Urban Issues

Death of the California Dream

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For decades, California has epitomized America's economic strengths: technological excellence, artistic creativity, agricultural fecundity and an intrepid entrepreneurial spirit. Yet lately California has projected a grimmer vision of a politically divided, economically stagnant state. Last week its legislature cut a deal to close its $42 billion budget deficit, but its larger problems remain.  read more »

The “To Do” List for Middle-Class New Yorkers

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This month, a new report from The Center For An Urban Future, Reviving The City of Aspiration, examines the squeeze on middle class New Yorkers.

The struggle to afford life’s basics—and a few indulgences, too—is nothing new to urbanites of modest means. A 1907 New York Times piece headlined 'Very Soon New York Will Be A City Without Resident Citizens' reported, “Life in the big city is becoming impossible to the average householder, living on an average income.” ‘Average’ necessities were identified as rent, home-cooked meals, servants wages, ice, and coal. Occasional luxuries included theater and restaurant visits.  read more »

Housing Downturn Moves Into Phase II

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The great housing turndown, which started as early as 2007, has entered a second and more difficult phase. We can trace this to Monday, September 15, 2008 just as October 29, 1929 – “Black Tuesday” – marked the start of the Great Depression. September 15 does not yet have a name and the name “Black Monday” has already been taken by the 1987 stock market crash. The 1987 crash looks in historical perspective like a slight downturn compared to what the world faces today.

On September 15 – let’s call it “Meltdown Monday” – the housing downturn ended its Phase I and burst into financial markets leading to the most serious global recession since the Great Depression. Indeed, International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn now classifies it a depression.  read more »

Dubai, Mumbai, Shanghai : Destiny or Hype?

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The assonant phrase “Dubai, Mumbai, Shanghai or Goodbye” was credited to Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times in late 2007 at the beginning of the financial crisis on Wall Street. For years, New York, London and Tokyo held sway as the world’s financial capitals. Then the tectonic plates of the financial world began to move and these new cities were going to be the prime beneficiaries.  read more »

Industry And The Urge To Cluster

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What drives industry to locate in one region and not in the next?

Economic geography – the distribution of economic activity over physical space – has always been central to economic development. Policy-makers trying to encourage economic activity to locate in under-developed regions want answers: Is it infrastructure? Fiscal incentives? Good business environment? Or could it be agglomeration – the compounding effect of industry clustering in a particular location?  read more »

A Tale of Two Blizzards

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January 1979 saw one of the worst blizzards in city history hit Chicago, dumping 20 inches of snow, closing O'Hare airport for 46 hours, and paralyzing traffic in the city for days. Despite the record snowfall, the city's ineffectual response was widely credited for the defeat of Mayor Michael Bilandic in his re-election bid, leading to Jane Bryne becoming the city's first female mayor.

In January 1978, a similar blizzard had struck the city of Indianapolis, also burying the city in a record 20 inches of snow. Mayor Bill Hudnut stayed awake nearly two days straight, coordinating the response and frequently updating the city on the snow fighting efforts through numerous media appearances.  read more »

A Washington, D.C. Arts & Innovation District: "Sonya's Neighborhood"

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A recent widely-read piece in the Washington Post, “The Height of Power,” noted the great prospects of Washington's rise to the top, not only in politics but in publishing, media, business and the arts. In this way, it said, Washington's evolution will follow the pattern of other great capitals like London, New York, Paris or Tokyo.  read more »

Housing Price Bubble: Learning from California

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In a letter to The Wall Street Journal (February 6) defending California’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions policies, Governor Arnold Shwarzenegger’s Senior Economic Advisor David Crane noted that California’s high unemployment is the result of “a bust of the housing bubble fueled by easy money.” He is, at best, half right.

The “bust of the housing bubble” occurred not only because of “easy money,” but also because of the very policies California has implemented for decades and is extending in its battle against GHG emissions.  read more »

Stimulus Plan Caters to the Privileged Public Sector

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Call it the Paulson Principle, Part Deux.

Under the now thankfully-departed Treasury secretary, we got the first bailout for the undeserving – essentially, members of his own Wall Street class.

Now comes the Democratic codicil to the P. Principle. It's a massive bailout and expansion of the public-sector workforce as well as quasi-government workers in fields like health and education.  read more »

Seattle Joins the Recession

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At the time of the election, less than 3 months ago, Seattle seemed to be riding above the fray, escaping the worst features of the recession, such as mass layoffs, even despite weakness in the housing market. Seattle area voters even approved a series of huge tax measures, including $30 billion for rail rapid transit, befitting what folks here like to consider a world-class city.

The story recently is much more somber, reeling somewhat from a series of high-level hits to the economy.  read more »