Suburbs

Detroit: Urban Laboratory and the New American Frontier

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The troubles of Detroit are well-publicized. Its economy is in free fall, people are streaming for the exits, it has the worst racial polarization and city-suburb divide in America, its government is feckless and corrupt (though I should hasten to add that new Mayor Bing seems like a basically good guy and we ought to give him a chance), and its civic boosters, even ones that are extremely knowledgeable, refuse to acknowledge the depth of the problems, instead ginning up stats and anecdotes to prove all is not so bad.  read more »

Housing Design: Create The Next Classic

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I often compare home marketing to automotive marketing, not because I was raised in Detroit and am somewhat of a motor head, but because these are two very big ticket items that have been developed and marketed in very different ways. You may think that auto companies are huge corporate conglomerates, and builders are mostly small, local companies selling a home or two, but the major builders certainly are not small concerns. A major builder selling 50,000 homes at $250,000 each would generate the same total income as a small auto company selling 500,000 cars at $25,000 each.  read more »

Subjects:

Home-Based Businesses: Residential Zoning and The Cyber Village

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Currently in the United States about 27% of all homes have some form of a home based business. These businesses can be key to conservation efforts that lower our carbon footprint by reducing transportation needs, eliminating redundant facilities, and consolidating equipment. They provide significant opportunities for two solutions to problems that face today’s growth issues.  read more »

The White City

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Among the media, academia and within planning circles, there’s a generally standing answer to the question of what cities are the best, the most progressive and best role models for small and mid-sized cities. The standard list includes Portland, Seattle, Austin, Minneapolis, and Denver. In particular, Portland is held up as a paradigm, with its urban growth boundary, extensive transit system, excellent cycling culture, and a pro-density policy. These cities are frequently contrasted with those of the Rust Belt and South, which are found wanting, often even by locals, as “cool” urban places.

But look closely at these exemplars and a curious fact emerges. If you take away the dominant Tier One cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles you will find that the “progressive” cities aren’t red or blue, but another color entirely: white.  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 »

Homebuilding Rebound… Or Boredom in the Burbs?

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The economy might come back – but will the housing market return? And in what form?

Right now, builders are jumping into the low end of the market because of the $8,000 first time home buyer tax credit. This tax credit cannot survive indefinitely. Compared to homes sold in 2006, today's are bare bones in size, materials and finishes in response to current, temporary market conditions. But the scrimping only makes the homes built in yesterday’s developments more attractive to potential buyers. The next wave of home buyers will have a choice: stay where they are, move to a more recently built (devalued) home, or buy new.  read more »

How Smart Growth Disadvantages African-Americans & Hispanics

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It was more than 45 years ago that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. enunciated his “Dream” to a huge throng on the Capitol Mall. There is no doubt that substantial progress toward ethnic equality has been achieved since that time, even to the point of having elected a Black US President.

The Minority Home Ownership Gap: But there is some way to go. Home ownership represents the core of the “American Dream” that was certainly a part of Dr. King’s vision. Yet, there remain significant gap in homeownership by ethnicity.  read more »

The Crisis of Academic Urban Planning

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A wide gulf has opened up between mainstream Australian values and the prescriptions of our urban planning academics. So much so that the latter are at risk of degenerating into a cult. While it’s usually unfair to criticise a group in generalised terms, there are ample grounds in this case. Anyone who doubts the existence of an urban planning “establishment” in and around the Australian university system, and that it’s in thrall to ultra-green groupthink, should revisit some recent correspondence to our newspapers.  read more »