In 1998, Myron Orfield introduced a revolutionary program for combating the seemingly inevitable decline of America's metropolitan communities. Through a combination of demographic research, state-of-the-art mapping, and resourceful, pragmatic politics, his groundbreaking book, Metropolitics, revealed how the different regions of St. Paul and Minneapolis pulled together to create a regional government powerful enough to tackle the community's problems of sprawl and urban decay.
Orfield's new work, American Metropolitics, applies the next generation of cutting-edge research on a much broader scale. The book provides an eye-opening analysis of the economic, racial, environmental, and political trends of the 25 largest metropolitan regions in the United States-which contain more than 45 percent of the U.S. population. Using detailed maps and case studies, Orfield demonstrates that growing social separation and wasteful sprawling development patterns are harming regional citizens wherever they live.
The first section of the book, "Metropatterns," illustrates a common pattern of growing social separation and wasteful sprawling development throughout the country-a condition that limits opportunity for the poor (particularly people of color), diminishes the quality of life for most Americans, and threatens our fragile environment. It also shows how these patterns reveal the existence of three types of suburban communities-those at risk of social and economic decline, those struggling to pay for rapid growth, and a very small number of places that enjoy the benefits of economic growth with few social costs. Ironically, this last group is often the center of the movement against sprawl. "Metropolicy," the second section, analyzes past policies and programs that have attempted-and failed-to address the challenges of concentrated poverty, sprawl, and inequitable distribution of resources. Orfield lays out a comprehensive regional agenda to address these problems, with solutions for land use planning from a regional perspective, greater fiscal equity among local governments (with an emphasis on reinvestment in the central cities and older suburbs), and improved governance at the regional level that will help facilitate the development of policies to benefit all types of metropolitan communities. The third section, "Metropolitics," discusses examples of political strategies that have led to successful programs on land use planning, tax equity, and regional governance. Using detailed analysis of 1990's election data it identifies and maps the nation's swing political jurisdictions which are overwhelmingly in at-risk and growth-stressed suburbs. Finally, the book draws a new and incisive picture of the political structure of U.S. metropolitan regions, and lays out a series of strategies for moving regional reform efforts forward.
With detailed maps of conditions in each metropolitan region, comprehensive data on existing conditions and voter attitudes, and bold, innovative strategies for change, American Metropolitics is an important book for anyone concerned with the future of our cities and suburbs.