The Energy Election


Blessed by Pope Francis, the drive to wipe out fossil fuels, notes activist Bill McKibben, now has “the wind in its sails.” Setting aside the bizarre alliance of the Roman Catholic Church with secularists such as McKibben, who favor severe limits of family size as an environmental imperative, this  read more »

The Comeback Of The Great Lakes States


For generations the broad swath of America along the Great Lakes has been regarded as something of a backwater. Educated workers and sophisticated industries have tended to gather in the Northeast and on the West Coast, bringing with them strong economic growth.  read more »

Not so Unequal America?


The extreme and rising inequality of income and wealth in the United States has been exhaustively reported and analyzed, including by me. Incomes are strikingly unequal just about everywhere, but not to the same degree. To discover a more egalitarian America, I used US Census American Community Survey data (2007-2011) estimates of the Gini coefficients of all US counties and equivalents.  read more »

Who Benefits From Other People's Transit Use?


In the May 11 issue of Finance and Commerce, Matt Kramer, a local Chamber of Commerce representative lobbying for additional public transit and transportation spending (currently being debated at the Minnesota Legislature) is quoted as saying “Every person who is riding transit is one less person in the car in front of us.”  read more »

The Uncelebrated Places Where America's Farm Economy Is Thriving


We consume their products every day but economists give them little attention, and perhaps not enough respect. Yet America’s agriculture sector is not only the country’s oldest economic pillar but still a vital one, accounting for some 3.75 million jobs — not only in the fields, but in factories, laboratories and distribution. That compares to about 4.3 million jobs in the tech sector (which we analyzed last month here).  read more »

Minneapolis-St. Paul: Capital of the New North?


There’s been a lot of discussion in Minneapolis-St. Paul about whether they should try to dissociate themselves from the Midwest by rebranding themselves as the Capital of the North.

This immediately raises three questions:  read more »

The Emerging New Aspirational Suburb


Urban form in American cities is in a constant state of evolution. Until recent years, American suburbia was often built without an appreciation for future evolution. This has left many older suburbs in a deteriorated state, and has accelerated claims of a more generalized suburban decline.  read more »

Towns With a Past, Towns With a Future


Over the last fifty or sixty years most towns have been dedicated to accommodated cars in order to cultivate business and permit people to live better more convenient lives. For new developments out in a former corn field this was effortless since everything was custom built with the automobile in mind. But older towns that had been built prior to mass motoring were at a distinct disadvantage.  read more »

Would the Twin Cities Survive New Urbanism?

Caribou Coffee; Edina Minn.jpg

In December, the Metropolitan Council of Minneapolis and St. Paul is scheduled to vote on a vision for the region's housing and transportation future. "Thrive MSP 2040” is the council’s comprehensive development plan for the seven-county Twin Cities metro area for the next 30 years. It's a regional growth plan that will result not in a cure for the area's ills, though, but in a virus that will kill its vitality.  read more »

Affordable Cities are the New Sweet Spots


I’ve lived in San Francisco long enough (I’m getting old) that I’ve seen several waves of bright young people arrive, burn out, then move away. For some they were looking for adventure, found it, and then carried on with normal life elsewhere. But for most it was simply a matter of the numbers not adding up. Working a dead end low wage job while sharing a two bedroom apartment with seven room mates is only romantic for so long. I’m fairly inquisitive so I’ve kept up with many of these folks to see how they manage after they leave. I travel a lot and pop in to visit on occasion.  read more »