Religious Freedom or A Tax-Free Ride?

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The furor over a mosque in Manhattan has swirled around issues of personal freedom and collective tolerance. But very little of the discussion has focused on the pros and cons of construction of places of worship in our cities and suburbs, or on their tax status. In a country that displays high rates of worship and has a growing population, it’s to be expected that religious spaces would be on the increase. Yet, like all things that are added to the built environment, churches, synagogues, temples and even meeting halls can have a negative impact on those who live in the area.  read more »

Environmentalism as Religion


Traditional religion is having a tough time in parts of the world. Majorities in most European countries have told Gallup pollsters in the last few years that religion does not “occupy an important place” in their lives. Across Europe, Judeo-Christian church attendance is down, as is adherence to religious prohibitions such as those against out-of-wedlock births. And while Americans remain, on average, much more devout than Europeans, there are demographic and regional pockets in this country that resemble Europe in their religious beliefs and practices.  read more »

Portland Metro's Competitiveness Problem


Portland Metro's president, David Bragdon, recently resigned to take a position with New York’s Bloomberg administration. Bragdon was nearing the end of his second elected term and ineligible for another term. Metro is the three county (Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties) planning agency that oversees Portland's land use planning and transportation policies, among the most stringent and pro-transit in the nation.  read more »

The Tea Party and The Great Deconstruction


Some say a Second American Revolution has begun. In the first American Revolution, American militiamen at the Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts, fired the Shot Heard Round the World at British Redcoats on April 19, 1775.

The Shot Heard Round the World in the Second American Revolution was the surprise election of Scott Brown, again in Massachusetts, on January 19, 2010. The bullets fired were ballots as a Tea Party-backed candidate captured the “Kennedy seat” in the US Senate.  read more »

Political Decisions Matter in State Economic Performance


California has pending legislation, AB 2529, to require an economic impact analysis of proposed new regulation. Its opponents correctly point out that AB 2529 will delay and increase the cost of new regulation. There will be lawsuits and arguments over the proper methodology and over assumptions. It is not easy to complete a thorough and unbiased economic impact analysis.

Should California incur the costs and delays of economic impact studies?  read more »

High Speed Rail: Fast Track To Nowhere

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Given that Warren Buffett ponied up $44 billion in cash and stock to take private the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, I wonder why President Obama is betting that the way to lift the country out of stagnant growth is to invest another $50 billion, in public funds, to swing aboard the dream of high-speed intercity rail.

According to the administration, new money needs to be allocated to such high-speed rail (HSR) projects as those between San Diego and Sacramento, Orlando and Tampa, and — my personal boondoggle favorite — the DesertXpress between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, a $4 billion bet that getting high-rollers to the blackjack tables will lift the U.S. economy out of its doldrums.  read more »


Why Housing Will Come Back


Few icons of the American way of life have suffered more in recent years than  homeownership. Since the bursting of the housing bubble, there has been a steady drumbeat from the factories of futurist punditry that the notion of owning a home will, and, more importantly, should become out of reach for most Americans.  read more »

Urban Plight: Vanishing Upward Mobility


Since the beginnings of civilization, cities have been crucibles of progress both for societies and individuals. A great city, wrote Rene Descartes in the seventeenth century, represented “an inventory of the possible,” a place where people could create their own futures and lift up their families.

What characterized great cities such as Amsterdam—and, later, places such as London, New York , Chicago, and Tokyo—was the size of their property-owning middle class. This was a class whose roots, for the most part, lay in the peasantry or artisan class, and later among industrial workers. Their ascension into the ranks of the bourgeoisie, petit or haute, epitomized the opportunities for social advancement created uniquely by cities.  read more »

Fortress Australia: Groundhog Day


A decade ago, politics in Australia lurched to embrace all things rural, happily demonizing urban interests. This happened in response to a renegade Politician – Pauline Hanson – who for a time captured public sympathy with populist anti-immigration sentiments, threatening to unseat entire governments in the process.  read more »

The Livable Communities Act: A Report Card


With much fanfare, the Banking Committee of the United States Senate approved the Livable Communities Act (S. 1619, introduced by Democratic Senator Dodd of Connecticut). A purpose of the act is expressed as:

...to make the combined costs of housing and transportation more affordable to families.

The Livable Communities Act would provide financial incentives for metropolitan areas to adopt "livability" policies, which are otherwise known as "smart growth," "growth management" or "compact city" polices.  read more »