Place Matters: Chapters 1-4
A community is a place where people around supposed to be able to live and thrive together. When one thinks of a community, the image that most likely is visualized is one of a place where each person lives harmoniously with all the other members of that community. While this may be the typical image of a community, it is not the realistic view. In reality communities can share both good and bad aspects. In Place Matters: Metropolitics for the Twenty-First Century Peter Dreier, John Mollenkopf, and Todd Swanstrom make the argument that the place a person lives ultimately matters over all else; the place which a person lives effects the choices that that he/she makes and determines his/her ability to obtain a high quality of life.
In the first chapter the authors begin by laying out their thesis: place matters (Dreier, Mollenkopf, & Swanstrom 1). The authors look at three different Congressional districts to show how place is different in metropolitan American. Those places include "poor central-city in the South Bronx of New York", "a district that spans the West Side of Cleveland and its suburbs", and "a wealthy outer-ring suburban district west of Chicago" (Dreier, Mollenkopf, & Swanstrom 3).
The first district explored by the authors is the South Bronx. This is one of the poorest and most Democratic congressional districts in the United States. Some of the problems of this district are as follows: high percentages of children, high rates of infectious diseases and violate crimes (Dreier, Mollenkopf, & Swanstrom 4). The area has such a high poverty rate because the government pushed thousands of homeless families there. Despite these problems, the South Bronx has a few good aspects to it as well. Immigrants bring rejuvenation to the area, housing units are being built or redeveloped, and there are large numbers of thriving community groups (Dreier, Mollenkopf, & Swanstrom 5). This area shows the greatest sense of community. Church groups, neighborhood associations, etc. keep the people in this area close knit to one another. People in this area are more likely to know about and can relate to others in their community. Even with this high sense of community in this area, people continue to flee to the suburbs. As this suburban flight continues, city areas like the South Bronx will continue to "decay" no matter how hard they try to keep up with the surrounding suburbs (Dreier, Mollenkopf, & Swanstrom 6).
One example of type of suburb that people are fleeing to is Ohio's Tenth Congressional District in west Cleveland. This area serves as a stepping stone between the city and the exurbs (i.e. the outer-ring suburb of Chicago). This area consists of mostly white "socially conservative and economically liberal" people; this means that people in this area vote both Republican and Democratic in elections (Dreier, Mollenkopf, & Swanstrom 7). This is a "rust-belt" suburb, meaning that it once had prosperous manufacturing companies but has now lost them and suffers greatly for that loss. This area pits inner-ring suburbs against outer-ring suburbs. The inner-ring suburbs have low property value and are "concerned with urban decline"; outer-ring suburbs have higher property values and are where many people are being to flee in order to find a better life (Dreier, Mollenkopf, & Swanstrom 8).
The final and ultimate step that people take on their flight from the urban areas and inner-ring suburbs are the wealthy outer-ring suburbs like the one in Chicago the authors focus on. The authors refer to this as exurbia. Exurbia is a place where there are high levels of income and education among its residents (Dreier, Mollenkopf, & Swanstrom 11). There is an increase in population in these areas as the "accomplished people" try to escape the world of the common people.
Using the above-mentioned Congressional districts as examples, the authors begin to make their case of how place truly matters. One...
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