Class and the Future of Planning


Economic segregation may be a foregone conclusion, as studies have long suggested. For one thing, our first tendency is to buy the best place we can afford, intentionally locating to those parts of a region that appeal to others with similar buying power. Secondly, we tend to buy something most suitable to our tastes, which steers us into areas populated by those with similar viewpoints.

The implications for contemporary planning processes are profound, especially since current best practices revolve so much around form and style and take so little measure of economics, choice, and consequence.  read more »

The Future of the Shopping Mall


By Richard Reep

“I had two rules for Christmas this year:
1. Under 13 years old only;
2. Internet only.”

–overheard at Stardust Video and Coffee in Orlando, Florida.

One of the most distinctive benchmarks of contemporary American life, the classic indoor shopping mall, is now gasping for survival. The two rules expressed above were commonly heard during this shopping season, calling into question whether the 20th century indoor shopping mall will survive in its present form.  read more »

Stimulate Manufacturing and Production, Not Consumption and Consumerism


As store earnings plunged last week, the National Retail Federation proposed that the country create the mother of all sales by suspending taxes on all purchases. These tax holidays would occur in March, July and October and be national in scope.

The bill, they suggested, should be picked up by – who else? – the federal taxpayer, who would make up for the lost local revenues even for the five states without sales taxes. The rationale, suggests the Federation's chairman, J.C. Penney Chief Executive Myron Ullman III, in a letter to President-elect Barack Obama, would be "to help stimulate consumer spending as one of the first priorities of your new administration."  read more »

Oregon’s Fringes: A New Rural Alternative


Once the bastion of a thriving rural middle class, Oregon’s rural communities are now barely scraping by. The state’s timber industry employed 81,400 residents at its peak in 1978. At the time, the industry made up 49% of all manufacturing jobs in the state according to the Oregon Employment Department.

Since then, the recessions of the early eighties and nineties, increased land-use restriction, decreased timber supply, global competition and automation of the timber industry have devastated rural communities that relied on once-plentiful timber jobs.  read more »

Phantom Bonds Update: The New Treasury Bond Owner's Manual


Shortly after my piece on Phantom Bonds, Blame Wall Street's Phantom Bonds For The Credit Crisis, posted here on in November, a friend called from New York to ask if I’d seen the latest news. Bloomberg News reported on December 10 that “…The three-year note auction drew a yield of 1.245 percent, the lowest on record... The three-month bill rate [fell] to minus 0.01 percent yesterday.” The US Treasury is seeing interest rates on its notes that are “the lowest since it started auctioning them in 1929.”

My friend is an intelligent person, a lawyer who managed to accumulate more than $1 million working a 9-to-5 job in a not-for-profit firm and retire in her 50s. Some of her portfolio is in Treasury bonds, so she had a lot of questions. In the course of our conversation, it became clear that I wasn’t going to be able to explain all she needed to know on the phone, despite her background. I decided to write this short owner’s manual.  read more »

Will the Bubble Burst Aspen?


Aspen is a great town. Its uniqueness extends beyond its spectacular geography to its amenities, people and community spirit. It’s a world-class, year-round Rocky Mountain resort offering great food, music, skiing, shopping – great everything – right in the middle of a real, functioning, small American community.

It’s no surprise people like it, want to keep it going. And not just the good, smart people who live in Aspen full-time and those who own second homes there (including some of the wealthiest people on Earth), but the thousands of good, smart people who visit every year to address big issues at the Aspen Institute and numerous other forums. These include elites of American arts, sciences, politics and economics with amazing amounts of brainpower and money at their disposal.

But geographic realities plus inexorable economic, demographic, and social trends are conspiring against the best of intentions. The future of Aspen – playground to the smart, rich and famous – may soon become untenable.  read more »

Go North Young Man


With his foreign policy team now in place, President-elect Barack Obama certainly will be urged to make his first forays into high profile places like Pakistan, Israel and Palestine, as well as to greet his devoted fan base in Europe.

But before heading off on the diplomatic grand tour, he might do well to turn his attention first to the country with which we have the closest political, economic and environmental ties: Canada. Although not as momentous or sexy a locale as Paris or Jerusalem, Ottawa could well hold the key to developing a bold new strategy for America in an increasingly incoherent and multi-polar world.  read more »

Hyde Park, St. Louis: Are We Almost There Yet?

HP St L razed brick closeupIMG_1866.JPG

Among potential titles for this article about the Hyde Park neighborhood of St. Louis, I played with The Archaeology of Stasis. My husband suggested It’s Not Happening Here. But neither seemed right. Both were too depressing to describe a place where people are working hard for change. I wanted a title that suggested a lot of hard work, but hope nonetheless.  read more »

How To Save The Industrial Heartland


You would think an economic development official in Michigan these days would be contemplating either early retirement or seppuku. Yet the feisty Ron Kitchens, who runs Southwest Michigan First out of Kalamazoo, sounds almost giddy with the future prospects for his region.

How can that be? Where most of America sees a dysfunctional state tied down by a dismal industry, Kitchens points to the growth of jobs in his region in a host of fields, from business services to engineering and medical manufacturing. Indeed, as most Michigan communities have lost jobs this decade, the Kalamazoo region, with roughly 300,000 residents, has posted modest but consistent gains.  read more »

Bailing out on the Dreamland…And Returning Home


My father, who was from eastern Kentucky, headed with millions of other Appalachian people for the “promised land” after the great depression. The promised land in that day consisted of cities such as Dayton, Detroit, Gary, and Cincinnati, out of which rose great factories that employed thousands on giant “campuses.” They thrived through the vigor of this transplanted workforce – uneducated like my father but full of gumption, tenacity and work ethic.  read more »