Urban Issues

The Draw of Dhaka

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In recent centuries, the principal migration of the world’s population has been from rural areas to urban areas. As late as 1900, less than 20 percent of the world’s population lived in urban areas. That figure has now risen to more than 50 percent. Urbanization occurred earliest in the first world, as the increased wealth produced by the industrial revolution attracted people from the countryside. In 1900, 40 percent of the US population was urban, a figure that had risen to 80 percent by 2005. Trends in Europe, Japan and other first world nations are similar.  read more »

The Republican Party, Pennsylvania and Arlen Specter

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Senator Arlen Specter switched parties. A five term Senator switching parties is certainly news, but it also represents a far greater statement about the challenges facing the Republican Party in Pennsylvania going forward.

Pennsylvania has been a dependable “Blue State” in presidential races since 1988. Currently, Democrats have a 1.2 million voter registration advantage. Less than a decade ago the margin was less than 500,000. What changed over the past decade?  read more »

Here in the Real World They’re Shutting Detroit Down

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Once upon a time, not so long ago, in a city at the heart of the American continent, General Motors produced cars, like Pontiac’s “Little GTO,” celebrated in Beach Boys songs that captured the thrill of driving Detroit’s latest creations. Today, as GM struggles to appease the government’s auditors just to stay alive, Kris Kristofferson, with a little help from Mickey Rourke, curses the financial wizards from Wall Street that are “Shutting Detroit Down” while “livin’ it up in that New York town.”  read more »

The Worst Cities for Job Growth

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One of the saddest tasks in the annual survey of the best places to do business I conduct with Pepperdine University's Michael Shires is examining the cities at the bottom of the list. Yet even in these nether regions there exists considerable diversity: Some places are likely to come back soon, while others have little immediate hope of moving up. (Please also see "Best Cities For Job Growth" for further analysis.)

The study is based on job growth in 336 regions – called Metropolitan Statistical Areas by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which provided the data – across the U.S. Our analysis looked not only at job growth in the last year but also at how employment figures have changed since 1996. This is because we are wary of overemphasizing recent data and strive to give a more complete picture of the potential a region has for job-seekers. (For the complete methodology, click here.)

Playing With Trains

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The Obama administration appears to have established the development of high speed rail (HSR) as the most important plank of its transportation strategy. The effort may be popular with the media and planners, but it’s being promoted largely on the basis of overstatement and even misinformation.  read more »

Can Eddie Mac Solve the Housing Crisis?

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Every downturn comes to an end. Recovery has followed every recession including the Great Depression. In 1932, John D. Rockefeller said, "These are days when many are discouraged. In the 93 years of my life, depressions have come and gone. Prosperity has always returned and will again." The question is not ”IF”, rather it is “WHEN” recovery will begin. The age-old question remains: what can government do to get the nation out of recession?

Government can act wisely. In the past, it used tax legislation (the mortgage interest deduction) to create the highest home ownership rate in the industrialized world. It can also act stupidly by promoting “Sub-Prime” mortgages, “105%” financing and the “No-Doc” loan that got us into this financial mess. As many as 4.4 million more Americans could lose their homes – unless drastic action is taken to stop the process.  read more »

Big Movers – Up and Down the 2009 Best Cities Rankings

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In a year when modest – if not negligible – growth could nudge a city toward the top of the Best Cities for Jobs rankings you would suspect there to be little opportunity for big leaps up the scale. On the other hand, one could easily expect that there would be some places whose economic fortunes would resemble a vertigo-inducing fall.

A look at the 2009 rankings confirms that there are many cities whose job-creating engines have sputtered.  read more »

Sydney: From World City to “Sick Man” of Australia

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Americans have their “American Dream” of home ownership. Australians go one step further. They have a “Great Australian Dream” of home ownership. This was all part of a culture that celebrated its egalitarian ethos. Yet, to an even greater degree than in the United States, the “Dream” is in the process of being extinguished. It all started and is the worst in Sydney.

Sydney is Australia’s largest urban area, having passed Melbourne in the last half of the 19th century. With an urban area population of approximately 3.6 million, Sydney leads Melbourne by nearly 300,000.  read more »

Planning: A Shout-Out For Local Players

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More than a century ago, Rudyard Kipling, in his American Notes, shared his views on the character of the US. Along with remarks about the American penchant for tobacco spitting, Kipling recounted the near heroic ability of Americans to govern themselves, especially in small cities and towns. Traveling through the town he called “Musquash” (a pseudonym for Beaver, Pennsylvania) in 1889, Kipling described “good citizens” who participated in “settling its own road-making, local cesses [taxes], town-lot arbitrations, and internal government.”  read more »

America's Four Great Growth Waves and the World Cities They Produced

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There have been four great growth waves in American history. In each case, there was an attractive new frontier, which not only drew migrating waves of people seeking new opportunity, but also developed large new bases of industry, wealth, and power. These waves have also created top-tier world cities in their wake. The first three of these waves were:  read more »