Book Review Preview: Urban Policy in the Time of Obama

By Dennis Gale

James DeFilippis, ed. Urban Policy in the Time of Obama. (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2016)

This volume does a commendable job of documenting the often-fragmented bits of legislation, executive orders and regulations targeting cities that were promulgated in Washington between 2009 and 2016. Its 22 contributors offer 19 articles ranging from policies on housing, community development, neighborhood revitalization, immigration, education, unions, healthcare and poverty, as well as crosscutting concerns around race. White House political strategy, programmatic initiatives and theoretical frameworks are also covered. The book should find interest among  students and faculty in urban studies, urban planning and public policy programs.

Disenchantment is the most consistent thread in Urban Policy. Irrespective of how deeply the authors plumb the depths of their topic, they frequently point out missed opportunities and misdirected policies. Hamstrung by tight-fisted Congressional Republicans (especially during his second term), Obama often relied on his executive authority to cobble together existing federal resources to launch new or reformulated initiatives. This offered only a limited policy landscape within which to address multiple urban issues. More pressing matters such as the lingering effects of the 2008 Great Recession and the war on terrorism commanded the White House’s center stage. Congressional stonewalling drove Obama to leverage private capital to help finance domestic policy innovations, raising concerns from some authors regarding creeping neoliberalism.

Although the book casts a wide net in examining various policy topics, housing draws special attention. Editor James DeFillipis points out that Obama-conceived initiatives such as Promise Neighborhoods and Strong Cities were lightly funded and fabricated from ideas retailed for many years by think tanks and other interest groups. Janet Smith describes the Obama administration’s efforts to leverage private financing for HUD’s HOPE VI housing program, concluding that the jury is still out on the effectiveness of these initiatives. And Rachel G. Bratt and Dan Immergluck report that on the negative side, rental housing supplies remained inadequate to demand over Obama’s two terms in office. On the positive side however, the administration presided over a sizeable decrease in homelessness (at least insofar as the best available data reveal).

Dennis E. Gale
Professor Emeritus, Rutgers University
Lecturer, Stanford University
Dennis.Gale@fulbrightmail.org

Call for Papers: Special Issue on Human Dynamics in Smart and Connected Communities

An Open Call for Submissions: Special Issue of Journal of Urban Affairs on “Human Dynamics in Smart and Connected Communities”

Special Issue Guest Editors: Daniel Sui, Ohio State University, USA (Sui.10@osu.edu) & Shih‐Lung Shaw, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, USA (sshaw@utk.edu)

Abstracts due: July 15, 2017

Aims and Scope

Advancements in location‐aware technology, information and communication technology (ICT), and mobile technology during the past two decades have continued to transform our cities and urban life in profound and unexpected ways, with concomitant changes in spatial and temporal relationships of human activities, behaviors, and movements. In the meantime, detailed data of individual activities and interactions are being collected at an unprecedented spatial and temporal granularity level by vendors (e.g., online searches and purchases, retail store transactions), service providers (e.g., phone companies, banks), social media services (Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, etc.), and government agencies. These big datasets contain useful information for us to better understand human dynamics in both physical and virtual spaces. These diverse datasets have provided urban scholars in multiple disciplines new opportunities to study issues of urban affairs with much improved spatial and temporal granularity.  Building on a series of paper sessions organized at 2017 AAG meetings in Boston and an Open Call for Papers, this special issue will bring together leading scholars in related disciplines to share their research on challenges and solutions of studying human dynamics in the mobile and big data era with a focus on smart and connected communities.

Possible Topics (not exhaustive)

This special issue will place an emphasis on the development of research frameworks, theories, methods and good case studies of tackling key research challenges related to the research of smart and connected communities. Sample topics include:

  • Development of smart and connected communities in the mobile age
  • Digital divide and social inequality
  • The future of work in smart and connected communities
  • Digital divide and sampling issue in human dynamics research
  • Space‐time data models for studying human dynamics
  • Privacy issues in mobile and big data and possible solutions
  • The environmental implications and sustainability of smart and connected   communities
  • Multi‐scale spatiotemporal analysis and modeling of human dynamics
  • Spatiotemporal analysis of human activities in physical and virtual spaces
  • Spatial agent‐based models of human‐environment interactions
  • Uncovering human dynamics hidden in different kinds of big tracking data
  • Spatiotemporal diffusion of innovation and ideas geo‐targeted social media analytics and visualization methods
  • Trajectory data mining, analysis, and visualization.
  • Spatiotemporal social network analysis
  • Data sharing and dissemination in human dynamics research

If you are not sure whether your potential contribution might fit the scope of this special issue, please get in touch with one of the guest editors.

Submission procedure:

Interested authors should notify the guest editors of their intention to submit a paper contribution by sending the title and a 250 word abstract to Daniel Sui (sui.10@osu.edu) and Shih-Lung Shaw (sshaw@utk.edu) by July 15, 2017. The deadline for submissions of the final papers is September 15, 2017.

A condition of submission and acceptance is that papers must pass the normal Journal of Urban Affairs review process. For author instructions, please refer to “Instructions for Authors” at the Journal of Urban Affairs homepage. All manuscripts, including support materials, must be submitted using the journal’s online submission process. Please select the correct special issue in the submission process and indicate this special issue as the target issue. First‐time users of the online submission site must register themselves as an Author. For questions, please contact Daniel Sui (sui.10@osu.edu) or Shih-Lung Shaw (sshaw@utk.edu).

Important dates:

Title and an abstract of no more than 250 words due: July 15, 2017

Full paper submission to the JUA website: September 15, 2017

Initial decision on full papers: November 15, 2017

Revised paper submission to the JUA website: December 15, 2017

Paper acceptance notification: February 15, 2018

Book Review Preview: Sustainable London

By Samantha McLean

Rob Imrie and Loretta Lees (eds), Sustainable London? The Future of a Global City (Bristol, UK: Policy Press, 2014)

‘Sustainable development’ has become a buzzword in the vernacular of urban policy, yet the term’s ambiguity has made it conveniently adoptable by policy makers wishing to further their own development goals.

Sustainable London? The Future of a Global City examines the effects of sustainable development policies in an era of austerity in London as functions of the government are reduced or delegated to the private sector. The book aims to challenge this mode of development and present alternative models that address social justice.

The book is divided into four sections and a postscript. Part One of the book establishes the foundation of London’s sustainable development policy and presents its challenges. Part Two examines ways in which austerity led to changes in governance and privatization of public services and infrastructure, while Part Three discusses the results of sustainable development policy. Part Four has an environmental health focus, looking at transportation, public health, and urban greening.

The book accomplishes the authors’ goal of challenging current sustainable development policies and their outcomes, or at the very least, presenting their shortcomings. Yet, the true shortcoming is the book’s inability to proffer a feasible approach for working toward a more just city within the confines of a capitalist system.

Imrie and Lees issue a clarion call: we must stop regarding sustainable development as “post-political” and realize that it is linked to politically-motivated causes. However, this call is the only solid outcome of this book. While the editors ultimately want to challenge the economic structure in which unjust sustainable development exists and work towards community controlled development, this is beyond the scope of attainable.

As a recent masters in city planning graduate, I benefited from this book as it provided historic, social, local, and economic context to the global city of London. However, as a future urban planner, I was left without an applicable action plan. In fact, I would think that the authors would want planners and developers operating in the public, nonprofit, and private sectors should be this book’s audience in addition to like-minded academics or grassroots professionals. That would allow for a more integrated approach to promoting the just city.

The full book review will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Urban Affairs.

Samantha McLean
University of Cincinnati
samantha.m.mclean@gmail.com