Small Cities

Rethinking College Towns

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As a practitioner in both consulting and local government, I have observed that in local communities nothing seems to prompt productive action better than a local crisis or strongly felt threat like a factory closure. 

Unfortunately, we are often inclined to take action to close the barn door only after the horse has escaped.  read more »

California: Codes, Corruption And Consensus

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We Californians like collaboration. Before we do things here, we consult all of the “stakeholders.” We have hearings, studies, reviews, conferences, charrettes, neighborhood meetings, town halls, and who knows what else. Development in some California cities has become such a maze that some people make a fine living guiding developers through the process, helping them through the minefields and identifying the rings that need kissing.

Here’s an example. This is a (partial?) list of the groups who will have a say on any proposed project in my city, Ventura:  read more »

Iowa: Not Just the Elderly Waiting to Die

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Stephen Bloom, a journalism professor at the University of Iowa, created quite a stir in Iowa this week with a piece in The Atlantic describing his unique observations on rural Iowa as evidence that it doesn’t deserve its decidedly powerful hand in the vote for the president. After the article appeared last Friday both his colleagues and the massive student body of the state he so harshly criticizes are returning the favor.  read more »

Will You Still House Me When I'm 64?

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In the song by the Beatles, the worry was about being fed and needed at 64. Things have changed. If the Beatles wrote those lyrics today, the worry instead might be about housing.  read more »

Mass Transit: Could Raising Fares Increase Ridership?

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Conventional wisdom dictates that keeping transit fares as low as possible will promote high ridership levels. That isn't entirely incorrect. Holding all else constant, raising fares would have a negative impact on ridership. But allowing the market to set transit fares, when coupled with a number of key reforms could actually increase transit ridership, even if prices increase. In order to implement these reforms, we would need to purge from our minds the idea that public transit is a welfare service that ought to be virtually free in order to accommodate the poor.  read more »

Toyota: How Mississippi Engineered the Blue Springs Deal

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A big crowd gathered earlier today to welcome the first Corolla that rolled off the assembly line at Toyota’s tenth U.S. plant in the tiny hamlet of Blue Springs, Mississippi. Situated in Union County, just 17 miles from Elvis’ hometown of Tupelo, the new plant is the latest new automobile manufacturing facility to fly the flag of a foreign manufacturer in the Deep South.  read more »

More Americans Move to Detached Houses

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In defiance of the conventional wisdom in the national media and among most planning professionals, Americans continue not only to prefer, but to move into single family detached houses. Data from the 2010 American Community Survey indicates that such housing attracted 79.2% of the new households in the 51 major metropolitan areas (over 1,000,000 population) over the past decade.  read more »

HELP WANTED: The North Dakota Boom

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The nation’s unemployment rate has been hovering at nearly nine percent since 2009. But not every state is suffering an employment crisis. In the remote, windswept state of North Dakota, job fairs often bustle with more recruiters than potential workers. The North Dakota unemployment rate hasn’t risen above five percent since 1987.  In the state's oil country, unemployment hovers at around two percent, and pretty much everyone who wants a job—as long as they are old enough and not incarcerated—is employed.  read more »

A Decade in College Degree Attainment

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This week the Census Bureau released its 2010 data from the American Community Survey. The ACS is what contains many of the core demographic characteristics that are frequently opined upon, such as college degree attainment, commute times, etc.  read more »

Are 20th Century Models Relevant to 21st Century Urbanization?

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Analysis of the state of the world’s cities 2010/2011 by UN-Habitat focused on the narrowing urban divide, with 227 million people moving out of slum conditions over the preceding decade.  While acknowledging uncertainty over cause and effect, the report notes that:  read more »