Urban Issues

Pittsburgh Renaissance?


In the third of a three part New Geography series on Pittsburgh for the G-20 summit, Aaron Renn assesses Pittsburgh’s value as a model region for other cities suffering decline.

As the G-20 leaders prepare to convene in Pittsburgh, expect the recent chorus of praise for that city's transformation to reach a crescendo. Pittsburgh, once the poster child for industrial decline and devastation, is now the media darling as an exemplar of how to turn it around. The New York Times talks about how “Pittsburgh Thrives After Casting Steel Aside” while the New York Post informs us that “Summer in Pittsburgh Rocks”. The Economist named Pittsburgh America's most livable city. This emerging reputation for cracking the code on revitalization is prompting struggling burgs like Cleveland and Detroit to ask what lessons the Steel City holds for them.  read more »

Pittsburgh Didn't Volunteer for G20


As host of the G-20 summit, Pittsburgh briefly will sit in the global spotlight. With this article by longtime Pittsburgh resident and columnist Bill Steigerwald, New Geography opens a three part series looking at this intriguing metropolis from the point of view of planning, demography and economic performance.

Pittsburgh didn’t volunteer to host the G-20 Summit that is coming here next week to inflict so much civic pain and disruption.  read more »

Baseball Goes For Broke

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Other than the banking business, is there an industry more dependent on government handouts, sweetheart tax breaks, and accounting gimmicks than major league baseball?

What other than a baseball depletion allowance explains the economics of a team like the New York Yankees, which is paying Alex Rodriguez $275 million over ten years while building a new $1.3 billion stadium and charging front row season tickets holders $800,000 for a box of four seats?  read more »

Losing Touch With the Changing Definition of "Community"


Mathew Taunton opens his review of “The Future of Community – Reports of a Death Greatly Exaggerated” (Note 1) with the observation that:

“Community is one of the most powerful words in the language, and perhaps because of this it is frequently misused. A profoundly emotive word, it is also a coercive one, and a key political buzzword in modern times. That community is being eroded in modern Britain is a matter of cross-party consensus, and it is also widely agreed that one of the state’s roles is to devise means of counteracting the decline of communities.”  read more »

Traffic Congestion, Time, Money & Productivity


It is an old saying, but true as ever: “Time is money.” A company that can produce quality products in less time than its competitors is likely to be more profitable and productive. An urban area where employees travel less time to get to work is likely to be more productive than one where travel times are longer, all things being equal. Productivity is a principal aim of economic policy. Productivity means greater economic growth, greater job creation and less poverty.  read more »

California Golden Dreams


California may yet be a civilization that is too young to have produced its Thucydides or Edward Gibbon, but if it has, the leading candidate would be Kevin Starr. His eight-part “Dream” series on the evolution of the Golden State stands alone as the basic comprehensive work on California. Nothing else comes remotely close.  read more »

Olympics the Chicago Way


Most American cities chose not to bid on the 2016 summer Olympics and with good reason. With the exception of the 1984 Los Angeles games, the Olympics has proved a big time money loser in city after city. More often than not, it has been staged more for the prestige – think of Berlin in 1936 or China in 2008 – it brings to regimes, particularly autocratic ones.

In Chicago, prestige is important, but graft is the real king. In Chicago, one of the most corrupt big cities, the Olympics represents, more than anything, a grand chance for a giant heist.  read more »

Cap And Trade And The Smog Market Ripoff

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Now that Senators have reconvened from summer hiatus, one of their first tasks will be to contemplate the greenhouse-gas cap-and-trade carbon market that President Obama would like to institute to blunt global warming. Their necks better be limber. Partisans of Keynesian, market-based regulations will undoubtedly point to the Midwest's federally run "acid rain" program to reduce harmful power-plant emissions as proof that giving industry profit incentives in cleaning up their operations can be successful.  read more »

Vertical Urban Farming? Pull Your Head from the Clouds


Dickson D. Desposmmier, in a recent op-ed in the New York Times, argues that the world, faced with increasing billions of mouths to feed, will soon run out of land. According to Mr. Despommier, “the traditional soil-based farming model developed over the last 12,000 years will no longer be a sustainable option.”

Despommier’s answer to this ‘problem’: “move most farming into cities, and grow crops in tall, specially constructed buildings.” Such vertical farms, argues Despommier, would “revolutionize and improve urban life,” while also addressing issues such as agricultural runoff, air pollution, and carbon emissions.

To sophisticated urbanites with little or no exposure to agriculture, vertical farming may seem to present a sort of utopian panacea. But first one must look at the underlying problem Mr. Despommier claims to address: land shortages.  read more »

Hard Times In The High Desert


The High Desert region north and east of Los Angeles sits 3,000 feet above sea level. A rough, often starkly beautiful region of scrubby trees, wide vistas and brooding brown mountains, the region seems like a perfect setting for an old Western shoot 'em up.

Today, it's the stage for a different kind of battle, one that involves a struggle over preserving the American dream. For years, the towns of the High Desert--places like Victorville, Adelanto, Hesperia, Barstow and Apple Valley--have lured thousands of working- and middle-class Californians looking for affordable homes.  read more »