Monday, February 20, 2012

Research Paper on Urban Issues

Research Paper on Urban Issues

Secondary effects of urban automobiles transportation
There are three ways to move from one place to another in a city: private transport (cars and motorcycles), active transport (e.g., walking and cycling) and public transport (e.g., buses and trains). Private transport puts a burden on the urban community; it requires roads infrastructure, which takes land and disrupts pedestrians, it consumes additional land for parking (although by that it creates income to the community) and creates environmental externalities such as air pollution and noise. The overdependence of urban and suburban communities on automobiles has created several hazards. Our discussion here will focus on the environmental injustice it creates and negative impact on active living, both can be offset by promoting active and public transport.

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A work by Patz et al (2007) which focused on transportation policies’ effect on climate change and global health depicts a gloomy picture of urban transport. Following years of unrestrained urban planning, Western society has chosen the automobile as the main mean of transportation. The environmental price of this trend is massive; in the US, where 40% of the trips are shorter than 2 miles, the average carbon emission per inhabitant is six times the global average. Canada, Japan and Western Europe are not far behind. Some of these gases are immediately inhaled by the population and the rest is emitted to the atmosphere, helping to create global environmental crises such as the greenhouse effect. Thus, not only those urban communities suffer from this phenomenon, but also other populations of the nation and worldwide.

This ethical question must not be neglected. Investment in active and public transportation should be in city planners’ top priority these days. These alternative menas of transportation have additional positive effect on public health, which is much more tangible and immediate at the personal level.
In this context it is interesting to review the findings of Besser and Dannenberg (2005), who studied the health implications of using public transport. Their main concern was walking, an essential feature of one’s active lifestyle, which has a key role in minimizing epidemics such as obesity and health diseases. According to the writers, users of public transport spend a median of 19 minutes walking a day. This figure accounts for nearly two-thirds of the Surgeon General recommendations of 30 minutes’ walk time a day.

Moreover, 29% of participants have reached at least 30 minutes a day merely by using public transportation. It is thus clear that public transportation provides an excellent opportunity for improving one’s health even without additional physical workout. This opportunity should be promoted in particular among urban low-income communities which has a general tendency of less healthier lifestyle.

The results of these two studies indicate clearly that public spending on active and public transportation, in particular within a city and between urban and suburban areas, are sound investments which yield good environmental and health returns as well as other positive implications.

Myths and fact regarding the secondary effects of adult entertainment (“strip”) clubs on an urban community
The issue of strip clubs is given to debate in fields such as constitution, moral and social norms. Many municipalities who “host” these clubs often issue restrictions on the operation of such businesses; these are mainly zoning ordinances that aim to keep such clubs away from housing areas and public institutions, or even to deport them to suburban areas.

As the legitimacy of strip clubs is anchored in the First Amendment, such zoning restrictions are justified by the claim that the existence of such club in a neighbourhood has negative secondary effects on the community, mainly crime and devaluation of properties.

In his fascinating legal review, Case (2006) describes the history of legal debates on the ability of municipalities to legislate and enforce restrictions on the location and activity of strip clubs. Two main issues are in the heart of the discussion. The first question is whether the opposition of municipals are content-based (i.e., they try to prevent the activity itself, which is an unconstitutional deed) or that the motive is concerned with pure public interests, which must be quantifiable in terms of Dollar values, crime rates etc. Another issue is the extent to which such concerns, if they are proved, can overshadow the legitimate interest of those businesses and their customers.

The author has several conclusions from past court decisions on the matter. First, it is clear that the issue is quite problematic and that the First Amendment’s protection is rather indirect. Second, it appears that throughout time courts became more critical regarding municipals’ zoning laws, mainly since their claims were not backed up with hard evidence. However, both courts and municipalities were engaged in efforts to regulate not only the location of the clubs but also their activities, although with very little success.

The author has a generally positive approach towards zoning; from his point of view, this should be the solution for one’s worries about secondary effects in his neighbourhood.

On the other hand, Land et al (2004) are much more critical on the zoning issue. Examining court debates they concluded those municipalities’ proofs for secondary effects (as a basis for proving that their actions are not content-based) were based on studies with very weak methodological validity. Furthermore, by examining crime rates in Charlotte, North Carolina, they show the exact opposite, namely that crime rates around strip clubs were actually lower than control areas. For example, crime rates around McDonald’s restaurants were much higher.  

Strip clubs is a social and moral problem in a city. It is perfectly legitimate to fight them on the civilian level or simply not to visit them. It is important to remember, however, that the stigma of strip clubs as magnet for criminal activity is not necessarily true and that those businesses deserve protection just as any other entity in the city.  

Cohesion in urban and suburban areas
Newly developed suburban districts and old urban residential districts have always been in question and caused numerous academic debates on neighborhood and social cohesion both in the United States and Europe. Most of the researches seem to agree that people living in suburban areas tend to develop much closer ties with each other, compared to the urban population, who quite often do not even know the name of the neighbors living next door. Below views of American and European researches are presented.

Logan at al. (1996) discuss what accounts for the differences in the kinds of communities within the metropolis in which members of different racial and ethnic groups live there. According to the authors, more racially homogeneous communities exist in the suburban areas then in the big cities, where the population is more racially-mixed. These racial differences partially explain the social cohesion and territorial ties in the suburban settlements. Suburban residents more often share common moral values, ethnical traditions and religious beliefs family life styles. The authors also claim, based on the empirical studies, that suburban residents, have more equal income, while in the urban arias, the population is more mixed racially and in the relation to income.

The “Community Lost” problem worries researches in Europe as well – Lupi and Musterd (2006) address the social significance of the local both urban and suburban communities and explain the existing differences between urban and suburban ways of life from a Dutch point of view. The authors address the issue of “culturalisation” of housing and the construction of residential spheres, socially established, controlled and protected by their inhabitants. These spheres are the potential basis for new forms of local social cohesion. The authors use works of other scholars to support their claims. For example, Blakely and Snyder describe, that gated communities appeal to the ideal of the “Community” and most inhabitants living in controlled areas present their neighborhood as such to the outside world and perceive it in the same way. According to Baumgartner, the common hypersensitivity, protectiveness and anti-violent attitude of suburban inhabitants lead to order and unity. Modern suburban life represents the example of the collective organization of individual living space.

In small towns and suburban areas, people participate more often in associations and organizations and have many social contacts within their neighborhoods – as a result it is much easier for an individual to be identified with the local community. On the other hand, identification with the city is not so strong; this is due mainly to the preoccupation of people with their personal residential issues. On the local level a person feels ties with a community and responsibility to the place. Social ties in the urban neighborhood are mainly of the weak, bridging kind. Mainly residents in lower class, ethnically homogeneous areas have more bonds with each other.

The American and European scholars took different approaches to the same issue an even though the first approach focuses more on the racial and income issues and the latest deals mainly with the perception of the residential area by the inhabitants and feeling of protection – both claims seem to be valid and in no way contradict with each other since the community cohesion can be explained only by combination of social and psychological approaches.

The influence of outdoor tobacco advertisement
Media and advertisement are creating a new kind of men and a new kind of cities – the colorful metropolitan areas overburdened with advertisement, posters and billboards of all kinds. Lately researches more often discuss negative effects of the media on urban population. Here of the aspects of media influence will be presented – tobacco advertisement.

Luke, Esmundo and Bloom (2000) analyze the locations and characteristics of tobacco billboards in urban areas and discuss the extent to which tobacco companies are locating billboards closely to poor minority neighborhoods and schools. An observation was conducted in St Louis, Missouri in 1998 and total of 1239 billboards were observed. As a result of the observation, was found that nearly 20 percent of all existing billboards advertised tobacco. Four out of top five most often advertised brands (and nine out of the top 22) showed tobacco products. Interesting also are the location finings – billboards were found in all districts of St. Louis except for the areas with the highest average income. Most of the tobacco billboards were located in the communities with low average income and communities inhibited mostly by African Americans. Exactly in these areas largely populated by African Americans, tobacco billboards displayed images of African Americans. And the last alarming fining of the research was that nearly 74 percent of all billboards in St. Louis were located within 2000 feet of public schools.

Not surprisingly, cigarettes were the most often advertised products on billboards of the city and their geographic allocation confirms that tobacco companies target poor communities, minorities and school students.

The research held in St. Louis is only one of the many held in various cities of the United States, Europe, and Canada. People with lower income smoke more than people with higher income. To find the reasons of this inequality, National Cancer Institute held several studies of targeted tobacco marketing.

The observation of outdoor advertisement was done in Boston during 2000-2002. The results of the observation were quite similar to the research held in St. Louis. The number of tobacco advertisement in low-income areas was much higher then the number of the same outdoor advertisement in high-income communities. In the areas with low average income more then three times more tobacco advertisement were located then youth access signs. Tobacco advertisement significantly outnumbered smoke-free signs in every community.

The results of the studies in Boston and in St. Louis show that tobacco companies actively target low-income communities and young people. This advertisement mechanism needs to be monitored closely in every urban community and the ways to prevent targeting high-risk population should be found.
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