BOOK REVIEWS 365
nor do they look to improve the day-to-day conditions for non-white urban poor.
Contemporary urban development strategies ‘reﬂect the new norm of market oriented
local economic development, publicly subsidized but directed by the private sector, with
the goal of enhancing the city’s competitiveness as a regional asset’ (p. 146). In Chester,
this meant a ‘Waterfront Overlay District’ that featured a casino/racetrack, professional
soccer stadium and a host of retail outlets, restaurants, hotels and oce parks. Chester is
not the only city in the United States where central business districts remain boarded up
and abandoned while casinos, stadiums and empty oce complexes act like Hollywood
prop landscapes for investment dollars and advertising budgets. And access to these
‘destination’ investments include on/o ramps into parking structures, so neither suburban
consumers nor their dollars might wander into dilapidated neighborhoods or see actual
Chester residents. As Mele concludes: ‘This version of more constrained and narrowly
focused urban renewal entails a revanchist reclaiming of so-called salvageable parts of
poorer cities, often at the price of neglect or further marginalizing most others’ (ibid.).
There is so much to like about Mele’s book that I don’t want to spend time on
small picky things. There are spots where jargon halts the clarity of the narrative and its
analysis. The integration of pro-growth examinations with critical race theory works for
the most part but––as most ‘new’ schools of social science theory tend to do––sometimes
the theory ain’t so new and we forget to honor and apply some great traditional work.
And the book could have beneﬁtted from an inclusion of gender politics, not just to ﬁll
the intersectionality box, but to better explain the power of racial strategies when linked
to suburban narratives of safety and fear. But all of these are smaller matters in the
context of what Mele gives us. When faced with the century-old degradation of people
and place, he refuses to forget about and do nothing. And by not only recounting a tale
of past racism and urban development, but examining how a ‘new’ racism inscribes an
old white supremacy onto the boneyards of contemporary spaces of exploitation, Mele
neatly explains how contemporary white supremacy––not the Donald Trump alt-right
kind, but the Hillary Clinton/Paul Ryan neoliberal marketized brand––will continue to
haunt us all. Film noir indeed.
Corey Dolgon, Stonehill College
James DeFilippis (ed.) 2016: Urban Policy in the Time of Obama.
Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota Press
Urban Policy in the Time of Obama offers a detailed description and critical
analysis of the major urban policy initiatives of the Obama administration. Edited by
James DeFilippis, associate professor in the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning
Public Policy at Rutgers University, this is the twenty-sixth volume in the University of
Minnesota Press’s highly regarded Globalization and Communities Series (edited by
Susan E. Clarke).
Following an introduction outlining the formidable economic and fiscal
challenges confronting the Obama administration upon assuming oce, DeFilippis
describes the initial hopes and subsequent disappointments of Obama supporters who
believed the president was prepared to take decisive action to address the growing
challenges of increasing economic distress and social inequality in American cities.
He concludes his introduction by criticizing the Obama administration’s embrace
of neoliberal urban policies that seek to harness the power of private investment
and markets to address such critical urban problems as unemployment, poverty,
homelessness, substance abuse, failing schools and violent crime. In doing so, DeFilippis
argues that President Obama squandered a historic opportunity to mobilize his
substantial electoral base to demand more redistributive economic policies and more
inclusive and democratic urban policymaking processes.