Middle Class

How Commuters Get Railroaded by Cities

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With more than $10 billion already invested, and much more on the way, some now believe that Los Angeles and Southern California are on the way to becoming, in progressive blogger Matt Yglesias’ term, “the next great transit city.” But there’s also reality, something that rarely impinges on debates about public policy in these ideologically driven times.

Let’s start with the numbers. If L.A. is supposedly becoming a more transit-oriented city, as boosters already suggest, a higher portion of people should be taking buses and trains. Yet, Los Angeles County – with its dense urbanization and ideal weather for walking and taking transit – has seen its share of transit commuting decline, as has the region overall.  read more »

Conferences and Progress

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Californians attend innumerable conferences on housing and economic growth.  Year after year, in counties across California, the same people show up to say and hear the same things.  Mostly what they say and hear is naive, and nothing ever changes.

I was reminded of this when I saw a report on what appears to have been a typical conference at the Harris Ranch on Growing the Central Valley Economy.  read more »

New Report: Putting People First

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This is the abstract from a new report “Putting People First: An Alternative Perspective with an Evaluation of the NCE Cities ‘Trillion Dollar’ Report,” authored by Wendell Cox and published by the Center for Opportunity Urbanism. Download the full report (pdf) here.

A fundamental function of domestic policy is to facilitate better standards of living and minimize poverty. Yet favored urban planning policies, called "urban containment" or "smart growth," have been shown to drive the price of housing up, significantly reducing discretionary incomes, which necessarily reduces the standard of living and increases poverty.  read more »

Is Owning A Car Too Expensive?

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Many analysts—usually planners—have been regularly offering a wealth of exhortations concerning how uneconomical it is to purchase, operate and maintain a private car. Is this a valid assertion of a household economic burden? And what is the likelihood that the advice will ultimately prove useful?  read more »

Economic Progress is More Effective Than Protests

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The election of Barack Obama promised to inaugurate the dawn of a post-racial America. Instead we seem to be stepping ever deeper into a racial quagmire. The past two month saw the violent commemoration of the Ferguson protests, “the celebration” of the 50th anniversary of the Watts riots, new police shootings in places as distant as Cincinnati and Fort Worth, and renewed disorder, tied to a police-related shooting, in St. Louis last week.  read more »

Urban Rebirth in a Cincinnati Rowhouse

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I filmed this story in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. As always, my far more talented friend Kirsten Dirksen did the editing. There are also glimpses of other nearby neighborhoods such as East Walnut Hills and some views for the city taken from across the Ohio River in Kentucky. Michael Uhlenhake is an architect and long time resident of the city. The story of his own practice and home renovation follows the trajectory of the city as a whole.  read more »

The Peril to Democrats of Left-Leaning Urban Centers

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Twenty years ago, America’s cities were making their initial move to regain some of their luster. This was largely due to the work of mayors who were middle-of-the-road pragmatists. Their ranks included Rudy Giuliani in New York, Richard Riordan in Los Angeles, and, perhaps the best of the bunch, Houston’s Bob Lanier. Even liberal San Franciscans elected Frank Jordan, a moderate former police chief who was succeeded by the decidedly pragmatic Willie Brown.     read more »

Progressive Policies Drive More Into Poverty

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Across the nation, progressives increasingly look at California as a model state. This tendency has increased as climate change has emerged as the Democratic Party’s driving issue. To them, California’s recovery from a very tough recession is proof positive that you can impose ever greater regulation on everything from housing to electricity and still have a thriving economy.  read more »

The Really Big Housing Picture

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Everywhere I go it seems there’s some kind of housing crisis. In some places home values are dropping precipitously, people are unable to sell and move on, and formerly middle class homes are being abandoned or converted to poorly maintained rental properties. In other places home values and rents are obscenely high and ordinary people and essential workers are being driven out of whole cities and counties. The national economy has bifurcated and the shrinking middle class is reflected in a two tiered housing market. I’d like to explore the root causes of the situation.  read more »

Rethinking the Scandinavian Model

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During a tour to Paris, Bruce Springsteen explained that his dream was for the US to adapt a Swedish style welfare state. The famous musician is far from alone in idealizing Nordic policies. The four Nordic nations (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden) are often regarded as prime role-models the policies to be emulated by others. Internationally, advocates of left of centre policies view these countries as examples of how high tax social democratic systems are viable and successful.  read more »