Policy

Buffalo, You Are Not Alone

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It hurts. When a bigtime Harvard economist writes off your city as a loss, and says America should turn its back on you, it hurts. But Ed Glaeser’s dart tossing is but the smallest taste of what it’s like to live in place like Buffalo. To choose to live in the Rust Belt is to commit to enduring a continuous stream of bad press and mockery.

I write mostly about the Midwest, but whether we think Midwest or Rust Belt or something else altogether, the story is the same. From Detroit to Cleveland, Buffalo to Birmingham, there are cities across this country that are struggling for a host of historic and contemporary reasons. We’ve moved from the industrial to the global age, and many cities truly have lost their original economic raison d’etre.  read more »

Gary Hustwit's "Urbanized" Re-lighting Debate on Cities

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Gary Hustwit’s new film, “Urbanized,” is the third in his series of documentaries concerning design.  In his first two films, he looks at consumer product design and the global visual culture.  The existential problem of the city, an urgent one about which much of this website is concerned, is scarcely treated in our contemporary mainstream, and Hustwit’s effort is laudable. In this film, he tackles urban design, introducing ideas about how cities should – and should not – accommodate growth.  “Urbanized” tends to favor the big idea over the small, and airs the conventional wisdom of the urban design community.  In doing so, he brings to the public an important debate, but he misses some opportunities to explore change in the urban realm.  read more »

Subjects:

Addressing Workforce Shortages in the Dakotas

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While not immune to the recession, the upper Great Plains is in a different economic situation from the rest of the nation. Growth coupled with low unemployment means more strain on the region’s workforce, making it tougher for employers to find the workers they need. It's not so much about jobs anymore, but about finding the right workers.  read more »

The Sorry State of American Transport

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We constantly read about the infrastructure crisis in America. I’ll have more to say on this at a future date, but it is pretty clear that we need to spend more money in a whole lot of areas: airports, roads and bridges, public transportation, and more.

Yet it’s very easy to see that so much of what ails transport has nothing to do with a lack of funds and everything to do with a lack of will. I took a train ride on the Northeast corridor last week that really drove it home to me.  read more »

The Ultimate Houston Strategy

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Last week was the 7th anniversary of my blog, Houston Strategies. After 947 posts (cream of the crop here), almost half a million visitors, and thousands of comments in an epic dialogue about Houston, I thought this would be a good time stand back, look at the big picture, and ask "What should be next for Houston?" while linking back to some of the gems from that archive.  read more »

Time for Real Solutions to Vancouver's Housing Affordability Crisis

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Vancouver is in desperate need of new solutions to ease its worsening housing affordability crisis. The 8th annual Demographia housing affordability survey released by the Frontier Centre found that Vancouver has the second least affordable housing market next to Hong Kong. On average, and assuming zero interest, a house in Vancouver would cost the median family more than ten years income.  read more »

Shale Revolution Challenges the Left and the Right

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In his State of the Union address, President Obama invoked the 30-year history of federal support for new shale gas drilling technologies to defend his present day investments in green energy. Obama stressed the value of shale gas—which will create thousands of jobs and billions in profits—as part of his "all of the above" approach to energy, and defended the critical role government investment has always played in developing new energy technologies, from nuclear to solar panels to wind turbines.  read more »

Don’t Bet Against The (Single-Family) House

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Nothing more characterizes the current conventional wisdom than the demise of the single-family house. From pundits like Richard Florida to Wall Street investors, the thinking is that the future of America will be characterized increasingly by renters huddling together in small apartments, living the lifestyle of the hip and cool — just like they do in New York, San Francisco and other enlightened places.  read more »

Clues from the Past: The Midwest as an Aspirational Region

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This piece is an except from a new report on the Great Lakes Region for the Sagamore Institue. Download the pdf version for the full report including charts and maps on the region.

The American Great Lakes region has long been a region defined by the forces of production, both agricultural and industrial. From the 1840s on, the region forged a legacy of productive power, easily surpassing the old northeast as the primary center of American industrial and agricultural might.  read more »

Time to Rethink This Experiment? Delusion Down Under

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The famous physicist, Albert Einstein, was noted for his powers of observation and rigorous observance of the scientific method. It was insanity, he once wrote, to repeat the same experiment over and over again, and to expect a different outcome. With that in mind, I wonder what Einstein would make of the last decade and a bit of experimentation in Queensland’s urban planning and development assessment?   read more »