Hume: Cities 'Poor, Weak Creatures'

By Ben Bull
Published March 24, 2008

Some interesting urban analysis in the Toronto Star this weekend. In his review of Endless City (Phaidon Press), Christopher Hume highlights several trends relating to the places we choose to live, and the places to which we plan to move:

This year, for the first time, more people will live in cities than outside them and the momentous trend is only intensifying. By mid-century, more than two-thirds of us will live in cities.

Yet, as the provocative new book Endless City lays out in amazing breadth and detail, cities all over the world remain poor, weak creatures.

Citing the lack of government funding as a primary cause for our crumbling cores, Hume points out that this is a problem, not just at home, but all over the globe:

It is obvious that one issue shared by all civic jurisdictions is that of governance. Although there are European cities empowered to levy their own income tax, federal, national, provincial and regional governments almost universally view municipalities as junior partners.

Yet around the globe the story is the same: Cities deliver 80 per cent of the services people expect in their daily lives on 25 per cent of tax revenues. As a result, public infrastructure is crumbling at every turn.

How we address these trends, and this imbalance, is harder to ascertain; but one thing is a constant in all this, as Hume states:

Countries come and go, but cities are here to stay.

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.


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