Politics and the City

Arguments over who have rights to increasingly crowded cities and diminishing resources continue to grow. Sadly it seems that the poor are the ones who consistently lose the rights to resource in cities across the globe. In this week’s chapter I was not so surprised to learn that people living in slums are labeled as “improper citizens” and are “frequently seen as not as people with equal rights to public services, but as problems” (112). As an American it’s easy to look at a country like Mumbai, shake my head and say, “wow I can’t believe that people are treated with such disdain. I’m glad I live in a country that provides its citizens with equal access to public service.” However the further I kept reading the more I understood that even in America, especially in America, it’s the social elite that determine who has a right to a particular place.

I believe that gentrification is this generation’s version of racism and social elitism. I don’t understand why city officials work to remove the poor (which include many minority groups) from cities instead of giving the poor opportunities to increase their wealth. What would happen if the poor inner cities were transformed into thriving metropolises not because the poor people were relocated, but because the poor were given opportunity? Yes, it’s easier for Mumbain and American leaders to quietly and slowly get rid of the “lesser citizen” but does that really solve their problems? The poor remain in their economic state and the social problems that surround poverty are not eliminated, they are simply relocated.

There are groups of businessmen and businesswomen who invest time and money to help the disenfranchised in third world countries. These men and women help a few poorer residents in a neighborhood start businesses that make items the city needs. After the businesses become profitable enough that the advice of the investors is no longer needed, they leave the businesses in the hands of the citizens of the city. In one case, a woman was able to employ hundreds of her neighbors and increased the capital of her city because of this business plan. Instead of removing the poor from their homes, why not invest in education and practical training to actually give the poor opportunity instead of claiming that they are given opportunity?

A good example of cities working to push out the poor is the tax legislation proposed by the Mayor of Indianapolis. The article posted about Indianapolis Mayor, Charlie Nye, and his desire to keep more middle and high wage-earning people from living in the suburbs does not actually fix the poverty issue. Basically, Mayor Nye does not seem to have a plan to help those who are in poverty. He has a plan to either tax commuters, raise taxes on those living in the city, and seeks to find incentives for the wealthy to live in the city. I wonder what would happened if the mayor focused more of his efforts into bringing people out of poverty instead of working to shuffling them out of the city?

What do you think? Is it possible for cities to share resources and give education and opportunity to the poor? Or, do you think the only way to improve the conditions of cities is to shuffle out the low-wage workers?

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