Urban Issues

Cities That Prosper, Cool or Not

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Over the past few years, the raging debate in economic development has been over whether cities should be cool or uncool. Should cities pursue “the creative economy” by going after arts, culture, creative research & development, and innovation? Or should they focus on the bread-and-butter economy: hard infrastructure, traditional industries like manufacturing, and blue-collar jobs?  read more »

Education Wars: The New Battle For Brains


The end of stimulus — as well as the power shift in Congress — will have a profound effect on which regions and states can position themselves for the longer-term recovery. Nowhere will this be more critical than in the battle for brains.

In the past, and the present, places have competed for smart, high-skilled newcomers by building impressive physical infrastructure and offering incentives and inducements for companies or individuals. But the battle for the brains — and for long-term growth — is increasingly tied to whether a state can maintain or expand its state-supported higher education. This is particularly critical given the growing student debt crisis, which may make public institutions even more attractive to top students.  read more »

I Opt-out of California


Like the harried traveler who made famous the expression, “Don’t touch my junk”, I have elected my own personal protest, California style. I have decided to OPT-OUT of California to protest my overgrown state government. I am tired of California legislators sticking their hands in my pants to pay for the European style social welfare state they have created. My work, my earnings and my taxes will go elsewhere.  read more »

Retro Rail Alert


The New Zealand Government recently decided to follow the example of Montreal and Toronto by amalgamating the six City councils and the single Regional Council of the Auckland Region to create a united “Super City” of 1.4 million people.

Like similar amalgamated bodies, the new Auckland Council, which came into being on the 1st November, 2010, has fallen for the notion of regionally determined smart growth built around a huge investment in heavy rail.  read more »

Florida Goes Underground


By Richard Reep

Last year’s report that Florida had lost people marked a new low in our state’s boom-and-bust history. But this autumn’s news seems to surpass even that sorry milestone with a combination of sluggish tourism, empty state coffers, and a reputation as one of the top real estate foreclosure states. Florida just can’t seem to get out of its own way, and with the fourth highest population in the country, it could have competed with Texas to replace California as one of the best business climates in the nation. Instead, Florida, which boasts one of the lowest tax rates in the nation, continues to see businesses and citizens depart  read more »

Could the Dallas Way be the Right Way?


Dallas was George W. Bush’s first choice for a retirement destination but it gets low approval ratings elsewhere. A recent poll of readers of American Style magazine rated Dallas only 24th out of 25 large American cities as an arts destination. It came in immediately behind those well-known cultural magnets Milwaukee and Las Vegas, and ahead of only Jacksonville FL, even though it dwarfs all three places in terms of population, arts institutions and urban amenities. An apparently typical assessment residing in the blogosphere states flatly “God I hate Dallas.  read more »

China’s Urbanization: It Has Only Just Begun


In May, disgruntled workers of Honda factories in Zhongshan, southern China, went on strike at the Honda Lock auto parts factory and started posting accounts of the walkout online, spreading word among themselves and to workers elsewhere in China.

In June, Bloomberg reported that China, “once an abundant provider of low-cost workers, is heading for the so-called Lewis turning point, when surplus labor evaporates, pushing up wages, consumption and inflation.” China had depleted its surplus labor; the period of cheap labor was over.  read more »

Looking Down Under for a California Turnaround

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At a time when government in California faces an existential crisis, it’s telling to observe a starkly different picture in Australia. Forty years ago, local officials in fast-growing suburban communities in Queensland, Australia looked to their colleagues in fast-growing suburban communities in California as kindred spirits. They began a tradition of trading annual exchange visits to compare notes. Last month I had the opportunity to participate in that exchange. This year’s gathering took place on the “Sunshine Coast” north of Brisbane.  read more »

Stuck in the Station: The High-Speed Rail "Low Ball Express"


You know that something is up when a Washington Post editorial advises that the Obama Administration do a "reality check" on its plans for high speed rail. From the beginning, there was more slow-speed than high speed rail, however both components of the plan could be in trouble.  read more »

Love and the City


It has been said that the modern city is soulless, that it is heartless, and that it is brutal. The modern city represents in its scale and complexity one of the most extraordinary of human inventions, but there is also no doubt that everywhere in the world it is also one of our biggest failures.

The dysfunction of a city in the past was an inconvenience. The dysfunction of a city in the future will be a profound disaster for that city and, ironically, a profound opportunity for another city, of a smarter city. It will be an opportunity for a city that has found out how to position itself better in the world of cities, but more importantly in the eyes and hearts of its citizens.  read more »