North By Midwest: Minneapolis-St. Paul as the Capital of the North


In November, I joined an overflow crowd at the Walker Arts Center to hear a panel discussion entitled Midwest? The Past, Present, and Future of Minnesota’s Identity. The discussion stemmed from common questions of identity, and proposed that Minnesota and the Twin Cities secede from the “Midwest” and claim ownership of a new region: the North. You might have heard about this, perhaps from the Star Tribune’s original write-up. There are some powerful people behind the movement. It’s the brainchild of Eric Dayton, son of the governor and owner of The Bachelor Farmer restaurant and the Askov Finlayson clothing store.  read more »

Rise of the Nation-States


In this highly polarized political environment, states and localities, are ever more taking on the character of separate countries. Washington’s gridlock is increasingly matched by decisive, often “go it alone” polices from local authorities. Rather than create a brave, increasingly federalized second New Deal, the Obama years, particularly since the Republicans took control of the House in 2010, have seen discord rise to a level more akin to that left by James Buchanan, the last president before the Civil War, than Franklin Roosevelt.  read more »

Misunderstanding the Millennials


The millennial generation has had much to endure – a still-poor job market, high housing prices and a generally sour political atmosphere. But perhaps the final indignity has been the tendency for millennials to be spoken for by older generations, notably, well-placed boomers, who often seem to impose their own ideological fantasies, without actually finding out what the younger cohort really wants. The reality, in this case, turns out far different than what is bespoken by others.  read more »

What’s This Place For?


I was recently asked by Gracen Johnson (check out her site here) to elaborate on the possible future of suburbia. How are the suburbs likely to fare over time? This coincided with a city planner friend of mine who asked a more poignant question about the suburban community he helps manage. “What’s this place for?” If we can answer that question we might be able to get a handle on the possible trajectories of various suburbs.  read more »

The Three Faces of Populism


More than at any other time in recent memory, American politics now are centered on class and the declining prospects of the middle class. This is no longer just an issue for longtime leftists or Democratic or right-wing propagandists. It’s a reality so large that even the most detached and self-satisfied Republicans must acknowledge it.

The Left’s new superstar, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, identifies inequality as “the dominant issue in our public discourse” but similar assessments have recently been coming from such unlikely sources as GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Jeb Bush and even Mitt Romney.  read more »

Europe Is Still a Second-Rate Power


In the years after the Cold War, much was written about Europe’s emergence as the third great force in the global political economy, alongside Asia and the United States. Some, such as former French President Francois Mitterand’s eminence grise Jacques Attali, went even further: in his 1991 book Millenium Attali predicted that in the 21st century, “Japan and Europe may supplant the United States as the chief superpowers.”  read more »

50 Years of US Poverty: 1960 to 2010


Although inequality is the current focus of concern with income, it is in the end a story of the rich, the middle and the poor, who of course have not gone away.  It is valuable to remind ourselves, particularly the young, about how pervasive poverty was 50 years ago, how poverty declined markedly between 1960 and 1980, after which it has risen again. Most important is to understand what led to the poverty reduction between 1960 and 1980, in order to further understand the power and lure of forces which would return us to the good old days of 1960, or before!.  read more »

The New New Thing: Suburban Bunker Buildings


I have a theory about where the next culturally dynamic neighborhoods are likely to emerge and which building types will be the engine of that transformation. It may not be exactly what most people expect.  read more »

America Needs The Texas Economy To Keep On Rolling


In the last decade, Texas emerged as America’s new land of opportunity — if you will, America’s America. Since the start of the recession, the Lone Star State has been responsible for the majority of employment growth in the country. Between November  2007 and November 2014, the United States gained  a net 2.1 million jobs, with 1.2 million alone in Texas.  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 »