Urban Issues

An Awakening: The Beginning of the Great Deconstruction


The federal debt climbed above $13 trillion this month. An easier way to define the national debt is to comprehend that we each owe more than $39,000 to the Chinese, Japanese, and Arabs of the Persian Gulf. The budget deficit will exceed $1.5 trillion this year and forty-seven states are running deficits. California has a $19 billion deficit and its legislature’s landmark response was to pass a law banning plastic bags. Our cities are in worse shape. The former mayor of Los Angeles, Richard Riordan, says that a bankruptcy by that city is inevitable.  read more »

The Declining Human Footprint


There are few more bankrupt arguments against suburbanization than the claim that it consumes too much agricultural land. The data is so compelling that even the United States Department of Agriculture says that "our Nation's ability to produce food and fiber is not threatened" by urbanization. There is no doubt that agricultural production takes up less of the country's land than it did before. But urban “sprawl” is not the primary cause. The real reason lies in the growing productivity of American farms.

Since 1950, an area the size of Texas plus Oklahoma (or an area almost as large as France plus Great Britain) has been taken out of agricultural production in the United States, not including any agricultural land taken by new urbanization (Note 1). That is enough land to house all of the world's urban population at the urban density level of the United Kingdom.  read more »

Toronto's G-20 Conference: Financial Boon or Boondoggle?


Ever since the ill fated 1999 WTO meeting in Seattle, there has been some debate over the merits of hosting meetings of international organizations in major cities. Some argue that there are economic spin offs from the tourism generated by these conferences, but others argue that the security costs far outweigh the benefits. In the lead up to the G-20 meeting in Toronto, scheduled for June 26-27, there has been a flurry of controversy over the price tag for conference security.  read more »

Can Europe’s Economy Turn Around If Its Great Cities Continue To Wither?


Europe's Greece crisis has turned the world's attention to the continent's fundamental flaw: burgeoning public spending and sluggish growth in some of its national economies.

To the extent that Europe's more economically fragile countries cannot fix this flaw, Europe poses a global financial risk as toppling EU countries cannot meet their obligations and those left standing cannot prop them up. Only fiscal discipline and boosting growth can save Europe in the long-run.  read more »

The Suburban Exodus: Are We There Yet?


For many years, critics of the suburban lifestyles that most Americans (not to mention Europeans, Japanese, Canadians and Australians) prefer have claimed that high-density housing is under-supplied by the market. This based on an implication that the people increasingly seek to abandon detached suburban housing for higher density multi-family housing.

The Suburbs: Slums of the Future?  read more »

The Future Of America's Working Class


Watford, England, sits at the end of a spur on the London tube's Metropolitan line, a somewhat dreary city of some 80,000 rising amid the pleasant green Hertfordshire countryside. Although not utterly destitute like parts of south or east London, its shabby High Street reflects a now-diminished British dream of class mobility. It also stands as a potential warning to the U.S., where working-class, blue-collar white Americans have been among the biggest losers in the country's deep, persistent recession.  read more »

Racing China: The Australia Housing Bubble


"The writing is on the wall for the Australian dream," according to Professor Joe Flood at the Flinders University Institute for Housing, Urban and Regional Research. That was before recent predictions that Australia's overheated housing market may be headed for even higher prices. Real estate experts have recently predicted a doubling of house prices in all five of the largest metropolitan areas over the next decade.  read more »

Twenty-first Century Electorate’s Heart is in the Suburbs


Even as the nation conducts its critically important decennial census, a demographic picture of the rapidly changing population of the United States is emerging. It underlines how suburban living has become the dominant experience for all key groups in America’s 21st Century Electorate.

While suburban living was once seen as the almost exclusive preserve of the white upper-middle class, a majority of all major American racial and ethnic groups now live in suburbia, according to the newest report on the state of metropolitan America from the Brookings Institute.  read more »

The Broken Ladder: The Threat to Upward Mobility in the Global City


Since the beginnings of civilization, cities have been the crucibles of progress both for societies and individuals. A great city, wrote Rene Descartes in the 17th Century, represented “an inventory of the possible”, a place where people could create their own futures and lift up their families.

In the 21st Century – the first in which the majority of people will live in cities – this unique link between urbanism and upward mobility will become ever more critical. Cities have become much larger. In 1900 London was the world’s largest urban center with seven million people. Today there are three dozen cities with larger populations.  read more »

The Limits Of The Green Machine


Environmentalism is strangely detached from the public's economic goals.

The awful oil spill in the Gulf--as well as the recent coal mine disaster in West Virginia--has added spring to the step of America's hugely influential environmental lobby. After years of hand-wringing over global warming (aka climate change), the greens now have an issue that will play to legitimate public concerns for weeks and months ahead.

This is as it should be. Strong support for environmental regulation--starting particularly under our original "green president," Richard Nixon--has been based on the protection of public health and safety, as well as the preservation of America's wild spaces.  read more »