Joel Kotkin could be thought to have written this article in the Wall Street Journal with London in mind, but two months before the sinkhole he could only have been unsurprised but not prophetic about the negligence of basic infrastructure in our own town.
As aggregates of people, commerce and industry developing and expanding the transportation and utilities that support them, cities have largely formed through more natural processes preceding the more artificial and momentous foundings of supra-jurisdictional levels of government. As a result, cities have been largely exempt from the practical and philosophical debates about jurisdictional roles and functions that occasionally serve to check national and provincial governments, and have been able to re-invent themselves almost without scrutiny as entertainment centres, lifestyle designers, workfare recruiters, social agencies, environmental advocates… almost anything other than the custodians and planners of the ordinary value of infrastructure.
The Canadian Federation of Municipalities claims that property taxes are "not enough" to provide the $123 billion needed to prevent infrastructure from crumbling. Whether by this time this is true or not, property taxes appear to have been ample for altogether too many other non-essentials over the past few decades while infrastructure has been decaying. Après moi le deluge… but perhaps the debate over the role and functions of municipal governments should finally be opened.
Or, as it may happen, it will be deferred…
Bonus: YouTube videos of London's sinkhole, via Alt-London.