All of the above factors pose formidable barriers to the redevelopment and
revitalization of central cities such as Detroit. Some obstacles to urban development may
be beyond the reach of big city policy makers. For example, "brownfield"
redevelopment is complicated by the fact that federal environmental legislation creates
substantial legal and financial risks for businesses and developers interested in
redeveloping these abandoned industrial properties. Since central cities tend to contain
more brownfields than do suburbs, legislative reform at the federal level will be
necessary before serious redevelopment of some cities can occur.
However, many other push factors can be alleviated by local policy, including tax and
spending policy, regulation, permitting, and local planning policy. Indianapolis Mayor
Stephen Goldsmith notes that the natural advantages of the big city — its diversity,
culture, amenities, and architecture — are outweighed by "enormous artificial
costs that have been placed on urban economies by bad government policy." Decades of
poor policy making have led to "high taxes, crumbling infrastructure, and stifling
regulations" that create very real and significant barriers to investment.
Today’s mayors need courage and creativity to overcome these barriers and work for
long-term, structural reforms to revitalize their cities. For example, Goldsmith used
competitive bidding for more than 70 government services to generate $200 million in
savings over ten years, help reduce the city’s budget by 7%, and reduce the
non-public safety city workforce by 40%. "Cities must resolve their own structural
problems," wrote Goldsmith in response to other mayors who have complained about
citizen migration to the suburbs. "Simply enlarging the circle of wealth
redistribution through annexation does not do that."
Cities, then, need to carefully assess and restructure their own policies to provide a
more investor-, family-, and entrepreneur-friendly business climate. Deregulating central
cities and lowering overall taxes can help to mitigate the push factors that contribute to