Urban Issues

St. Louis Blues

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The night of the election, my husband and I greeted with elation the news that the presidency would go to Barack Obama. Then, seconds later, we hunkered down on the sofa with anxious expressions and asked the talking heads: “What about Missouri?”  read more »

Big City Prediction: Expect All Things in Moderation From Obama

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Barack Obama is now set to become the first genuine urbanite to occupy the White House in more than 100 years.

It will be tempting for many politicians and activists to envision a new era for big cities, with federal money flowing freely toward plans for high-density housing, transit projects, and any number of other dreams and schemes held dear by urban folk.  read more »

Spanish, Obama, and Cambio in St. Louis

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There are two definitive differences between St. Louis and Los Angeles: Autumn is better in St. Louis, and more people speak Spanish in Los Angeles. And, yeah, there’s the Mississippi River and the humidity and the beach and the film industry and the palm trees, but in terms of my own private geography and topophilia, autumn and Spanish are the differences that matter. I long for LA in every season but fall, and a part of my longing is, inevitably, a longing for Spanish.  read more »

Obama and Chicago: Saying Yes to Power?

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With Barack Obama possibly becoming the next President, it’s time to look at the Senator’s hometown. The Senator may have talked a great deal about change as a candidate, but to a large extent he has worked closely with what may be one of the most corrupt political cultures in America.  read more »

San Francisco and the Meltdown

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Initially San Francisco and the Bay Area market seemed to be immune to the financial meltdown resulting from the mortgage crisis. After all, the City and its accompanying affluent suburbs had not suffered drastic drops in home prices as seen in many other regions of the country. Yet as the mortgage crisis has snowballed into a complete meltdown of the worldwide financial system, the poster child of the ‘new economy’ now appears less and less immune from the turmoil dominating our news headlines.

The region that consists of the City by the Bay and the adjacent Silicon Valley is no stranger to drastic market corrections.  read more »

No More Urban Hype

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Just months ago, urban revivalists could see the rosy dawn of a new era for America's cities. With rising gas prices and soaring foreclosures hitting the long-despised hinterland, urban boosters and their media claque were proclaiming suburbia home to, as the Atlantic put it, "the next slums." Time magazine, the Financial Times, CNN and, of course, The New York Times all embraced the notion of a new urban epoch.

Yet in one of those ironies that markets play on hypesters, the mortgage crisis is now puncturing the urbanists' bubble. The mortgage meltdown that first singed the suburbs and exurbs, after all, was largely financed by Wall Street, the hedge funds, the investment banks, insurers and the rest of the highly city-centric top of the paper food chain.  read more »

New Urbanism’s Economic Achilles Heel

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By Richard Reep

Whether one believes that form follows function or that function can follow form, a town or a city needs three key elements to be healthy. Firstly, a sense of place that includes the sacred is important to people to provide a basis for spiritual involvement. The city must then be able to reliably deliver safety and security to its inhabitants in order to grow and mature. And lastly, a city must provide the means of employment for its inhabitants.  read more »

Root Causes of the Financial Crisis: A Primer

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It is not yet clear whether we stand at the start of a long fiscal crisis or one that will pass relatively quickly, like most other post-World War II recessions. The full extent will only become obvious in the years to come. But if we want to avoid future deep financial meltdowns of this or even greater magnitude, we must address the root causes.

In my estimation two critical and related factors created the current crisis. First, profligate lending which allowed many people to buy overpriced properties that they could not, in reality, afford. Second, the existence of excessive land use regulation which helped drive prices up in many of the most impacted markets.  read more »

The Opportunity City weathers all storms

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In the dark early-morning hours of September 13th, Hurricane Ike scored a direct hit on the Houston region with 110mph winds, a 13ft storm surge, and a gigantic eye 80 miles across. While Texas gets its fair share of Gulf hurricanes, this was the first direct hit on Houston since Alicia in 1983, 25 years ago.  read more »

Regulating People or Regulating Greenhouse Gases?

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It seems very likely that a national greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction standard will be established by legislation in the next year. Interest groups are lining up with various proposals, some fairly benign and others potentially devastating.

One of the most frequently mentioned strategies – mandatory vehicle miles reductions – is also among the most destructive. It is predictably supported by the same interests that have pushed the anti-automobile (and anti-suburban) agenda for years, often under the moniker of “smart growth.”  read more »