I'm back at school and reading another Jane Jacobs book, "Cities and the Wealth of Nations." Most of it is a little too involved for my level of understanding (my history of economics needs to get brushed off ... or established in general), but this quote struck me:
When a city at the nucleus of a city region stagnates and declines, it does so because it no longer experiences from time to time significant episodes of import-replacing. Gradually the stagnated city's economy becomes both thinner and out-of-date. It fails to compensate, with new and different export work, for losses of its older exports, and so grows poorer as a market for its own region, for other cities, and for regions lacking cities as well. Its practical problems and those of its region pile up unsolved. Idleness grows. The region of an economically declining city does not revert to its former, largely rural condition. For a long time it retains its characteristic of being a mixd and intricate economy, but the region's economic life slowly grows thinner and backward, too. The regional fabric develops holes and tatters as it were. Young people who leave settlements within the region for city jobs tend to bypass the region's own city or cities and go, instead, to distant cities if work there is open to them. For a long time, transplants of city work continue to leak out into the region, but that is no longer because they are being crowded out of the city by younger enterprisers. Rather, they flee unsolved city problems, leaving emptiness behind. Eventually the transplants cease flowing, their source having dried up.
This quote stunned me; made me halt my elliptical routine (most of my reading gets done in the gym, these days). I had to ask, What does Allentown do for itself? Is there anything that is produced and consumed here, exclusively? I couldn't think of anything, but I am no expert. Businesses and people leave left and right, without getting replaced by new businesses and people. My friend yelled at me, somewhat drunk, "No! You're not allowed to go to Philadelphia! Everyone goes to Philly! And they never come back! Stay here with me." And it's true, at least among my friends.
So, suburbanites, how long will it take for Allentown's decay to spread to the rest of the region? You've ignored it 'till now. How much will have to happen before you start to pay attention?
I haven't yet finished the book, so I will let you know if she tells me how to fix it.