“The Fight to Save the City”

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“The Fight to Save the City”

Michelle Wilde Anderson of Stanford Law School is the author The Fight to Save the City: Reimagining Abandoned Americaa study of wealth inequality and local government in four US cities.

From the publisher:

An in-depth and authoritative study of wealth inequality and the dismantling of local government in four working-class cities across the United States that passionately argues for a reinvestment in people-centered leadership.

Decades of local government cuts amid growing concentration of poverty have taken their toll on communities left behind by the modern economy. Some of these abandoned places are rural. Others are big cities, small towns, or historic suburbs. Some vote blue, others red. Some are the most diverse communities in America, while others are nearly all white, all Latino, or all black. All are regularly ransacked by outsiders for their poverty and politics. Most of the time, their governments are simply broke. Forty years after the Anti-Tax Revolution began protecting wealthy taxpayers and their cities, our ultra-poor cities and counties have run out of services to cut, properties to sell, bills to defer, and risky loans to take out.

In The Fight to Save the Town, urban law expert and author Michelle Wilde Anderson offers humanistic and unforgiving portraits of the hardships left behind in four of these places. But this book is neither a eulogy nor a lament. Instead, Anderson visits four poor, broke, up-and-coming blue-collar communities. Networks of leaders and people in these places face some of the most difficult challenges of American poverty today. In Stockton, California, residents are finding ways beyond the police department to reduce gun violence and deal with the trauma it leaves behind. In Josephine County, Oregon, community leaders enacted new taxes to support basic services in a rural area with fiercely anti-government policies. In Lawrence, Massachusetts, leaders seek to improve job security and wages at a time of crushing poverty for the working class. And a social movement in Detroit, Michigan, is spearheading ways to stabilize low-income housing after a wave of foreclosures and housing losses.

Our smaller governments shape people’s safety, comfort and opportunity. For decades, these governments no longer merely reflected inequalities, they helped to fuel them. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Anderson argues that a new generation of local leaders is seeking to transform poverty traps into gateway cities.

In 2019, Anderson received the Early Career Scholars Medal from the American Law Institute. This award recognizes outstanding law professors whose work is relevant to public policy and has the potential to influence the improvement of the law.

In the video below, Anderson receives the medal at ALI’s 2019 annual meeting and gives a presentation on his scholarship on restructuring in cities and counties facing chronic poverty linked to deindustrialization.

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