Urban Issues

Kauai, Hawaii: Local Merchants Make Waves

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Many have by now heard or read the story of the plucky group of Hawaiians on the island of Kauai who, when faced with the loss of their businesses due to the state government’s inability to open park roads to a popular beach and camping area, took care of it themselves for a fraction of the cost and in a fraction of the time. How very Tocquevellian. Or, better, how very American.  read more »

The Fate of America’s Homebuilders: The Changing Landscape of America

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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.

History will record that the tectonic plates of our financial world began to drift apart in the fall of 2008. The scale of this change may be most evident in housing.

PART TWO – THE HOME BUILDERS  read more »

Britain's Labour Lessons For Obama

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LONDON - The thrashing of Britain's New Labour Party – which came in a weak third in local and European Parliament elections this week – may seem a minor event compared to Barack Obama's triumphal overseas tour. Yet in many ways the humiliation of New Labour should send some potential warning shots across the bow of the good ship Obama.  read more »

The Gambler King of Clark Street, the Origin of Chicago's Political Machine

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Long before Chicago sold off its assets, made plastic cows parade and outlawed goose guts, there was Michael Cassius McDonald, Big Mike. Where the Chicago Machine now grinds the citizen with Progressive idiocies, Mike McDonald and other Machine Mavericks like the Lords of the Levee appeared to actually help people. Vice and Government have gone hand-in-hand since Solon tried to reason with Croesus – Hesiod tells us that political corruption sparks political thought. The life of Michael Cassius McDonald was active and thought-provoking.  read more »

The Real Mayor of Chicago

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Most Americans living outside the Chicago area identify the city with Oprah, Obama, or Michael Jordan. When the subject of who really runs Chicago comes up, most people would say Mayor Daley. Chicago's lack of term limits and persistent political machine have kept Mayor Daley in office for over 20 years.

Those who know Chicago politics know there's one man who's more powerful than Mayor Daley, Alderman Ed Burke. Mayor Daley may be the identifiable public face of Chicago's political system and act as a lightning rod for criticism, but the lower profile Alderman Burke wields the real power.  read more »

Salinas and Self-Governance

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“Man is the only kind of varmint who sets his own trap, baits it, then steps in it.” — John Steinbeck

Though probably not intended as a political commentary, Steinbeck’s utterance perfectly describes the current California budget crisis. And, given the revenue and service delivery relationship between cities and the state, traps can be set and baited in Sacramento, leaving mayors, city councils and city managers to step in them.  read more »

North America’s High Tech Economy: The Geography of Knowledge-Based Industries

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Almost ten-years ago, the Milken Institute first released America’s High-Tech Economy which cataloged technology’s central role in propelling economic growth in high-wage jobs and value-added economic activity. Shortly thereafter, the dot-com and high-tech bubbles popped, leading many to conclude that the era of tech-driven economic development was over.  read more »

Subjects:

Is Your City Safe From The Tech Bust?

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A decade ago, the path to a successful future seemed sure. Secure a foothold in the emerging information economy, and your city or region was destined to boom.

That belief, as it turned out, was misguided.

In the decade between 1997 and 2007, the information sector--which includes jobs in fields from media, publishing and broadcasting to computer programming, data processing, telecommunications and Internet publishing--has barely created a single new net job, while some 16,000,000 were created in other fields.  read more »

San Jose, California: Bustling Metropolis or Bedroom Community?

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Dionne Warwick posed the question more than 40 years ago, yet most Americans still don’t know ‘The way to San Jose’. Possessing neither the international cachet of San Francisco nor the notoriety of Oakland, San Jose continues to fly under the national radar in comparison to its Bay Area compatriots. Even with its self-proclaimed status as the ‘Heart of Silicon Valley’, many would be hard pressed to locate San Jose on a map of California.  read more »

Project Development: Regulation and Roulette

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The site plan logically should be the key to approval of a development project. Yet in reality, the plan is secondary to the presentation. My conclusions are based upon experience with well over a thousand developments over four decades, most in the mainland USA. And what I’ve observed is that the best site plan is only as good as the presentation that will convince the council or planning commission to vote “Yes” on it. No “yes” vote, no deal, no development.  read more »