Urban Issues

Sundown for California

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Twenty-five years ago, along with another young journalist, I coauthored a book called California, Inc. about our adopted home state. The book described “California’s rise to economic, political, and cultural ascendancy.”

As relative newcomers at the time, we saw California as a place of limitless possibility. And over most of the next two decades, my coauthor, Paul Grabowicz, and I could feel comfortable that we were indeed predicting the future.  read more »

Pittsburgh's Brain Drain Game

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Rust Belt communities are obsessed with brain drain. The demographic losers of economic restructuring, cities are employing a variety of strategies to stop the bleeding and keep the talent from leaving the region. Akron, OH recently voted down a proposal to lease the city’s sewer system in order to fund a scholarship program designed to plug the holes of out-migration. The voters balked at the initiative partly as a result of the 30-year residential commitment necessary to reap the full benefits of the funding for post-secondary education in Akron schools.  read more »

The Geography of Change: Election 2008

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As an old radical Democrat, I remained fearful that this fall would see another 2000 and 2004. But instead there was a massive shift of perhaps 10 million votes, or about 7 percent to the Democratic side.  read more »

Of Houses, Castles and the Universal Dream

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As I sit here in Beijing Capital International Airport waiting for a flight to Taiyuan, I realize something universal about people. Whether in the suburbs of Shanghai, Beijing, Wuhan, Xi’an, Shenyang, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Nanjing or even in the historical accident of Hong Kong, some of the most beautiful single-family detached housing in the world is here. It is not extensive, because it is not affordable to the great majority of Chinese.  read more »

Obama: Making History but Not Ending It

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Barack Obama won a mandate among younger voters so large that it literally defies comparison, and with it, we're told, a mandate to retire tired old fights of little concern to this new generation. Yet in the long run, it may well be that his victory has only put on hold some enduring political conflicts and may even ignite new ones.

Obama’s 34-point, 66-32 percent win among the group that made up about 20 percent of voters and 60 percent of new voters was nearly four times the margin of John F. Kennedy in 1960 and Clinton in 1992.  read more »

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 »