Chicago: The Cost of Clout


The Chicago Tribune has been running a series on the challenges facing the next mayor. One entry was about the Chicago economy. It described the sad reality of how Chicago’s economy is in the tank, and has been underperforming the nation for the last few years. I’ll highlight the part about challenges building an innovation and tech economy in Chicago:  read more »

The Next Urban Challenge — And Opportunity


In the next two years, America’s large cities will face the greatest existential crisis in a generation. Municipal bonds are in the tank, having just suffered the worst quarterly performance in more than 16 years, a sign of flagging interest in urban debt.  read more »

The Other Chambers of Commerce


The recent political conflict between the Obama Administration and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has thrown a new spotlight on an old communication problem. Local chambers of commerce, although they predate the U.S. Chamber by nearly a century and a half, often are assumed to be part of the U.S. Chamber, or otherwise under its direction. They aren’t. They are independent.  read more »

The Privatization-Industrial Complex


“I think this is just the latest way for people to make money off state and local governments. This is the new way the investment banks, their lawyers, and consultants squeeze the taxpayers....They’re going around making these deals, and it’s very lucrative. It’s like a circus coming to town.” - Clint Krislov

Privatization has long been advocated by many conservatives as a good government measure. Traditionally, privatization was used a tool that subjects government monopolies to competition from the marketplace, driving down costs and improving quality of service. Privatization pioneer Steve Goldsmith, former mayor of Indianapolis and now deputy mayor of New York City, used to apply what he called the “Yellow Pages test.” If he could open the Yellow Pages and find several companies providing a service, he wondered why government should be in that business.  read more »

Despite Transit's 2008 Peak, Longer Term Market Trend is Down: A 25 Year Report on Transit Ridership


In 2008, US transit posted its highest ridership since 1950, a development widely noted and celebrated in the media. Ridership had been increasing for about a decade, however, 2008 coincided with the highest gasoline prices in history, which gave transit a boost.  read more »

Don't Mess With Texas


One of the most ironic aspects of our putative "Age of Obama" is how little impact it has had on the nation's urban geography. Although the administration remains dominated by boosters from traditional blue state cities--particularly the president's political base of Chicago--the nation's metropolitan growth continues to shift mostly toward a handful of Sunbelt red state metropolitan areas.  read more »

SPECIAL REPORT: Metropolitan Area Migration Mirrors Housing Affordability


On schedule, the annual ritual occurred last week in which the Census Bureau releases population and migration estimates and the press announces that people are no longer moving to the Sun Belt. The coverage by The Wall Street Journal was typical of the media bias, with a headline “Sun Belt Loses its Shine.” In fact, the story is more complicated – and more revealing about future trends.

Domestic Migration Tracks Housing Affordability: There have been changes in domestic migration (people moving from one part of the country to another) trends in the last few years, but the principal association is with housing affordability.  read more »

Mayor Daley’s Report Card


In December of 2010 Mayor Daley will become Chicago’s longest serving Mayor. In office since 1989, he will surpass the record held by his father. In the March issue of The New Yorker magazine, journalist Evan Osnos has a long article on Mayor Daley. The front cover of the magazine calls Daley, “America’s most successful mayor”.  read more »

The Myth of the Strong Center


At the height of the foreclosure crisis the problems experienced by some so-called “sprawl” markets, like Phoenix and San-Bernardino-Riverside, led some observers to see the largest price declines as largely confined to outer ring suburbs. Some analysts who had long been predicting (even hoping for) the demise of the suburbs skipped right over analysis to concoct theories not supported by the data. The mythology was further enhanced by the notion – never proved – that high gas prices were forcing home buyers closer to the urban core.  read more »

The Limits Of Politics


Reversing the general course of history, economics or demography is never easy, despite even the most dogged efforts of the best-connected political operatives working today.

Since the 2006 elections – and even more so after 2008 – blue-state politicians have enjoyed a monopoly of power unprecedented in recent history. Hardcore blue staters control virtually every major Congressional committee, as well as the House Speakership and the White House. Yet they still have proved incapable of reversing the demographic and economic decline in the nation's most "progressive" cities and states.  read more »