Small Cities

When Granny Comes Marching Home Again... Multi-Generational Housing

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During the first ten days of October 2008, the Dow Jones dropped 2,399.47 points, losing 22.11% of its value and trillions of investor equity. The Federal Government pushed a $700 billion bail-out through Congress to rescue the beleaguered financial institutions. The collapse of the financial system in the fall of 2008 was likened to an earthquake. In reality, what happened was more like a shift of tectonic plates.

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The driveway tells the story. The traditional two-story 2,200 square foot suburban home has a two-car attached garage. Today’s multi-generational families fill the garage, the driveway and often also occupy the curb in front of the home. The economic crisis that is transforming America is also changing the way we live. The outcome will change the way America views its housing needs for the balance of the 21st Century.  read more »

So Much for Evidence-Based Planning

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Has evidence-based planning fallen from grace in favour of catchy slogans and untested assumptions? In the case of urban planning, arguably that is just what’s happened. The evidence, in Australia at least, is worrying.

“We must get people out of cars and onto public transport.” “We must stop urban sprawl and the consumption of valuable land.” “We must build higher density communities to achieve sustainable environmental outcomes.” Phrases like this are now de rigueur across many discussions about urban planning in the media, in politics and in regulatory circles in Australia. They are rarely challenged on the basis of what the actual social, economic or scientific evidence is really saying.  read more »

Bangor or Bust: Navigating To Thanksgiving At Grandma's

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Everything that is the matter with America’s transportation and energy policies can be understood by attempting to travel with a family from New York City to Bangor, Maine.

I use Bangor for my example — although places like Louisville, Columbus, Lynchburg, and Wheeling would work just as well because — for better and for worse — I, (a New Yorker) married into a Maine family in the early 1980s. For the last twenty-five years I have devoted countless waking hours to plotting connections to family reunions, as I have once again done for this Thanksgiving.  read more »

Obama Still Can Save His Presidency

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A good friend of mine, a Democratic mayor here in California, describes the Obama administration as "Moveon.org run by the Chicago machine." This combination may have been good enough to beat John McCain in 2008, but it is proving a damned poor way to run a country or build a strong, effective political majority. And while the president's charismatic talent – and the lack of such among his opposition – may keep him in office, it will be largely as a kind of permanent lame duck unable to make any of the transformative changes he promised as a candidate.  read more »

Congress and the Administration Take Aim at Local Democracy

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Local democracy has been a mainstay of the US political system. This is evident from the town hall governments in New England to the small towns that the majority of Americans choose to live in today.

In most states and metropolitan areas, substantial policy issues – such as zoning and land use decisions – are largely under the control of those who have a principal interest: local voters who actually live in the nation’s cities, towns, villages, townships and unincorporated county areas. This may be about to change.  read more »

Getting Real About “Green” Jobs

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Over the past year, Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc. (EMSI) has been fielding questions from local planners (workforce boards, community colleges, and economic developers) on how to look at green jobs, particularly at the regional level. Perhaps nothing has been more hyped, or misunderstood, than the potential impact of this sector on local economies.

In order to wade through the rhetoric and often overblown expectations, we’ve been doing our best to link labor market data to potential green sectors so people can gain an understanding of trends, earnings, education levels, and skills associated with “green occupation clusters”. So far, we have made three general observations:  read more »

Stimulate Yourself!

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Beltway politicians and economists can argue themselves silly about the impact of the Obama administration's stimulus program, but outside the beltway the discussion is largely over. On the local level--particularly outside the heavily politicized big cities--the consensus seems to be that the stimulus has changed little--if anything.

Recently, I met with a couple of dozen mayors and city officials in Kentucky to discuss economic growth. The mayors spoke of their initiatives and ideas, yet hardly anyone mentioned the stimulus.  read more »

Wikigovernment: Crowd Sourcing Comes To City Hall

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Understanding the potential role of social media such as blogs, twitter, Facebook, You Tube, and all the rest in local government begins with better understanding the democratic source of our mission of community service. The council-manager form of local government arose a century ago in response to the "shame of the cities" — the crisis of local government corruption and gross inefficiency.  read more »

E-Government: City Management Faces Facebook

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Does a City Manager belong on Facebook?

Erasmus, the Dutch theologian and scholar, in 1500 wrote, "In the country of the blind the one-eyed man is king." I feel this way in the land of social media — at least among city and county managers.  read more »

There’s No Place Like Home, Americans are Returning to Localism

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On almost any night of the week, Churchill's Restaurant is hopping. The 10-year-old hot spot in Rockville Centre, Long Island, is packed with locals drinking beer and eating burgers, with some customers spilling over onto the street. "We have lots of regulars—people who are recognized when they come in," says co-owner Kevin Culhane. In fact, regulars make up more than 80 percent of the restaurant's customers. "People feel comfortable and safe here," Culhane says. "This is their place."  read more »