Planning

Detroit: Urban Laboratory and the New American Frontier

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The troubles of Detroit are well-publicized. Its economy is in free fall, people are streaming for the exits, it has the worst racial polarization and city-suburb divide in America, its government is feckless and corrupt (though I should hasten to add that new Mayor Bing seems like a basically good guy and we ought to give him a chance), and its civic boosters, even ones that are extremely knowledgeable, refuse to acknowledge the depth of the problems, instead ginning up stats and anecdotes to prove all is not so bad.  read more »

Report from Orlando: The Spirit Rocks On

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By Richard Reep

“In hard times, people turn to God or alcohol” jokes Bud Johnson of Constructwire, a database that tracks planning and construction projects nationwide. Johnson, 50, is an industry veteran and has never seen a recession like this in his career. “This is an exceptionally broad-based downturn,” he says, “and Orlando has been hit harder than most in the South, what with your only real industries being housing and tourism.” Both industries have been trapped like mammoths in a glacier as the credit market stays stubbornly frozen in a modern banking Ice Age.  read more »

Home-Based Businesses: Residential Zoning and The Cyber Village

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Currently in the United States about 27% of all homes have some form of a home based business. These businesses can be key to conservation efforts that lower our carbon footprint by reducing transportation needs, eliminating redundant facilities, and consolidating equipment. They provide significant opportunities for two solutions to problems that face today’s growth issues.  read more »

The White City

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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 »

The Compromise by the Lake

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Toronto is a nice city.

If that seems like faint praise, then so be it; I'm not a great Toronto fan. Don't get me wrong. It is a wonderful city for the tourist, and temporary residents I know swear by the place. But it's not my kind of town.

I spent much time in Toronto in the 1980s and 90s. My first visit must have been in 1970 or so, and I was last there on a very cold, January day in 2003.  read more »

E-Government: City Management Faces Facebook

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Does a City Manager belong on Facebook?

Erasmus, the Dutch theologian and scholar, in 1500 wrote, "In the country of the blind the one-eyed man is king." I feel this way in the land of social media — at least among city and county managers.  read more »

There’s No Place Like Home, Americans are Returning to Localism

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On almost any night of the week, Churchill's Restaurant is hopping. The 10-year-old hot spot in Rockville Centre, Long Island, is packed with locals drinking beer and eating burgers, with some customers spilling over onto the street. "We have lots of regulars—people who are recognized when they come in," says co-owner Kevin Culhane. In fact, regulars make up more than 80 percent of the restaurant's customers. "People feel comfortable and safe here," Culhane says. "This is their place."  read more »

On Cities, GHG Emissions, Apples & Oranges

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Every day or so a new greenhouse gas emission report crosses my desk. Often these reports are very useful, other times they add little of value to the subject. The problem is separating the “wheat” from the “chaff.”

This dilemma is well illustrated by a paper called “Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Global Cities,” authored by 10 academics. I had received notification of the paper from Science Daily, a useful website that provides notification of new research on a wide range of scientific subjects.  read more »

Homebuilding Rebound… Or Boredom in the Burbs?

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The economy might come back – but will the housing market return? And in what form?

Right now, builders are jumping into the low end of the market because of the $8,000 first time home buyer tax credit. This tax credit cannot survive indefinitely. Compared to homes sold in 2006, today's are bare bones in size, materials and finishes in response to current, temporary market conditions. But the scrimping only makes the homes built in yesterday’s developments more attractive to potential buyers. The next wave of home buyers will have a choice: stay where they are, move to a more recently built (devalued) home, or buy new.  read more »

How Smart Growth Disadvantages African-Americans & Hispanics

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It was more than 45 years ago that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. enunciated his “Dream” to a huge throng on the Capitol Mall. There is no doubt that substantial progress toward ethnic equality has been achieved since that time, even to the point of having elected a Black US President.

The Minority Home Ownership Gap: But there is some way to go. Home ownership represents the core of the “American Dream” that was certainly a part of Dr. King’s vision. Yet, there remain significant gap in homeownership by ethnicity.  read more »