Neighborhood Control

October 31, 1975

Report Outline
Push for Decentralization of Power
Rise and Fall of the Neighborhoods
Outlook for Neighborhood Government
Special Focus

Push for Decentralization of Power

New Demands for Localized Decision-Making

The american neighborhood just isn't the same anymore. The neighborhood has been perhaps the most neglected political, social and economic unit of American urban life for decades. But today neighborhoods all over the country are staging a strong comeback. Residents of many areas which have been deteriorating for years are organizing to fight for their neighborhood's improvement or even its very survival. They are not simply demanding more attention and services from City Hall, but they are moving to take over basic powers of government for themselves. Neighborhood revival has many variations, but one common thread seems to run throughout—the desire of people to control the things which affect their neighborhoods and thus their lives.

In some places, the neighborhood-control movement represents a return to grass-roots democracy, to the assembly-meeting or town-hall style of government upon which the nation was founded. In other cities, it means a shift from remote and impersonal representative government to a closer and more responsive elected council system. In still other areas, established municipal governments have responded to neighborhood pressures by agreeing to decentralize power and authority. Whatever form it has taken, the neighborhood-control movement is viewed by some as a fundamental if not revolutionary change in the way American cities are governed. If it continues to gain impetus at the present rate, neighborhood control will establish itself, along with the environmental and consumer movements, as one of the most significant citizens' movements of the 1970s.

“Why shouldn't people be responsible for everything that affects their lives?” asked Milton Kotler, founder and director of the Institute for Neighborhood Studies in Washington, D.C., in an interview with Editorial Research Reports. “Why should they say, ‘Well, I didn't have anything to do with it’? Our object is always to increase people's responsibilities in their own communities. The people and the communities will both become better for it.”

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