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Managing Urban America

Managing Urban America is a book originally written in 1979 by David R. Morgan and Robert E. England. There have been four subsequently updated editions printed since. The 5th Edition was printed in 1999 and contains 402 pages. The topic is urban management.

Table of contents
1 Improved Urban Management -- Needed Now More Than Ever
2 The External World of the Urban Manager
3 Urban Political Structure
4 Urban Policymaking

Improved Urban Management -- Needed Now More Than Ever

The authors begin, "Until recently, many assumed that city governments would continue to grow and prosper. A report from the International City Management Association had suggested that the inevitability of growth was so widely accepted that it functioned as fact. Federal aid began to shrink in the 1970s. Then came Reagan's New federalism, which brought major reductions. Between 1980 and 1987, federal aid dropped 55%. Cuts were made and taxes were raised. Cities are now on their own in an era of fend-for-yourself federalism. City tax bases are shrinking, poverty remains high, and employment opportunies are limited."

The authors quote San Antonio city manager Alexander E. Briseño, "There's not enough money."

The authors explain, "Fiscal stress produces dissatisfaction and this means a disenchantment with elected officials. The public infrastructure is deteriorating at an alarming rate. We may see a long-term decline."

The authors add, "In most respects, the problem facing local governments is not a lack of resources, but the ability to use existing resources efficiently and effectively."

The authors note, "Government must be transformed."

The authors quote David Osborne and Ted Gaebler, "We must reinvent government."

The authors quote Edward Banfield and James Q. Wilson, "The obstacles are mostly political. It is not for lack of information that the problems remain unsolved."

The authors go on, "Bureaucratic infighting and agency imperialism are complicating the task of government. Personnel conflict is anything but unusual in government. Our cities have enormous problems."

The External World of the Urban Manager

The authors quote former New Orleans mayor Sidney J. Barthelemy, "Cities are seen as hopeless places."

The authors quote Cleveland mayor Michael White, "Cities are becoming a codename for crumbling neighborhoods."

The authors quote John Herbers, "The failure of Washington and the states is a major reason some urban areas continue in distress."

The authors contine, "Not everyone can escape the cities. The outward flow has been dominated by the well-to-do. Left behind are the poor."

The authors note, "Many local officials frequently object to what they feel are excessive restrictions accompanying federal grants. Officials view the grant process as complex, overly detailed, slow, cumbersome, and ineffective."

The authors quote former Flint, Michigan, city manager Brian Rapp and community development director Frank Patitucci, "Perhaps the most important consequence of overregulation is excessive administrative costs. If the man-hours required for federal reporting and accounting could be devoted to running programs, performance could be improved immeasurably."

The authors explain, "Cities are the victims of neglect."

The authors quote Knoxville, Tennessee Mayor Victor Ashe, "Congress has decided that it can impose anything that it wants. It's going to drive us all into bankruptcy."

The authors note, "Political accountability is reduced because citizens are confused as to which government is responsible for which activities."

The authors add, "The status quo usually carries the day. In recent years, groups have urged decentralization and citizen participation. An important need is for individuals to exercise a greater degree of control over local services and facilities."

The authors warn, "Off-budget enterprises have placed the Detroit government into the hands of businesses."

The authors state, "In 1976, the regional council for the Oklahoma City metropolitan area (ACOG) received 90% of its funds from the federal government. By 1988, this had dropped to 24%."

The authors ask, "How much democracy really exists? The most significant thing we can say is that most Americans do note vote. Little incentive exists for going to the polls. Research shows that those who do not vote have less income than does the average electorate."

The authors continue, "In Dallas, San Antonio, and Dayton the business elements dominate city politics."

Urban Political Structure

The authors write, "Americans want governmental change. The government favors some groups and put others at a disadvantage. Throwing the rascals out, might not be enough. Basic institutions have to be changed. The problem of corruption has been compounded by the political machine. Through political organization, those holding office have found it possible to perpetuate themselves in power."

The authors quote millionaire George Washington Plunkitt, "There's only one way to hold a district. Here's how I gather in the young man. I hear of a young fellar that's proud of his voice, I ask him to join our Glee club, and he's a follower of Plunkitt for life. Another feller I might bring into our baseball club, you'll find him workin' for my ticket. I don't bother them with political argument."

The authors argue, "Politics should be based on public rather than on private motives and should stress honesty."

The authors continue, "The modern reform movement is not a product of the working-class. Upper-income and business groups seek a political climate favorable to their growth and economic development. They are not true social reformers. They are interested in perpetuating the political agenda of the business community."

The authors quote Edward Banfield and James Q. Wilson, "Government must become more democratic."

The authors note, "Putting legislation on the ballot through a referendum is an attempt to make local government more responsive to the people. The same is true of the recall process, whereby a petition can force a new election. The initiative enables electors to force a public vote on an amendment or ordinance. Skeptics feel that voters are not well enough informed to vote intelligently. A recent International City Management Association survey showed strong support for direct democracy."

Urban Policymaking

The authors state, "We are in the midst of a new age of skepticism regarding government. Some contend that an effective policy can be produced only through a small elite group. Others worry about popular participation. Policymaking is vital to a community's well-being."

The authors allege, "Politicians tend to see themselves not as politicians required to respond to group demands, but as politicians elected to pursue their own interest. Not uncommonly, the politically powerful groups and the groups with views similar to the powerful are one and the same. Business interests are likely to fall into this category."

The authors explain, "The discretion of administrative officials is enormous."

The authors argue, "The government is gravitating towards policies with immediate payoffs, avoiding those that produce long-term effects."

The authors quote Robert Salisbury, "A mayor is the head of locally oriented economic interests. City managers, like mayors and council-members, are overwhelmingly white males. The typical manager has been at his job for over 5 years and has served as an executive for over 10 years. In cities over 50,000 population, the city manager is likely to earn over $110110,000."

The authors state, "We are entering an executive era. The legislatures are increasingly writing laws in broad terms which allow a great deal of flexible interpretation by those who implement the laws."