David Rusk's book, Inside Game / Outside Game: Winning Strategies for Saving Urban America is an insightful and well-researched addition to the current understanding of urban management and public administration. In his book, Rusk argues convincingly that improvement in inner city neighborhoods can only come from a coordinated effort that includes regional approaches to reducing suburban growth, the concentration of poverty, and financial differences. However, Rusk's collaborative strategies for improving urban America face some important bureaucratic challenges described within Morgan and England's text, Managing Urban America.
In Inside Game / Outside Game, Rusk argues for reform of metropolitan regions based on the interrelationship between urban management and management of other, outside concerns, like taxation, suburban growth, and housing practices.
Rusk argues that revitalization of neighborhoods, affordable housing, preservation of open space and fiscal policy reform are closely related. As such, changes in factors like taxation or housing practices can have a profound effect in urban neighborhoods.
In Rusk's book, he describes the relationship of the inside and outside games in urban planning. The term inside game refers to urban management, while outside game refers public administration and management outside the city core, including suburban management. Rusk suggests that government anti-poverty initiatives have largely been unsuccessful because they approach the problem of the inner city from the inside out, and that playing the "inside game" is ultimately a losing approach. Similarly, he suggests that the problems of the poorest of America's cities cannot be righted either by spending money on community development, or simply improving efficiency.
David Rusk is clearly qualified to write a book on urban management and public administration. He has previously written the influential Cities without Suburbs, and has a long history and experience in public administration. Rusk has served as a mayor of Albuquerque, an advisor to city governments, a neighborhood organizer, and as a state representative in New Mexico.
The key thesis of Rusk's book is that urban revitalization is closely linked to the effective management of suburban growth, reform of taxation, and fair share housing practices. Rusk notes that there is a high correlation between a city's ability to incorporate new suburban growth with the same city's ability to avoid inner city poverty, as well as maintain good economic growth and sound fiscal health. To Rusk, the problems that concern planners of urban regions are linked closely to solutions that can be found outside the urban area, and thus require coalitions and comprehensive solutions. Ultimately, Rusk argues that a city with a small tax base, a poor population, and expensive public services cannot compete with the suburbs without outside interventions.
There are a number of key benefits to controlling the inside game, or urban development. Overall, Rusk suggests that the efforts of a number of Community Development programs have been largely unsuccessful. These attempts effectively stymied by a number of factors, including racial bias, isolation, poverty among urban minorities, government policies that help increase suburban sprawl, and the declining fiscal health of city governments faced with revitalizing the inner city core.
Rusk then describes the outside game, including efforts to share tax bases, coordinate land use on a regional basis, or create comprehensive and affordable housing programs. He uses a number of examples, from regions as diverse as Montgomery County, MD, Minneapolis, MN, and Portland, OR, to demonstrate the success of such initiatives is widespread. Rusk notes that these policies are highly interconnected. In the case of Portland, the coordination of land use planning on a regional basis had a profound impact on reducing trends to concentrate poverty in urban areas. Further, tax base sharing in Minneapolis had a strong impact on reducing suburban sprawl and fiscal inequality. Overall, the policies of the outside game noted by Rusk tend to have a wide variety of benefits on the inside game, as well.
An important part of Rusk's book is contained in the final section, where he discusses organizations and groups that must be built in order to check the decline of the inside game. He notes that these coalitions should attempt to replicate models seen in metropolitan areas that have been successful in dealing with many of the problems inherent with the inner city. Further, Rusk notes that building coalitions at state legislative levels is also important. In addition, Rusk suggests that federal housing policies can play a key role in stemming the decline of inner…