Bruce Katz on How to Overhaul Local Governments – WSJ.com
A somewhat horrifying account by Bruce Katz on the fractured state of jurisdictional / municipal / state government in the US – and I thought the balkanized nature of our local (Victoria BC) government was bad! Katz lays out the benefits (such as they are) that come with intense localism, but his analysis of the drawbacks (far more numerous) really makes the case for amalgamation:
There are benefits associated with intense localism. Citizens feel a closer connection to their local officials (although does anyone really know the boundaries of their local library district?). And, in theory, individuals and firms can shop around for the government that most closely matches their preferred mix of efficiency, service and taxes.
Yet the drawbacks of fragmented governance far outweigh the benefits.
Fragmentation keeps government weak. With the landscape chopped into thousands of municipalities and special bodies, most local governments remain tiny, nearly amateur concerns, unequal to the widening challenges of global competition, suburbanization, revitalization and economic development.
Many states are bedeviled by what David Rusk, the former mayor of Albuquerque, N.M., has called a crazy quilt of “little box governments and limited horizons.” In geographical terms, little boxes ensure that in almost every region scores of archaic boundaries artificially divide areas that otherwise represent single, interrelated social, economic and environmental communities. Such divisions complicate efforts to carry out cross-boundary visioning, plan cooperatively or coordinate decision-making across large areas.
At the same time, with the vast majority of municipalities essentially small towns, many if not most have limited tax bases and struggle to provide even the most basic services.
Little box governments create a problem of scale. More and more the geographical reach of local and metropolitan challenges exceeds the reach and capacity of its governmental machinery. UNQUOTE
Jim Luce: The Impact of Cell Phones on Psychology, Community, Culture, Arts and Economics
Jim Luce looks at the work of Florie Brizel and her research into mobile telephony. Below, a quote from Brizel:
“Umbilical cords are the lifeline between infants and their mothers,” Florie said. “Power cords became the new umbilical cords, keeping us connected to our computers. Mobile technologies dispense with cords altogether.
“It’s only a matter of time before cell phones go solar, batteries die out, and power cords will be history. It is this untethered freedom and how we assimilate mobile phones into our daily existence that fascinates me. I want to be a part of the ‘new’ world developing before our very eyes.”
The article also touches on Palomar5 and Kosta Grammatis.