Urban Issues

Immigrants Are ‘Greening’ our Cities, How About Giving them a Break?

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Debate about immigration and the more than 38 million foreign born residents who have arrived since 1980 has become something of a national pastime. Although the positive impact of this population on the economy has been questioned in many quarters, self-employment and new labor growth statistics illustrate the increasingly important role immigrants play in our national economy.  read more »

Why The 'Livable Cities' Rankings Are Wrong

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Few topics stir more controversy between urbanists and civic boosters than city rankings. What truly makes a city "great," or even "livable"? The answers, and how these surveys determine them, are often subjective, narrow or even misguided. What makes a "great" city on one list can serve as a detriment on another.

Recent rankings of the "best" cities around the world by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Monocle magazine and the Mercer quality of life surveys settled on a remarkably similar list. For the most part, the top ranks are dominated by well-manicured older European cities such as Zurich, Geneva, Vienna, Copenhagen, Helsinki and Munich, as well as New World metropolises like Vancouver and Toronto; Auckland, New Zealand; and Perth and Melbourne in Australia.  read more »

Origins and Growth of Al Capone’s Outfit: Chicago’s First Ward Democratic Organization and its Aftermath

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Barack Obama ran for President with his headquarters in downtown Chicago. Obama's election night victory speech was just blocks away in Chicago's Grant Park. To historians of organized crime both locations are located in a significant place: Chicago's old First Ward. This valuable plot of land is where Chicago's Democratic Machine and Al Capone's criminal organization both began. The connection between the two is of great historical significance. Why? Because the Chicago Mob is nothing but an outgrowth of Chicago's old First Ward Democratic Organization.  read more »

Confronting Street Art

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By Richard Reep

Street art has been around since ancient times, with the triple theme of craft, sabotage, and branding. Paris’ “Blec le rat” and New York’s Taki 183 were early pioneers in street art. Today, street art has spread into nearly every city with artists, media, and collectors. Skateboards, tattoos, stickers, and spray paint are but a few examples of the craft of the street. The adrenalin rush an artist feels in executing his work is augmented by the urban thrill of working at night, rushing to leave behind a signature before the police come. The chief aim of most street art is branding, as the artist’s main form of expression is to create a recognizable personal logotype.  read more »

New York City Closes Shop

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg owes 200,000 small business owners an apology.

When Michael Bloomberg was first elected Mayor of New York City in 2001, the city’s small business owners were hopeful and confident that finally a successful businessman would be creating the city’s economic policy. They hoped to see an end to powerful special interests that, through political donations, had gained control over the economic policy of the city.  read more »

Reducing Vehicle Miles Traveled Produces Meager Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Returns

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Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) and Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) have introduced legislation that would require annual per capita reductions in driving each year. Another bill, the National Transportation Objectives Act, introduced by Representative Rush Holt (D-Indiana), Representative Russ Carnahan (D-Missouri) and Representative Jay Inslee (D-Washington.) would require a 16 percent reduction in driving in 20 years.  read more »

Downtown Central-Cities as Hubs of Civic Connection

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There's been a torrent of spirited banter lately about the reemergence of downtown central-cities. Much of this raucous debate is between advocates of urban revitalization, who offer an assortment of anti-sprawl messages as justification for this movement, and those who see suburban growth options as essential to quality of life in America. Adding to the fray are environmentalists who see housing density and alternative forms of transportation as the panacea for confronting our carbon-choked world.  read more »

Rating World Metropolitan Areas: When Money is an Object

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American metropolitan areas have been the subject of considerable derision. Often characterized as inferior to those of Australia, Canada, Europe and even of Japan by planners and politicians who travel abroad, there has long been a desire to reshape American cities along the lines of foreign models. Yet, despite this, American metropolitan areas generally provide a standard of living to their residents unmatched anywhere in the world. This is based upon the latest comparative economic data for the world’s most affluent metropolitan areas.  read more »

ULI Moving Cooler Report: Greenhouse Gases, Exaggerations and Misdirections

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Yesterday a group of environmental advocacy groups, foundations and other organizations released a report, Moving Cooler, amid much fanfare, seeking to have us believe that it is a serious study of GHG reduction options in the transportation sector. It is immensely disappointing. The world could use a dispassionate, objective and broad-based assessment of petroleum reduction options as well as their positive and negative consequences. This is not it.  read more »

Salinas Dispatch: A Silver Lining in the Golden State

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From a distance, a crisis often takes on ideological colorings. This is true in California, where the ongoing fiscal meltdown has devolved into a struggle between anti-tax conservatives and free-spending green leftist liberals.

Yet more nuances surface when you approach a crisis from the context of a specific place. Over the past two years my North Dakota-based consulting partner, Delore Zimmerman, and I have been working in Salinas, a farm community of 150,000, 10 miles inland from the Monterey coast and an hour's drive south of San Jose.  read more »