Program can help cities address multiple symptoms
Cities like Shamokin tend not to struggle for any one reason, but because of a series of interlocking problems that feed one another.
Yet government programs tend to focus on individual issues - housing, finances, blight and so on. A new pilot program being introduced by the Obama administration hopes to address multi-layered problems with a multi-layered approach focused on specific geographic areas.
The program will create "promise zones," though nothing "local" at the start. They'll be in Philadelphia, San Antonio, Los Angeles, a rural area of Southeast Kentucky and within the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.
The Philadelphia program illustrates how the program will work. Aimed for West Philadelphia, it will incorporate the resources of Drexel University and small businesses, along with federal aid across several agencies.
It will include entrepreneurship training, loans and technical assistance for small businesses and development of a supermarket to help provide jobs and neighborhood access to good nutrition.
Drexel and the William Penn Foundation will mentor middle-school and high school students to go to college and work to improve parental involvement in education.
The city government will attack crime in the neighborhood through "hot spot" policing, increased foot patrols and other techniques.
Other promise zones in the program likewise will focus on local conditions and take a multi-layered approach to drive improvement.
The approach breaches barriers between narrow interests and applies as many resources as possible in a defined geographic area. Troubled cities and other municipalities everywhere should watch the program and be prepared to use parts of all of it as a model.