Policy

King Tide

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10,000 years ago San Francisco Bay was a dry grassy valley populated by elephants, zebras, and camels. The planet was significantly cooler and dryer back then. Sea level was lower since glaciers in the north pulled water out of the oceans. The bay isn’t that deep so a relatively small change in sea level pushed the coastline out by twelve miles from its present location. Further back in pre-history when the earth was warmer than today sea level was higher.  read more »

Nixon's Revolutionary Vision for American Governance

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President Nixon, though possessing the instincts and speaking the increasingly conservative language of the mainstream Republican Party all his life (his writings on domestic policy attest to this,) governed within the boundaries set by the New Deal. Where other conservatives like Barry Goldwater had no interest in “streamlining government,” “making it more efficient,” and “promoting welfare,” Nixon sought to do exactly these things.  read more »

Doing What Actually Works

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Last year I engaged in a failed attempt to renovate and expand an old house in an 1890’s era neighborhood in Ohio. It ended badly. So I thought I’d do a follow up on what actually does work given the legal parameters and cultural context.  read more »

Are America’s Cities Doomed to Go Bankrupt?

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I’m a fan of Strong Towns and share their thesis that the biggest sustainability problem with much of suburbia is its financial sustainability.

recent article there about Lafayette, Louisiana has been making the rounds. That city’s public works director made some estimates of infrastructure maintenance costs and which parts of the city turned a “profit” from taxes and which were losses. Here’s their profit and loss map.  read more »

Detroit’s New Streetlights Show Service Rebuilding in Action

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I’ve been arguing that one thing struggling post-industrial cities need to do is take care of their own business, doing things like addressing legacy liabilities and rebuilding of core public services.

Last week I write about Buffalo doing just this by completely re-writing its zoning code and creating a new land use map of the city to bring its planning ordinances up to date for the 21st century.  read more »

Them that’s got shall have. Them that’s not shall lose.

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My family lived in this building when I was a kid in the 1970’s. This was the door to our old apartment. It’s in a nondescript part of the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles. There are a million places just like this all over the Southland. These beige stucco boxes are the workhorses of semi-affordable market rate housing in California. The place hasn’t changed in forty years other than the on-going deferred maintenance.  read more »

The Irony That Could Trip Up Trump's Quest To Make The U.S. Economy 'Great Again'

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Perhaps no president in recent history has more pressure on him to perform economic miracles than Donald Trump. As someone who ran on the promise that he could fix the economy -- and largely won because of it -- Trump faces two severe challenges, one that is largely perceptual and another more critical one that is very real.

To start, Trump must cope with the widespread idea, accepted by much of the media, that we are experiencing something of an “Obama boom.”  read more »

Working-Class Nostalgia

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The first time I presented a paper at an academic conference, I was accused of being nostalgic. My mistake, as my fellow academic pointed out, was that in my bid to find some value in working-class occupational cultures I was guilty of backward looking romanticism. It wasn’t meant to be constructive criticism, but over the years I’ve developed a longstanding interest in the idea of nostalgia which is often attached to working-class life.  read more »

The Demographics of Poverty in Santa Clara County

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Tucked away in the bottom corner of the San Francisco Bay, tech royalty make themselves at home in their silicon castles. Santa Clara County is the wealthiest county in California, and 14th in the nation, boasting an average median household income of $96,310. However, where there are kings, there must be subjects. Despite its affluence, Santa Clara remains one of the most unequal counties in the United States.  read more »

The Futility of Annual Top 10 Predictions

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In every recent year, a black swan event has made top 10 lists appear quaintly naive and unimaginative. Our list is probably no better.

This time of year, top 10 predictions are all the rage. These lists can be interesting and entertaining but how useful are they really?

This question goes to the heart of forecasting. How futile or how useful is an attempt to forecast the economy, or technology, or world events for the next twelve months? There are three answers.  read more »