DAVID Rusk, former mayor of Albuquerque, poses some...

Salmagundi

November 15, 1993

DAVID Rusk, former mayor of Albuquerque, poses some troubling questions about city-suburban relations in his new book, "Cities Without Suburbs." Here is an excerpt from the afterword to the book:

"Twenty years ago Washingtonians never went to Baltimore. There was nothing there. Today Baltimore's spectacular Inner Harbor is a standard weekend attraction. . . . Both Washington and Baltimore play their roles as regional centers very well, as do, for example, Atlanta, Boston, Minneapolis, San Francisco and much-maligned New York City. There is one regional role, however, in which these cities cannot succeed -- and which may ultimately crush them. They cannot continue as human warehouses for most of their metro areas' poor minorities. . . .

"The severity of social chaos in many inner city neighborhoods -- unemployment, poverty, dependency, illegitimacy, drugs, crime -- is a function of the intense concentration and isolation of the poor. The misery of the whole is much greater than the sum of individual hardships. Inner cities should not have to assume the role of sole providers of the poor. That must become the responsibility of the whole metro area -- city and suburb, cities without suburbs.

"A decade ago I argued these themes at the U.S. Conference of Mayors. I got virtually no support. Suburban mayors did not want to think about central cities. They believed their constituents had said goodbye and good riddance to the city. Central city mayors -- more and more Black or Hispanic -- did not want to hear any proposals that might threaten their political comfort levels. After all, Black and Hispanic communities had waited a long time to achieve real power at city hall.

"A decade later the need for radical action is much more acute, yet the choruses for 'empowerment' continue to swell. I am not unsympathetic. But a vision rises before my eyes. The Titanic has just hit the iceberg. The captain turns to his long-time first mate and says, 'Here. You take charge. I'm outta here.' It is a pretty empty promotion for the first mate. It is also no consolation to the poor people stowed away in steerage who cannot get off the sinking ship. . . ."

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