Mr. Richmond, is how failed land use policies have turned robust, thriving American urban centers into desolate Inner Cities. Tax policy and economic subsidies re-directed investment to the urban fringe for new roads, homes, schools, parks, hospitals, libraries, utility lines, sewers, and police and fire protection.
As jobs and middle class families left the city, the poor became marooned. Schools that once educated Nobel Prize winners began to suffer drop out rates of 50%. Joblessness led to hopelessness, drugs, and mounting crime rates, which only hastened middle class flight. This is the story of Detroit, and of many other cities in America.
Mr. Richmond argues that the pattern of subsidizing sprawl further perpetuates this imbalance. In Chicago, for example, most public and private investment has been focused on the northwest suburbs. The result, says Mr. Richmond, is that 80% of the metropolitan region's new jobs were situated in an area where just 18% of the population resides.
Such one-sided spending, with its attendant economic and social costs, is a highly expensive national mistake. From 1970 to 1990 in Minneapolis /
"Land use is the sort of mystery guest at the civic table," said Mr. Richmond in an interview. "There's only a small appreciation of the impact of land use patterns on national goals. We want prosperity. We want equal opportunity, a clean environment, mobility, affordable housing, any number of things.
"Now look at the 320 metropolitan regions of the country, where 80% of the people live," Mr. Richmond continued. "Look at the development patterns of the 20,000 municipalities. Have any of those places achieved any of these goals?"