The revolt against urban gentry

With crime a less urgent issue and no sizable right or even centrist voting blocs, urban leaders can now push a set of initiatives—for example on policing—that would have been unthinkable in the New York of Rudy Giuliani or Los Angeles under Riordan. There are also likely to be fewer pushes for education reform, a critical issue for retaining the middle class, since most left-wingers, like de Blasio, largely follow the union party line.

This is not to suggest that we should long for a return to the Bloombergian “luxury city.” The gentrification-oriented policies did indeed foster the evolution of two cities, one preserved by tax increment funding and donations by wealthy and businesses and another, heavily minority city, notes analyst Aaron Renn facing budget constraints, the closing of schools, parks and other facilities

But revoking these policies alone does little to expand the middle class and diminish social inequality. A more direct step would be to boost the minimum wage in cities—as suggested by Seattle’s firebrand socialist council member and endorsed by the new Mayor— for the vast numbers of working poor who labor in hotels, fast food restaurants and other service businesses. This, to his credit, is what Richard Florida suggests as part of his proposed “creative compact” to boost the pay workers who work in service jobs for his dominant “creatives.”

This policy does address inequities but it may also have the effect of reducing overall employment as companies seek to downsize and automate their operations. Although conceived to help the working poor, it could further reduce job opportunities for those most in need of work.