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Gerald E. Frug & David J. Barron, City Limits, Bos. Globe, Feb, 25, 2007 at E1.

Abstract: Imagine if Boston had only one revenue source: a tax on shopping mall sales. You know what would happen. The city would do everything it could to attract shopping malls in order to pay for schools, police, fire services, and everything else. It wouldn't matter whether the city actually wanted more shopping malls. Shopping malls would have to be encouraged, and the mall tax would influence every facet of city policy. Zoning officials would be attentive to the concerns of mall developers. Transportation policy would focus on the needs of suburban consumers. Requests for security near Bloomingdale's would influence the allocation of police patrols. And residents seeking bonds for low-cost housing or protection against crime in city parks would have a hard time getting heard. These differences matter. Current economic forces reward cities with the ability to respond creatively and flexibly to fast-changing conditions. Urban centers that can't pursue cutting-edge economic development strategies, or respond boldly to the special challenges urban success may bring, risk slipping slowly but surely behind their competitors. Boston's ability to compete in an increasingly globalized market for urban economic development is directly connected to the state's willingness to loosen the reigns of power. Thanks to private innovation, public sector investments, and a good deal of luck, Boston has managed to succeed despite its highly constrained legal structure. But there are troubling signs on the horizon. Again and again, our study found that other cities are using their legal powers to capitalize on their recent successes in ways that Boston cannot. Chicago completed its widely praised Millennium Park with a degree of independence that, as the interminable debates over control of the Rose Kennedy Greenway demonstrate, Boston can only marvel at. Denver has relied on its home rule powers to contain spiraling municipal employment costs in ways that Massachusetts precludes Boston from doing.