Daniels When City and Country Collide Thomas Book Review

Excerpt from Book Review :

Daniels When City and Country Collide

Thomas L. Daniel's When City and Country Collide provides an interesting and largely effective analysis of the spread of urban sprawl in America. This paper outlines the key themes and findings within Daniel's book, and discusses the relationship between Daniel's book and Managing Urban America, by David R. Morgan and Robert E. England. Overall, When City and Country Collide provides a useful look into how urban sprawl characterizes modern city planning, and provides some somewhat limited insights into urban management and public administration.

In When City and Country Collide: Managing Growth in the Metropolitan Fringe, Thomas L. Daniels describes the recent emergence of the rural-urban fringe in a diversity of cities across the United States. Throughout the book, Daniels develops his thesis that the urban fringe has expanded in recent years as residential and commercial development in cities has boomed, and that growth management must be used in order to contain the growth of the urban-rural fringe. Simply put, the urban fringe is that land that is at the border or the urban and rural landscape, taking the place of what was once the suburbs. Pressures from urban development have pushed away traditionally rural industries like mining, agriculture and forestry. The result is the rural-urban fringe, land that sits in the middle between urban development and the rural countryside.

In some areas of the United States, the expansion of the rural-urban fringe is taking place at a rapid pace. In his book, Daniels notes that the metropolitan growth of the fringe in the Greater Washington, D.C. area will result in the loss of 300,000 acres of open land between 1990 and 2020 in the outlying metro counties of Virginia and Maryland (a rate of about 28 acres of land each day).

Daniels goes on to present a number of different approaches designed to attempt to tame the far-reaching development of urban areas, creating more compact urban development. These growth-management techniques look at the management of urban growth within the larger framework of federal spending. At the same time, Daniels argues convincingly for the need for more sustainable development in the rural-urban fringe, and delves into some difficult complexities of the planning process for urban communities. An important part of this development, argues Daniels, is the need to protect natural areas, farmland and forests as a way to contain urban sprawl.

In the book, Daniels provides a number of case studies of urban sprawl, from areas as diverse as Larimer, Colorado, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Notes Daniels, "sprawl presents a complex and serious challenge to local, county, and regional governments seeking to manage their growth" (3). He describes the efforts that have been made to control urban sprawl in these areas, and describes how elected officials, policymakers, and citizens have been able to make a difference in controlling urban sprawl. Notes Daniels, growth management can "provide greater certainty and predictability about where, when, and how much development will occur in a community, region or entire state; how it will be services, and the type and style of development" (3).

Daniels' When City and Country Collide provides an interesting comparison with the established text on urban management, Managing Urban America, by David R. Morgan and Robert E. England. Morgan and England argue that cities today face a number of fiscal challenges, noting declines in federal aid to cities. Write Morgan and England, "Between 1980 and 1987, federal aid dropped 55%. Cuts were made and taxes were raised. Cities are now on their own in an era of fend-for-yourself federalism. City tax bases are shrinking, poverty remains high, and employment opportunities are limited." At the same time, the authors note that political problems beset city governments, which are often rife with "bureaucratic infighting and agency imperialism."

In When City and Country Collide, Daniels suggests that urban sprawl places a number of new difficulties in the laps of city managers. These city managers, then, must deal with the problem of urban sprawl in a context of city governments that face the dual challenges of a lack of funding, and political inefficiencies.

In When City and Country Collide, Daniels argues that the current epidemic of urban sprawl has essentially come about as a result of a series of changes to the settlement patterns of city dwellers that were in turn brought on by a number of economic and social changes. Daniels suggests that the development of communications technologies, the strong economy of the 1990s, and the decline of the highly concentrated manufacturing sector, has given Americans greater choices in where they live. As a result, people have been drawn to the countryside's more pleasant surroundings, and also pulled by the perception that a country home is "a better investment than one in the city or suburbs" (3).

In Managing Urban America, Morgan and England similarly suggest that economic and social changes have resulted in the working class losing their influence in local politics. Say the authors, "Upper-income and business groups seek a political climate favorable to their growth and economic development... They are interested in perpetuating the political agenda of the business community."

Further, the influence of economics and business noted in Morgan and England can be understood to play a large role in the development of urban sprawl noted by Daniels. Note Morgan and England, "a mayor is the head of locally oriented economic interests" that drive the actions of city governments. In such a climate noted by Morgan and England, it is perhaps understandable that economic interests that favor urban spread are successful over those that oppose such spread. Often, notes Daniels, economic growth drives urban spread, as in the case of the development of Silicon Valley in an area of the Santa Clara Valley that was once mainly productive orchards. The economic value of the computer industry "far exceeded the value of growing fruit" (2), thus leading to the replacement of Santa Clara Valley orchards with a lucrative computer industry, aided, no doubt, by the economic interests that drive city council decisions.

Trends in the politics of city management described by Morgan and England have potential for important impacts on the management of urban sprawl that is described in Daniels' When City and Country Collide. Note Morgan and England, "government is gravitating towards policies with immediate payoffs, avoiding those that produce long-term effects." Moran and England's assessment of the short-term focus of local governments could have profound negative implications for the long-term planning of urban areas and the growth-management techniques described by Daniels.

Overall, Daniels' When City and Country Collide provides a useful look at the problems of urban management and public administration, at least in the context of urban sprawl. Analyzing Daniels' book in the context of a book with a broader focus on city planning, such as Morgan and England's Managing Urban America, some real trends and interesting problems appear at the intersection of growth-management and city administration. As such, When City and Country Collide is a useful addition to the study of urban management and public administration.

However, taken by itself, Daniels' book is lacking an analysis of some important concepts in city planning. For instance, Daniels sees the growth of the urban fringe as dependent on economic growth and communications, but plays scant attention to transportation issues that may also drive the growth of the fringe. Further, he provides some real insights into creating compact urban development and managing growth, but he sometimes fails to note the myriad of fiscal and political problems that are seen within city administration (and that are noted within Morgan and England).

Nonetheless, Daniels' book does provide a thorough look at the issue of urban sprawl. He notes the myriad of "political, legal, social, economic and environmental struggles that are erupting all across America in the fringe…

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