Thursday, 19 February 2009

The Road to Recovery - where will it take our cities?

With the signing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the White House also set up to promote accountability and transparency. A key principle underlying the Recovery is that 'Programs meet specific goals and targets, and contribute to improved performance on broad economic indicators.'

Here's what I'm wondering: what will be the performance indicators for U.S. cities? What are the criteria for success at being a sustainable and equitable city, economically, environmentally and socially? How will we know the sum of the parts - the systemic outcomes of the various initiatives aimed at Recovery. The business world always says 'you can't manage what you can't measure' - exactly what are all our urban Mayors being held accountable for? And how will we know how well they are doing? This is important, because the President Obama and Vice-President Biden have emphasized how urban areas are at the heart of the economy. If the economy is going to Recover, then knowing how well we are doing in cities is key.

Can the U.S. learn from Great Britain's approaches to cities? Generally speaking, the London-based Centre for Cities thinks 'yes, it can!' Specifically, I hope Federal policy-makers look around both across different U.S. cities and abroad to consider how we can measure success when it comes to urban recovery and renewal. It is one thing to be fueled up and ready to go on the Road to Recovery, but we also need to know where we are going.

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