Urban Public Policy
This article will focus on urban public policy in the United States. National and state urban public policies, and how they influence life and resources in American cities, will be described. The history and purpose of the U.S. Code, and how the laws pertain to and control urban public policy, will be described in detail. The four main stages of the policy cycle, including policy agenda setting, policy formulation, policy implementation, and policy evaluation, will also be analyzed. The issue and challenge of funding urban public policy will be introduced.
Keywords National Urban Policy; Policy Agenda; Policy Cycle; Policy Evaluation; Policy Implementation; Public Policy; U.S. Code; Urban Public Policy
Public policy refers to the basic policy or set of policies that serve as the foundation for public laws. Public policy is often characterized as a social goal, enabling objective, or social solution. The public policy process is a problem-solving activity that solves or resolves a problem or conflict in society. Public policy, requested by society and enacted by government, unites and mediates the relationship between society and government. Public policy is created within a specific historical context, socio-cultural context, and political system.
Public policy encompasses and regulates nearly all areas of human and social behavior. One particularly large body of public policy concerns urban areas and their inhabitants. Regional and urban public policy refers to a broad range of social, economic, and related public policy issues that affect the quality of life and the economic well-being of people in cities. For example, urban public policy regulates and oversees contemporary urban problems such as health care, education, economic development, employment and training, nonprofit sector, immigration, housing and land development, welfare, drug control, environmental policy, transportation, local government, leadership, social policy, information access, poverty, historical preservation, and community development. Urban public policy is implemented by a wide variety of local, state, and federal agencies.
Contemporary urban public policy (along with urban affairs and urban planning) works to improve the experience of city living around the world. In 2010 in the United States, 80.7 percent of Americans lived in urban areas. Cities, with high concentrations of population and annual spending power, influence both the nation's economy and its position in the global economy. Despite substantial resources, American cities are considered to be in crisis as evinced by state and city fiscal budget deficits, unemployment, and struggling public schools (“A New Direction,” 2006).
Urban public policy in the United States, which has existed in some form since federal and state governments came into their current forms as specified in the U.S. Constitution, has always reflected the needs of society at the time the policy was developed and implemented. For example, much of twentieth-century public policy, created in response to the World Wars and cycles of economic depressions, centered on economic development (Weiner, 2005).
There have been numerous examples of urban public policy that significantly changed life in American cities. For example, the Housing Act of 1954, which replaced public housing with commercially oriented urban renewal in numerous cities, is believed to have marked a historic turn in housing policy and federal-city relations. The Housing Act, which facilitated new alliances between mayors of major cities and business groups, created national consensus around urban redevelopment policies (Flanagan, 1997). In addition to the tendency of significant urban policy to change lives in American cities, life in American cities, such as significant social events, can also shape and change the direction of urban public policy. For example, the 1992 Los Angeles race riots brought the issues of poverty and race relations to the forefront of policy agendas.
The focus of this essay will be on national or federal urban public policy and the public policy making process. Urban public policy in the United States, while developed at the federal and state level, is a product of the federal government's public policy process. The federal government-city government relationship is controlled by the proscribed structure and rights granted in the U.S. Constitution. Congress supports and controls urban public policy, in part, through the grants-in-aid provided to state governments.
The following sections describe national and state urban public policy in the United States. These sections serve as foundation for discussions, later in this essay, about the public policy process and the issue of funding urban public policy.
Federal Urban Policy
National urban policy, once approved by Congress, becomes part of United States Code (U.S.C.). The Code is defined as the consolidation and codification by subject matter of the general and permanent laws of the United States. The Office of the Law Revision Counsel of the U.S. House of Representatives prepares and publishes the United States Code pursuant to section 285b of title 2 of the Code.
Title 42 of the Code concerns "The Public Health and Welfare." Title 42, which includes 148 chapters of case law, summarizes the federal government's law concerning National Urban Policy New Community Development (Chapter 59). The Congressional statement of purpose introducing Chapter 59 describes Congress' goals and roles in urban policy:
It is the policy of the Congress and the purpose of this chapter to provide for the development of a national urban policy and to encourage the rational, orderly, efficient, economic growth, development, and redevelopment of our States, metropolitan areas, cities, counties, towns, and communities in predominantly rural areas which demonstrate a special potential for accelerated growth; to encourage the prudent use and conservation of energy and our natural resources; and to encourage and support development which will assure our communities and their residents of adequate tax bases, community services, job opportunities, and good housing in well-balanced neighborhoods in socially, economically, and physically attractive living environments.
Other Title 42 chapter law covers the public health service, sanitation and quarantine, leprosy, cancer, social security, low-income housing, unemployment, poison control programs, public safety officers, election administration improvement and over one hundred other categories of law. This does not include regulations issued by executive branch agencies, decisions of the Federal courts, treaties, or laws enacted by State or local governments.
In addition, the Code (as specified in Title 42, Chapter 59, Part A, section 4503) requires the president to submit a National Urban Policy Report every odd-numbered year to aid Congress in drafting current and socially-responsive urban public policy. The National Urban Policy Report is required to include the following elements:
- Information, statistics, and significant trends relating to the pattern of urban development for the preceding two years.
- Summary of significant problems facing the United States as a result of urban trends and developments affecting the well-being of urban areas.
- Examination of the housing and related community development problems experienced by cities undergoing a growth rate which equals or exceeds the national average.
- Evaluation of the progress and effectiveness of Federal efforts designed to meet such problems and to carry out the national urban policy.
- Assessment of the policies and structure of existing and proposed interstate planning and developments affecting such policy;
- Review of State, local, and private policies, plans, and programs relevant to such policy.
- Current and foreseeable needs in the areas served by policies, plans, and programs designed to carry out such policy, and the steps being taken to meet such needs.
- Recommendations for programs and policies for carrying out such policy, including legislative or administrative proposals (“Chapter 59,” 2007).
The first National Urban Policy Report was issued by the Nixon White House in 1972 and concerned mainly issues of urban growth and urban decline. The Report describes the major programs directed at solving problems in urban America. The National Urban Policy Reports (also called State of the Cities Report) express the point of view of each Administration toward urban areas and problems. Reports since the 1990s have focused on issues such as urban households, urban infrastructure, the role of neighborhoods, unemployment, addiction, education, and transportation.
State Urban Policy
At the state level, urban policy is subject to the influences of distinctive...
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