Skip to main content

Chapter Summary

Frug, Gerald E. and David Barron. 2008. City Bound: How States Stifle Urban Innovation. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ Press. (Chapter 7)

Chapter 7 initiates the final portion of the book, in which Frug and Barron discuss specific city agendas and the legal and spatial factors surrounding their formation. For the purposes of this chapter, our authors examine the global city - a city that has strong ties to international finance and is a central node in the world economy. These cities commonly include an international airport in close proximity, adequate office and residential districts, advanced telecommunications, responsive environment to new licensing and building, and low taxes.

Our authors assert that it is easier for city leadership to pursue a global city agenda than that of a middle-class or regional city. It is more politically palatable to reduce taxes and develop a business-friendly environment than it is to raise taxes and provide additional social services. The formation of a strong financial district tends to increase property taxes and provide a wealthier resident base. Cities are able to use their control over land use to promote high rise commercial buildings and, where fiscally feasible, improve infrastructure. Therefore, the push towards increasing revenue and the relative ease when compared to other types of cities in navigating state law, makes global cities an attractive alternative.

There are several limitations that surround the global city objective. The patchwork nature of governance in metropolitan areas may lead to a competitive site-selection process that favors suburban areas. The state also may constrain the citys ability to implement a desired tax regime with cuts that favor certain types of uses. The challenge of creating an adequate transportation network is yet another limitation. The authority over various modes of travel infrastructure is often fractured across three levels of government, public authorities, community groups, planning bodies, and private corporations. Further, a city may be restricted in its ability to provide broadband access by federal and state laws, which dictate service delivery. Lastly, the authors mention polarization, or inequalities brought about by the global city vision when it is successfully implemented. In the pursuit of the global city, cities often practice exclusionary zoning, favoring large corporations and their employees over poorer residents, who become marginalized.

Frug and Barron have illustrated that the vision of global city can boost both a citys image and its tax base. While constrained under state and federal law, city leadership may have some limited tools to pursue this sort of agenda. In all, creating a global city is a complex, tailored process that will not fit every city; our authors present alternate city agendas in the subsequent chapters.