Small Cities

A Better Way


My recent post at Granola Shotgun described how a town in Georgia spent an enormous amount of public money on a new civic center and road expansions, but somehow managed to devalue nearby private property in the process. Here’s an example of a neighborhood in Nashville, Tennessee that took a different approach that cost a lot less and achieved a radically better set of outcomes.  read more »

Local Govt. Control: The Ignored Campaign Issue


In an election cycle full of spittle and bile, arguably the greatest issue --- the nature of governance and the role of citizens --- has been all but ignored. Neither candidate for president has much feel for the old American notion of dispersed power. Instead each has his or her own plans for ever greater centralization: Trump by the force of his enormous narcissistic self-regard; Hillary Clintonthrough the expansion of the powers increasingly invested in the federal regulatory apparatus.  read more »

Our Town: Restoring Localism


This is an introduction to a new report from the Center for Opportunity Urbanism, "Our Town: Restoring Localism." Download the full report here.

America is facing a critical moment in its evolution, one that threatens both its future prosperity and the integrity of its institutions. Over the past several decades, government has become increasingly centralized, with power shifting from local communities to the federal level. This has been accompanied by a decline in non-governmental institutions, a matter of concern to thinkers on both the right and the left.  read more »

A Window Into the World of Working Class Collapse


Some time back my brother recommended I watch the documentary film Medora, about a high school basketball team from rural Southern Indiana. I finally got around to doing it.

Someone described this film as an “inverse Hoosiers“, which is an apt description. Hoosiers is a fictional retelling of the Milan Miracle, the legendary story of how tiny Milan High School (enrollment 161) won the state’s then single-class basketball championship in 1954.  read more »

How Art Critics Create Community

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Orlando has taken on a new “web city” form. Its dispersal over a wide geographical area allows distinct and unique pockets of culture to arise within it, a kind of archipelago of art and design. It is a microcosm of the archipelago of many Florida cities. The overall effect is marvelous, if somewhat diluted by distance, and the broad metropolitan area has come to be a proving ground for artists, architects, and urban designers. As an artist and designer commenting on these topics, the single biggest trend I have seen in the last fifteen or so years is a growing sense of maturation.  read more »

Population Change, 2015: Not Very Good News for Those Angry White Men


Data on population growth from 2010 to 2015 show a continuing concentration of people in metropolitan areas, especially in the large areas with over a million people, where presumably traditional values are most challenged.  I show an amazing table, in which I have disaggregated population change by type of settlement, from the million-metro areas to the purely rural counties, comparing growth amounts and rates, plus noting how these areas actually voted in 2012.  read more »

Urban Future: The Revolt Against Central Planning

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In Milton Keynes, perhaps the most radical of Britain’s post-Second World War “New Towns,” the battle over Brexit and the culture war that it represents is raging hard. There, the consequences of EU immigration policy, of planning instituted by national authority, and of the grassroots yearning to preserve local character have clashed together to shape a platform that may set a precedent for whether central planners or local residents will determine the urban future.  read more »

The Best Small And Medium-Size Cities For Jobs 2016


When we look at how the U.S. economy is performing, we usually focus on the largest metropolitan areas. But some 29% of non-farm jobs in the U.S. are in small and midsize metro areas. And since they tend to be less economically diverse and more volatile, these metro areas often are where we can more clearly see the fissures in the economy — the sectors that are growing, and which are shrinking.  read more »

What the Midwest can learn from the Middle East

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Why is Saudi Arabia suddenly the pit stop of choice for an impressive laundry list of major companies? How is it positioned among the growing number of Middle-Eastern industrial free zones? And should Rust Belt cities like Cincinnati look this way for answers?

If a nation's cities are the products of their ingredients, the Saudi Arabian pantry leaves much to be desired, with a grueling climate, a monopolistic economy built on the extraction of fossil fuels, looming regional threats, and conservative social practices that hinder freedoms, especially for women.  read more »


Florida's Interstate-Adjacent Fantasy

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As 2015 wanes, many swimming in Florida’s new wave of growth are still being carried by a swift current. Everywhere one gazes, new apartments can be seen that accommodate some of the million-plus new residents who have moved here in the last five years. With over 140,000 people migrating to Florida from other states during 2014, and over 100,000 people moving to Florida from other countries, Florida’s GDP is predicted to have grown 3.2% in 2015, the highest in the country and well ahead of the national average. The tide has definitely come in.

For natives and long-term residents, it feels like everyone up north woke up one Tuesday morning and said, “Hey honey, let’s quit our jobs, move to Florida, and get an apartment overlooking the interstate.” From Tampa to Daytona, mid-rise wood frame structures loom over semi-trucks and cars that whizz by, a new voyeur culture in the making.  read more »