Urban Issues



Thetext “: Selection from CQ research” discusses variousissues that are of significance to the urban public sphere in theUnited States. The text looks into various topics includingeducation, law and order, urbanization as well as the country’seconomic situation and how the implications these issues have on thepolicy-making process. The text has 12 chapters, with each chapterdiscussing the key issues affecting the urban society in the U.S.Each of the chapter analyzes the key layers in each of the issues,what has been done and is being done with regard to the specificissues in each chapter as well as the lessons that learnt from thepast and present efforts. The text goes at a great length to presentbalanced and unbiased findings from studies conducted by CQ research.This paper presents a summary of the first eight chapters of thetext, discussing the key issues highlighted in these chapters.

Thefirst two chapters of the text focus on education. In chapter 1, thewriters discuss issues related to school reform. The text analyzeswhether public schools are failing and whether teachers’ unions aremaking it hard for schools to improve. Another key question thefirst chapter addresses is whether business-style competition shouldbe adopted by schools and whether such a model would help improveschools. The chapter begins by pointing out how international testsare showing that the US performance in K-12 learning over the pastfew years has gone down. As a result of the poor performance,different stakeholders including political leaders andphilanthropists are seeking to utilize market-based ideas with themain aim of improving the deteriorating performance of Americanpublic schools. The texts point out that this model has received anequal share of support and opposition, with the conservatives beingon the main supporters of these business-like models. The text pointsout that teachers’ unions are opposed to such models. The chapterpoints out that teachers are partly to blame for the poor performanceof public schools. However, teachers’ unions continue to defendteachers from being charged with incompetence.It is pointed outthat some section of politicians and lawmakers are pushing hard forthe weakening of the teachers’ unions’ power to defendincompetent teachers.

Thesecond chapter of the book highlights the main problems affectingurban schools and how these problems can be fixed. The chapterdescribes the differences in the performance of students fromdifferent racial backgrounds. It states that Hispanic and blackstudents in urban schools tend to perform poorly compared to whitestudents. Most of these white students attend middle-class schoolsthat have better infrastructure and teachers while most Hispanic andblack students attend high poverty schools characterized by highrates of indiscipline and poor infrastructure and resources. Thechapter also highlights the need to reauthorize the No Child LeftBehind Act as suggested by critics. The critics are of the view thatthe law must also present clauses that would help the high-povertyurban schools tackle the many challenges they face. They point outthat student bodies that are socioeconomically diverse can beachieved through busing of students across districts. However, somesections of the community are opposed to this idea of busingstudents, arguing that it would contribute to wastage of students’time.

Thethird chapter up to the eighth chapter discusses land use and urbandevelopment. The third chapter highlights some of the populationissues faced by some of the major cities in the United States. Thesecities are described as blighted cities. The cities include Flint,Detroit and Mich. It is pointed out that such cities are experiencinga drastic fall in their populations and that most neighborhoods arenow blighted. The text point out that opinion is divided on whichapproach to take with regard to the problem of blighted cities. Somesection of planners is of the idea that a shrinking strategy shouldbe employed. This strategy would involve bringing down unusedstructures and turning blighted structures into open spaces. However,other planners are opposed to this idea, arguing that such a strategywould fail as was the case in the 1960’s during the urban-renewalefforts. The text goes on to point out how the efforts to remake someof the cities are going on at a slow rate and how the unavailabilityof funds is contributing the slow pace of the city remaking efforts.

Thefourth chapter goes ahead to highlight how population growth isputting pressure on most of the cities. The authors point out thatthe pace of population and job growth in suburban areas after theSecond World War was much faster than the pace at which cities wereexpanding. This trend leads to most pundits worrying about the futureof downtowns. However, the past few years have seen a revival ofdowntowns, with most cities such as Philadelphia and San Diegosetting aside attractive construction zones that are quickly becominga hit to most of the urban residents. Despite this turn of events,the text points out that some analysts are of the view that thegrowth of downtowns is just but fragile and that it is dependententertaining and shopping trends. These analysts are of the view thatthese trends are prone to changes and that such changes could spelldoom for the growth of downtowns. However, other analysts are of theopinion that downtowns have become one of the most important parts ofcities and that they will serve as a model for future development.

Chapterfive’s focus is on the changing job trends in the urban areas andthe implications of these changes. The text points out that there hasbeen an increase in tax-supported subsidies in most cities. Thesesubsidies are aimed at encouraging companies to move their offices orretain them in specific locations, which in turn would benefit thecities’ residents by ensuring that there is a constant supply ofjobs. The authors point out that both the state and local governmentsare fiercely competing for jobs and that businesses have greatlybenefited from this competition. The competition between the stateand local governments has resulted in huge breaks in annual taxes forthe businesses. Additionally, the competition has led to the creationof new infrastructure and other incentives. Those in favor of thesesubsidies hold the view that the move has not only spurred the growthof employment, but it has also made possible for most businesses toremain profitable. The chapter also highlights the opinion of criticswho are of the view that these incentives have generated very few newjobs and that it has only made it possible for businesses to shiftfrom one place to another in search of places where they can reap themost benefits.

Inthe sixth chapter, the text discusses the rapid rate of urbanizationand what this means for policy makers and city dwellers. It ispointed out that approximately half of the world’s populationresides in cities and that the cities’ population size is likely toincrease over the next 20 years to 5 billion people. The text pointsout that developing countries are leading in terms of urbanpopulation growth. The increasing population size in cities is makingit difficult for various services to be effectively delivered. Thechapter states that most governments across the world are trying hardto improve the situation in cities by providing more jobs, improvingservice delivery and reducing environmental damage. As much asurbanization may help reduce poverty, hard economic times often seeportions of the urban population relocate back to rural areas.

Theseventh chapter focuses on the problem of aging infrastructure inurban areas. The authors point out that the problem of aginginfrastructure was taken more seriously after the collapse of theMinneapolis’ Interstate I-35 West bridge in 2007. The chapterpoints out that many systems and facilities in cities are between50-100 years and that they have been neglected. Unlike in the pastwhere lawmakers, private companies and taxpayers could easilyadvocate for funds to construct and maintain vital infrastructure,funds needed to maintain key systems and facilities have become hardto come by in the recent past. In the eighth chapter, the authorsdiscuss the issue of transport in urban areas, with the main focusbeing on high-speed trains. They point out that the Obamaadministration has set aside a sizeable amount of funds to facilitatethe construction of high-speed passenger rails. This issue has alsoreceived a fair share of support and criticism, with supporters beingof the view that it would facilitate faster travel while critics arearguing that the possible benefits from the project are beingexaggerated.


CongressionalQuarterly, Inc., (2012).&nbspUrbanIssues, 6th Edition&nbsp(6thEd.). New York: CQ Press.