San Diego Law Review

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In 1993, Congress authorized a community and economic development program called The Empowerment Zone and Enterprise Cities Demonstration Program ("Empowerment Zones Program") to create geographic zones within certain selected cities that would be eligible for special federal attention to alleviate pervasive conditions of

poverty and economic distress within the cities. The program is self- described as a strategy "to create jobs and business opportunities in [the]

most economically-distressed areas of inner cities' by providing tax incentives and social service funds within the zone to stimulate business creation and expansion and attain, over the long-term, revitalization of

the distressed community. The Empowerment Zones Program promises a definitive counter to all rules of inner city existence and targets federal financial resources to these distressed areas as a signal that the inner city should no longer be shunned by business and neglected by government. Rather, inner city communities are now to be reunderstood (i.e., reconfigured in our understanding) in terms of their underestimated or overlooked potential, assets, and resources. The Empowerment Zones Program also promises improved inter-agency coordination, to streamline potentially conflicting federal programs to work in favor of developing Empowerment Zone communities, and to establish a federal government-wide priority for funding programs that benefit the Empowerment Zones. In concept, with the right configuration of local, state and federal government programmatic priorities, all of the necessary developmental processes will take place to facilitate a thriving inner city economy and, inevitably, an improved quality of life. In addition to the economic revitalization, the zones are also to be the site of democratic governance and community decision-making and participation. To that end, the program envisions a holistic, inclusive process of planning, implementation, and development.

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