Politics and urban planning.



It is said that political parties want to arrange their material world to their own liking or manage what already exists.


I was never to experience more of this politically expressed attitude than when I lived and worked in London.


How did we get there? First while at Cornell University in New York, I received a Fulbright Scholarship to complete my PhD work at London University and later as a London town planning architect became involved in the planning of London. This was something beyond the dreams of a young man born in Omaha, Nebraska and who had attained the position of city planner for the City in which he was born.


It was the objective of England's Labour party, based on Ebenezer Howard's philosophy, to contain the growth of the Greater City of London by designating a Greenbelt around a defined area of the city. It was a band about 3-miles in width primarily for countryside activities.


This was certainly “arranging the material world to the party's own liking.” Little if nothing was to develop within the Greenbelt that would be of an urban nature.


The population of London was considered to be too dense by about 800,000 to 1,000,000 people, so that we were to build 8 new towns at various points beyond the Greenbelt, each with a range of from 60,000 to about 120,000 population to handle the population to be moved out of London.


Imagine, stopping the physical expansion of one of the most important cities of the world and decanting it of about 1 million people to planned neighborhoods and into towns that never existed there before, but would now become new towns. Now that was politics that led to real decisions. What an experience for a mid western American city planner.


No head of family and his family was to be moved to a new town who did not have a job there. So industry was to be moved to each of the new towns almost before housing was developed. Workers that wanted to move with industry were guaranteed a job with their particular firm.


Although all of this movement was to be paid for by the central government, the London County Council was in charge of the planning and development of these towns, which during later development were to establish their own local governments. Talk about community development and real politics.


Wherever I visited the planning offices of major cities when traveling in Europe, I was welcomed with open arms by city planners and architects and was taken to lunch where we could discuss what was happening with the development of London and its New Towns.


On completion of my PhD dissertation which was on the philosophy and the actual development of the New Towns, in which I took active part, I was to leave those happy days, to become an academic at UWM, but postponed that for several years while I served as UWM's university planner, another great professional experience. Reminiscences and reality.


It wasn't until several years later that I was to become a permanent resident of Shorewood assured by the design and the building of our home here and the establishment of my planning consulting services for communities in the Milwaukee area, while remaining a professor at UWM.


What happened to going off to the United Nations, to Uganda, to San Francisco or again to London, the city that we loved? Lake Michigan and Shorewood became our new physical reality.


Tuesday's primary elections, reminder of politics that were and reminder of the  unfolding of time as we compare the politics of the past with those of today.

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