Gerald E. Frug


City Services

Gerald E. Frug

City services are conventionally understood as publicly provided consumer goods, and cities are currently organized under local government law in a way that enables people to shop for these consumer goods by voting with their feet. Metropolitan residents who can afford to do so are therefore able to locate in a city with high quality city services while, simultaneously, limiting the taxes they pay for these services by excluding the poor not only from the city but from eligibility to use the services themselves. In this Article, Professor Frug argues that this privatized conception of city services has become a major ingredient in fostering the division of America’s metropolitan areas into neighborhoods of privilege and of want, a division that is all too often marked by lines of race, ethnicity, and class. He calls for replacing the prevailing consumer-oriented vision of city services with an alternative designed to promote what he calls “community building.” Focusing specifically on the widespread desire for good schools and die pervasive fear of crime, he proposes that city services become organized not as a means to separate and divide the metropolitan population but as a mechanism for expanding the capacity of metropolitan residents to live in a diverse society. Doing so, he says, involves opening public schools throughout the region to diversity and making prevention, rather than escape; the predominant strategy for dealing with crime.