The dynamics of pessemism and optimism in a booming American city

As we finally start to exit the Great Recession in a way that makes a difference to ordinary people, a ‘new’ old problem is returning to the ‘hot growth’ areas of America: coping with the boom

“the newcomers … marching in and out of huge new office towers seem to be overwhelming our neighborhoods — filling apartments and condos as quickly as they pop up. [As a long-time resident of the city] I look at them and imagine what it must have been like for the Native Americans here as they watched hordes of Europeans pour in… My custom when confronted with these latter-day hordes is to retreat to my Fortress of Nostalgia and trade laments with like-minded old-timers about how our beloved city is doomed.”

What’s interesting here, from a rational optimism point-of-view, is the reflexive retreat to nostalgia and pessimism. How could a booming city deploy robust ways to connect incomers with long-time residents?

This boom looks different from the perspective of an incomer, who points up the role of choice in being optimistic about the city…

“”So many people were here by choice,” [says a relatively recent incomer]. “I thought that was interesting; it changes the way you relate to the city you’re in. I grew up in a place where everybody complained and was looking for a way to get out…. You chose to be here, so you’re going to concentrate on the positives over the negatives.” … “We have happy problems, high-quality problems! Detroit would kill for our problems! So that changes the debate: a lot of what we talk about, things like ‘How high can we raise the minimum wage? How do you manage growth? Where do you put all the people who want to come here?’… I don’t feel like the problems are intractable here.”

But what about that reflexive “but… but… gentrification is bad for the poor!” pessimism about urban population influx? Myth, says a new article at Slate

“That gentrification displaces poor people of color by well-off white people is a claim so commonplace that most people accept it as a widespread fact of urban life. It’s not. Gentrification of this sort is actually exceedingly rare. … the problem isn’t so much that gentrification hurts black neighborhoods; it’s that it too often bypasses them.”

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