Vol.34, No.3, Summer2002

The Urban Lawyer,
Vol. 34, No. 3, Summer 2002

Publication Date: October 8, 2002

Symposium: Cities on the Front Line: The Aftermath of September 11

Robert R.M.Verchick, Forward: Cities on the Front Line, 34 Urb. Law. 557 (Summer 2002).

The Urban Lawyer has always recognized the importance of cities to our national and regional well being. America's cities-from New York to Stockton-have historically stood on the front line of the most basic legal and political issues of the day, from civil rights to education, from property rights to ecology. What appears to have changed since September 11, 2001, is the opening of a new front line on which American cities will be expected to prominently and permanently serve: homeland security. To help unravel the complexities of this new charge, our Symposium issue offers a set of essays from some of America's most thoughtful commentators on cities and the law.

Richard Briffault , Facing the Urban Future after September 11, 2001, 34 Urb. Law. 563 (Summer 2002).

This essay addresses briefly four issues of importance to local governments raised by the September 11 attack and its aftermath. These issues are the role of local governments in addressing questions of public safety and preparedness; the relations among local governments within a region in responding to terrorism; the role of the federal government in the local response to terrorism; and the implications of September 11 for the structures and functions of local government. These issues have been at the heart of local government law and central to debates over local government for years. After September 11, however, they issues have become even more important than before, and the consequences of mistakes or inaction in addressing these questions are potentially devastating.

David J. Barron & Gerald E. Frug , After 9/11: Cities, 34 Urb. Law. 583 (Summer 2002).

People in positions of influence have argued that the September 11 attacks-devastating one of the nation's most visible urban symbols-show that the iconic city center is no longer a viable institution of social life. This essay situates these contentions within a broader way of thinking about urbanism. The authors show that the assertions about the post-September 11 world are quite similar to arguments that have long been offered to suggest the virtues (or at least the inevitability) of the pattern of sprawl that has dominated our landscape since World War II. These arguments draw upon a familiar and well-developed rhetoric that makes sprawling development seem to be the consequence of individuals making rational decisions to disperse in order to vindicate their "self-interest." In response, many have drawn upon an equally well-developed rhetoric that seeks to privilege urban spaces over suburban ones by emphasizing the ways that central cities might win in the unavoidable competition with suburbs. The terms of the current debate over terrorism's impact on our central cities threaten to distract us from pursuing these deeper questions by keeping our energies trained on arguing over an increasingly irrelevant one: do more people prefer central cities to suburbs or vice versa?

Karen Sawislak, September 11 and New York City: Patterns of Urban Disaster in the United States, 34 Urb. Law. 599 (Summer 2002).

September 11 visited shocking and unprecedented traumas upon the cities of New York and Washington. The full psychological, physical, and economic consequences of these events are yet to unfold. The history of urban disasters suggests that New York and New Yorkers, in their reactions to September 11, will follow three broad patterns. First is the notion of disaster-as-opportunity: that civic leaders will seek to recast the urban trauma as a moment that may unleash new potential for urban growth or urban design. Second, disasters commonly remake the local political power structure, at least in the short term. In the late nineteenth century, urban disasters frequently presented moments for business leaders to seize control of political process. Finally, a third broad pattern-what disasters reveal about the ordinary structure of urban society-is the focus of this article

Marc H. Morial, A "National Action Plan" for American Cities, 34 Urb. Law. 609 (Summer 2002).

In December 2001, the U.S. Conference of Mayors released the final report from its Summit, entitled "A National Action Plan for Safety and Security in America's Cities." It was hoped then-and now-that the report would aid federal lawmakers as they seek to support our cities, which now serve on the front line of homeland security. While the Summit report examines several areas of concern, the author, a former mayor of New Orleans and the president of the Conference at the time the report was published, focuses this essay on what he believes are the report's three most significant topics: emergency preparedness, transportation security, and the relationship between federal and local law enforcement.

U.S. Conference of Mayors, A National Action Plan for Safety and Security in America's Cities (December 2001), with a new preface by Mayor Thomas M. Menino, 34 Urb. Law. 615 (Summer 2002).

"All cities have plans in place to minimize damage and save lives should a disaster strike. In recent years, the threat of domestic terrorism and, specifically, the threat of an attack involving weapons of mass destruction, has become a more serious concern for mayors as the leaders of their communities, and for police, fire and emergency medical officials as first responders in emergencies large and small. This concern has translated into efforts by the Conference of Mayors to raise levels of preparedness, including a project specifically addressing responses to weapons of mass destruction, creation of a mayors' training institute, and discussions of preparedness issues-among mayors and with top federal officials-at national Conference of Mayors meetings."

William R. Dodge, Regional Emergency Preparedness Compacts: Safeguarding the Nation's Communities, 34 Urb. Law. 639 (Summer 2002).

This article provides information on the state of regional emergency preparedness, presents examples of the range of activities being undertaken to safeguard our regions, and suggests actions that can be taken to foster the development of regional emergency preparedness compacts.

Edward P. Richards, Terry O'Brien & Katherine C. Rathbun, Bioterrorism and the Use of Fear in Public Health, 34 Urb. Law. 685 (Summer 2002).

This article examines the challenges that bioterrorism poses for today's cities. The article first describes how bioterrorism fits into general public health issues. It then evaluates the state and federal powers available to manage bioterrorism incidents. Finally, the article proposes a practical alternative to ill-conceived strategies such as the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act. The authors conclude that while changes do need to be made in many state public health laws, the need for change is relatively minor. The public health system itself needs reorganization and adequate support, which will improve routine public health and better prepare the United States to manage a bioterrorism incident. More importantly, failings in the public health system result in the unnecessary loss of thousands of lives every year. These lives could be saved irrespective of whether the United States ever faces a major bioterrorism attack.

Jeffrey Thomas , Insurance Implications of September 11 and Possible Responses, 34 Urb. Law. 727 (Summer 2002).

The September 11 attack was also a defining moment for the insurance industry. It was "the largest single insured event in history." Insurance companies are expected to pay some $50 billion to victims of the attack-more than eight times what the federal government is expected to pay through the Victims Compensation Program. This amount is also more than three times the total expected cost of the airline bailout, of which the Compensation program is a part. As one industry observer put it, "No matter how much is written about it, it is hard to overstate the significance of Sept[ember] 11 to the Insurance Industry." This article outlines the insurance industry's response to the September 11 attack and describes its potential effect on cities. It then suggests some possible strategies that cities might use to address the insurance industry's response.

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