Few topics stir more controversy between urbanists and civic boosters than city rankings. What truly makes a city "great," or even "livable"? The answers, and how these surveys determine them, are often subjective, narrow or even misguided. What makes a "great" city on one list can serve as a detriment on another.
Recent rankings of the "best" cities around the world by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Monocle magazine and the Mercer quality of life surveys settled on a remarkably similar list. For the most part, the top ranks are dominated by well-manicured older European cities such as Zurich, Geneva, Vienna, Copenhagen, Helsinki and Munich, as well as New World metropolises like Vancouver and Toronto; Auckland, New Zealand; and Perth and Melbourne in Australia. read more »
In my first foray into political life in the 1970s, I worked during college on the staff of a liberal Democrat in the Texas state Senate. Only a few years earlier, Patty Hearst had been kidnapped and brainwashed by the Symbionese Liberation Army, and a moral panic about cults seducing college kids was sweeping the nation. One result was the rise of a new, thankfully ephemeral profession: "deprogrammers" who for pay would kidnap a young person from a cult and break the spell, by means of isolation, interrogation and maybe reruns of "The Waltons." read more »
The “cash for clunkers” (or CARS) program that was widely predicted to be extended by the Congress has been, if nothing else, a clear public relations win for the Obama Administration. It may also be, at least for the short-term, a shot in the arm for the beleaguered American auto industry (including domestic dealerships of foreign car companies, like Honda and Toyota). But the program’s extension may also be bad news for anyone who was hoping that candidate Obama’s campaign promises to fix our domestic energy policy would translate into something resembling a robust make-over. read more »
Mayor Michael Bloomberg owes 200,000 small business owners an apology.
When Michael Bloomberg was first elected Mayor of New York City in 2001, the city’s small business owners were hopeful and confident that finally a successful businessman would be creating the city’s economic policy. They hoped to see an end to powerful special interests that, through political donations, had gained control over the economic policy of the city. read more »
The term “sustainable” relates to a concept called the "Triple Bottom Line” (TBL): People, Planet, and Profit (the three P’s), endorsed by the United Nations in 2007 for urban and community accounting.
American suburban land planning is about the SBL (Single Bottom Line): Profit. In city after city, mindless cookie cutter subdivisions, with characterless architecture, serve cars more than people. This dysfunction is caused by the boiler-plate regulations; engineers adhere to the minimum dimensions mandated by city ordinances to gain density, which maximizes developer’s profits. read more »
Nothing is perhaps more pathetic than the exertions of economic developers and politicians grasping at straws, particularly during hard times. Over the past decade, we have turned from one panacea to another, from the onset of the information age to the creative class to the boom in biotech, nanotech and now the "green economy." read more »
My father owned and operated a junkyard in Tucson for a number of years, and I learned a lot about the auto recycling industry helping around the office and as a delivery driver. So as a junkyard enthusiast, the “Cash For Clunkers” program naturally caught my interest lately. Though it looks to be the product of good intentions, I don’t think the legislation understands that junkyards already comprise an efficient, well developed recycling system for salvaging vehicles, with a beneficial result for the environment overall. read more »
I went to Hollywood one night last week to watch my favorite film of all time, Koyaanisqatsi (released in 1983). It was being shown on a big screen at the Hollywood Bowl, accompanied by orchestra playing the original score, conducted by its composer, Philip Glass. Oh, I didn't go to the Bowl; I watched it at my daughter's apartment about half a mile away (hi def DVD and digital sound system turned way up, thank you). read more »
As the American economy slowly heals, the Obama administration will no doubt claim some credit for its $787 billion stimulus — and perhaps even suggest doubling down for a second stage. Republicans, for their part, will place their emphasis on the “slow” part of the equation and persistent high unemployment, blaming the very same stimulus program.
Whatever the politics, no new stimulus should be considered unless it deals with the fundamental illness undermining the country’s long-term economic prospects. Such a stimulus would address the country’s essential problem: persistent overconsumption amid underproduction. read more »
From a distance, a crisis often takes on ideological colorings. This is true in California, where the ongoing fiscal meltdown has devolved into a struggle between anti-tax conservatives and free-spending green leftist liberals.
Yet more nuances surface when you approach a crisis from the context of a specific place. Over the past two years my North Dakota-based consulting partner, Delore Zimmerman, and I have been working in Salinas, a farm community of 150,000, 10 miles inland from the Monterey coast and an hour's drive south of San Jose. read more »