National Urban Policy Expert Amy Liu Reflects on Detroit’s Revival

Jake Neher/WDET

CityLab, a summit organized by The Atlantic magazine, the Aspen Institute and Bloomberg Philanthropies, is in Detroit this week. It has brought mayors and other officials from around the globe to talk about urban issues and city development.

One of the attendees is Amy Liu, vice president of the Brookings Institution and director of its Metropolitan Policy Program.

Her discussion at the conference was called, “How far should cities go to woo big employers?”

Liu joins Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson.

It’s about the amount of emphasis we put on business attraction,” says Liu, who says if a city doesn’t invest in things like infrastructure, education, and a culture of innovation, “You could woo a company, they tax the tax incentive, and when those tax incentives expire, they’re going to leave the market.”

Liu also recently wrote an article for Brookings titled, “The limits of city power in the age of Trump.” She writes:

In the Age of Trump, some experts have been urging cities to declare independence from the federal-level chaos in Washington. Others herald local power and local actions as antidotes to national dysfunction. Across the country, corporations and philanthropies are pouring millions of dollars into city initiatives, attracted by the notion that solutions in urban areas—on issues like economic development, clean energy, and resilience—might bubble up to the national level.

I understand the impulse. From the perch of a national think tank on cities, I see cities mounting promising responses to big problems like climate change, housing affordability, and criminal justice. At the Brookings Institution, we help local and regional leaders accelerate solutions to global competitiveness and shared prosperity.

But city boosterism can also go too far: Urging city leaders to go it alone celebrates a deep dysfunction in federalism—and it normalizes a self-destructive shift in politics and governance.”

Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.

Image credit: Gus Navarro/WDET

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