When I was living in Downtown Cleveland from 2017 through 2019, I had the pleasure of co-hosting a podcast about downtown for Ideastream Public Media, the local NPR station. My partner in crime (and the real engine driving the project) was the exquisite Amy Eddings, who was the voice of All Things Considered in New York City for over a decade and the current host of Morning Edition in the Cleveland market. Amy and I happened to live in the same downtown building at the time, which made our collaboration very convenient. Our podcast was called, of course, The Downtowner.

I’m very proud of the work we did on our twelve-episodes. One episode that sticks with me was our final chapter. It was about the American relationship with the city, specifically anti-urban sentiment shared by many in suburban and rural areas. 

With the most recent waves of anti-city rhetoric spewing from the political right, the conversation Amy and I had with historian Steve Conn about Americans’ tricky relationship with our cities, vis-à-vis his book Americans Against the City, seems particularly prescient right now. It’s a great episode and worth a listen.

A few choice takeaways:

  • More than 2/3 of Americans live in big cities or metro areas, putting 1/3 of Americans in rural or less densely populated areas. 
  • When we created a Senate… the Constitution was drafted… we built a system that privileged real estate over people.
  • Full participation in a city means interaction with public systems (transit, schools, housing, etc.), and for many, “public” means “black.”
  • Cities give us a sense of identity in a way that suburban living simply doesn’t. 

But you have to listen to Steve Cohn. His expertise is very illuminating. 

Read the original companion post for this episode, written by Amy Eddings. 

*** PHOTO CREDIT: Aerial shot of Manhattan by Tim Sklyarov – timsklyarov.com

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