Is Obama Separating from His Scandinavian Muse?


Barack Obama may be our first African-American president, but he’s first got to stop finding his muse in Scandinavia. With his speech for the Nobel, perhaps he’s showing some sign of losing his northern obsession.

On the campaign trail, Obama showed a poet’s sensitivity about both America’s exceptionalism and our desire to improve our country. His mantra about having “a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas” resonated deeply with tens of millions of Americans.  read more »

The World's Smartest Cities


In today's parlance a "smart" city often refers to a place with a "green" sustainable agenda. Yet this narrow definition of intelligence ignores many other factors--notably upward mobility and economic progress--that have characterized successful cities in the past.

The green-only litmus test dictates cities should emulate either places with less-than-dynamic economies, like Portland, Ore., or Honolulu, or one of the rather homogeneous and staid Scandinavian capitals. In contrast, I have determined my "smartest" cities not only by looking at infrastructure and livability, but also economic fundamentals.  read more »

When Granny Comes Marching Home Again... Multi-Generational Housing


During the first ten days of October 2008, the Dow Jones dropped 2,399.47 points, losing 22.11% of its value and trillions of investor equity. The Federal Government pushed a $700 billion bail-out through Congress to rescue the beleaguered financial institutions. The collapse of the financial system in the fall of 2008 was likened to an earthquake. In reality, what happened was more like a shift of tectonic plates.


The driveway tells the story. The traditional two-story 2,200 square foot suburban home has a two-car attached garage. Today’s multi-generational families fill the garage, the driveway and often also occupy the curb in front of the home. The economic crisis that is transforming America is also changing the way we live. The outcome will change the way America views its housing needs for the balance of the 21st Century.  read more »

A Return to the City or a New Divide in the Nation's Capital Region?


Census data continue to suggest that fringe areas still grow faster than cities, but some have continued to argue that the flight to the suburbs has ended, or at least slowed, and that we are experiencing a resurgence of urban living. In a 2005 article for the Journal of the American Planning Association, Robert Fishman predicts a new pattern of migration – a so-called Fifth Migration – that will revitalize inner core neighborhoods that were depopulated through decades of suburbanization. In a 2004 study of the New York region, James W. Hughes and Joseph J.  read more »

For Millennials, It’s the Economy Stupid


This month’s off year elections sent one message to Washington that has been heard loud and clear. Voters expect Congress to focus on the economy, especially employment, and take decisive and affirmative steps to deal with both the causes and ravages of the greatest economic downturn in the U.S. since the Great Depression. As the Obama administration considers a variety of new proposals to help bring down the unemployment rate, one key constituency is raising its voice and asking for a return on the investment it made in his presidency.

Members of the Millennial generation, born between 1982-2003, who were eligible to vote in 2008 went for Barack Obama over John McCain by a 2:1 margin and made up over 80% of the President’s winning margin.  read more »

Migration: Geographies In Conflict


It's an interesting puzzle. The “cool cities”, the ones that are supposedly doing the best, the ones with the hottest downtowns, the biggest buzz, leading-edge new companies, smart shops, swank restaurants and hip hotels – the ones that are supposed to be magnets for talent – are often among those with the highest levels of net domestic outmigration. New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Miami and Chicago – all were big losers in the 2000s. Seattle, Denver, and Minneapolis more or less broke even.  read more »

Boomer Economy Stunting Growth in Northern California


The road north across the Golden Gate leads to some of the prettiest counties in North America. Yet behind the lovely rolling hills, wineries, ranches and picturesque once-rural towns lies a demographic time bomb that neither political party is ready to address.

Paradise is having a problem with the evolving economy. A generational conflict is brewing, pitting the interests and predilections of well-heeled boomers against a growing, predominately Latino working class. And neither the emerging "progressive" politics nor laissez-faire conservatism is offering much in the way of a solution.  read more »

Bowling Alone or Bowling Along?


It has long been cultural sport to mock or to misunderstand the social life of suburbs. More recently, however, sport itself has been identified as a major arena for social decline in suburbia.

In his Bowling Alone, published with an almost apocalyptic sense of timing at the beginning of the present century, the esteemed social scientist Robert Putnam focused upon the decline of the American bowling leagues as symptomatic of a lost America.  read more »

Numbers Don't Support Migration Exodus to "Cool Cities"


For the past decade a large coterie of pundits, prognosticators and their media camp followers have insisted that growth in America would be concentrated in places hip and cool, largely the bluish regions of the country.

Since the onset of the recession, which has hit many once-thriving Sun Belt hot spots, this chorus has grown bolder. The Wall Street Journal, for example, recently identified the "Next Youth-Magnet Cities" as drawn from the old "hip and cool" collection of yore: Seattle, Portland, Washington, New York and Austin, Texas.  read more »

The White City


Among the media, academia and within planning circles, there’s a generally standing answer to the question of what cities are the best, the most progressive and best role models for small and mid-sized cities. The standard list includes Portland, Seattle, Austin, Minneapolis, and Denver. In particular, Portland is held up as a paradigm, with its urban growth boundary, extensive transit system, excellent cycling culture, and a pro-density policy. These cities are frequently contrasted with those of the Rust Belt and South, which are found wanting, often even by locals, as “cool” urban places.

But look closely at these exemplars and a curious fact emerges. If you take away the dominant Tier One cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles you will find that the “progressive” cities aren’t red or blue, but another color entirely: white.  read more »