Balancing Urban Demands

No urban studies program prepares graduates to deal with the reality that a city is always a stew of politics, corruption, and crime. Every accomplishment or failure at every level is a consequence of the endless possible outcomes of the above interactions. The effective politician, bureaucrat, or urban planning professional understands the convoluted path to getting projects accepted and executed.

Never-ending political, economic, cultural, and individual differences, available resources, inter-city competition, city, and regional resource differences, disease vectors, rodent, and insect infestations, localized natural disasters, and wealth gaps make balancing the above conflicting demands impossible. It is a perpetual juggling act. A city run by competent administrators and politicians will drop fewer balls less often, but balls will be dropped. It is how the above issues are rebalanced that separate a great mayor and city government from a less than stellar mayor and city government.

No urban planning degree(1), architectural layout, computer modeling program, or theory will compensate for intelligence, parochial knowledge of the city, and love of the city and the people in it. Neo-urbanism, system dynamics, green cities, ring cities, 5-minute cities, or smart cities never see the whole. Urban reductionism will always fail. Cities embody all the elements of Chaos Theory and even then not the dynamics of the entire city. Any city run by technicians, environmentalists, transportation specialists with narrow views of what a city is will be doomed. These cities will never be great cities. Instead, they will be examples of failed perspectives that create an environment that will be sterile, static, and rigid places that will have more in common with a military camp than a living city.