The City Journal, while edited, published, and firmly grounded in New York, is a forum for the exchange of ideas about cities and urban problems throughout the nation. Those of us interested in enhancing the vitality of cities have a great deal to learn from the successes and failures of programs, policies, and personalities forged not only in other cities, but in the crucibles of national public policy.
Take the design of national welfare policies, which have a profound impact on the cities’ poor. In the decade since Charles Murray wrote Losing Ground, many aspects of his then-radical critique have become staples of the conventional wisdom. To reacquaint our readers with this seminal work, we have reprinted Murray’s concluding chapter. Welfare reform is also a hot item on the European political agenda, as David Brooks informs us in "The Other Side of Paradise." Corresponding from Brussels, Brooks indicates the increasing difficulties most western European nations face in both sustaining and reforming their welfare states. He draws some cautionary conclusions for those Americans contemplating enlarging ours.
The City journal continues to feature the work of pioneering governmental and civic leaders dedicated to reviving the missions of their institutions. We once again turn the spotlight on an innovative big-city mayor in Bettie Cadou’s profile of Indianapolis’s Stephen Goldsmith. Julia Vitullo-Martin and the late Robert F. Wagner Jr. describe the inspiring struggle of Chicago’s public housing chief, Vincent Lane, against social pathology and bureaucratic paralysis. And Kay Hymowitz, in "Up the Up Staircase," chronicles the success of a visionary educator, Amalia Betanzos, whose Wildcat Academy proves that you can take some of New York’s toughest youngsters and turn them into productive, law-abiding citizens.
In doing their heroic work, these urban pioneers must overcome resistance from obdurate public systems and vested interests. Among the most critical for all U.S. cities are the criminal justice and educational systems. Rita Kramer, in "Taking Off the Kid Gloves," paints a bleak picture of the juvenile justice system in New York, whose catch-22 philosophy and procedures make it impossible to cope with the alarming rise in juvenile crime. Charlotte Allen, in "The ACLU Against the Cities," reviews the growing willingness of urban residents across the country to challenge the ACLU and the courts when they protect the perpetrators of disorder and incivility in public places. On a more hopeful note, this edition’s "At Issue" features a distinguished group of public educators contemplating a new concept, the "learning zone," that might revive some of the most hopeless inner-city schools.
What ties all these articles together is the City journal’s abiding faith in American cities’ ability to learn from each others’ successes, as well as mistakes. These stories also tell us that the difference between success and failure often resides not so much in the perfection of programs and policies as in the emergence of visionary and determined leaders who are prepared to challenge the status quo to make their cities happier and more prosperous.
The City journal has tried to make a contribution to the governance of New York by supplying useful analyses, ideas, and insights. Now, we appear to be making a contribution in personnel as well. Three members of the City journal’s publication committee have moved on to important positions in the Giuliani administration. Thomas Hirschfeld is an assistant to the mayor, Henry Stern has returned to his former position as parks commissioner, and Joseph Rose is chairman of the City Planning Commission. In addition, Edward Costikyan of our editorial board has been named a special advisor on borough government.