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Chapter Summary

Frug, Gerald E. 1999. City Making: Building Communities without Building Walls. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Chapter 11)

Public services are an integral part of city life and each locality faces a myriad of decisions as to how and if - these services will be provided. Each decision impacts the advancement or recession of Frugs concept of community building.

Frug argues that any of the services commonly provided by cities police, education, fire, sanitation - could be organized in such a way as to contribute to community building. Whereas public goods theorists assume that services should generally be provided by the market (and that government intervention is only necessary when market failure occurs), the community building perspective is not limited by this mindset. Instead, it focuses on service provision as a vehicle to advance the strengthening of the community.

Frug uses sanitation services as an example of a service that may be used for community building. Originally, the goal of sanitation services was to promote health, make the city more attractive, and add value to homes and businesses. Under the community building philosophy, the city would provide the sanitation services that a revenue-driven, low-cost private contractor would not, thus procuring a socially-optimal level of sanitary services. Moreover, public involvement in city cleanliness efforts would encourage the creation of a cooperative spirit among the public and further bond citizens to their community.

Community building, in addition to being a function of the objectives of a city service, is also a result of who is performing city services. The people providing community services have a great deal of bearing on what those services accomplish (i.e. police officers and teachers). Reducing the cost of labor through privatization deals affects the individuals working in public jobs, reduces city employees control over their work product, and weakens the bond between cities, citizens, and their employees.

Frug argues for a new understanding of city services one that focuses on community building rather than simply public service provision. For example, Frug suggests expanding parks and recreation services to large-scale event planning and the creation of open spaces that encourage public gatherings, and redirecting highway funds toward creating walkable, transit-serviced communities that foster interaction among commuters. Further, cities might operate beyond the realm of local services for the betterment of the community. Our author offers s ix examples: city-owned financial institutions, public television stations, city-owned residential properties, publicly owned cooperative grocery stores, public ownership of sports teams, and city support for family services.

The city currently has a fairly narrow impact on the life of its residents. The services that are provided are constrained by our present vision of what local government is supposed to be. Frug argues that our vision must be redefined so that city services must become a way to build connections among people. This will empower people to participate in the design of the world in which they live.