Urban Issues

Sustaining Localism in the English Suburban Context


Localism, a longstanding agenda of the Green Party in the context of the UK economy, is gaining ground in the current economic crisis. In a recent edition of the London-based Daily Telegraph, a striking contrast is made between Chester in north-west England – which is suffering from the decline of its relatively narrow economic base and Totnes in south-west England, which with its longstanding interest in alternative living, and more localised economy, seems to be weathering the situation much better. The underlying message from the article is that small is good – particularly for businesses not overextended in their borrowing, and familiar enough with their immediate context to be able to adapt to a changing economy.  read more »

The Geography of Class in Greater Seattle


Most readers may not be initially very interested in the detailed geography of “class” in Seattle, but it actually matters not only for our area but for the whole debate over the shape of the urban future. Academics, perhaps Americans in general, are loath to admit to class differences, yet they remain very crucial to the understanding of how cities and regions evolve.

Seattle is a great example of the transformation of a 20th century model of the American metropolis to a 21st century-cum-19th century “old World” model of metropolis. It is often held up as one of the role models for other cities, so its experiences should be considered seriously not only for American cities but for regions throughout the advanced world.  read more »

Special Report: Infill in US Urban Areas


One of the favored strategies of current urban planning is “infill” development. This is development that occurs within the existing urban footprint, as opposed that taking place on the fringe of the urban footprint (suburbanization). For the first time, the United States Bureau of the Census is producing data that readily reveals infill, as measured by population growth, in the nation’s urban areas.

2000 Urban Footprint Populations  read more »

Kauai, Hawaii: Local Merchants Make Waves

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Many have by now heard or read the story of the plucky group of Hawaiians on the island of Kauai who, when faced with the loss of their businesses due to the state government’s inability to open park roads to a popular beach and camping area, took care of it themselves for a fraction of the cost and in a fraction of the time. How very Tocquevellian. Or, better, how very American.  read more »

The Fate of America’s Homebuilders: The Changing Landscape of America


During the first ten days of October 2008, the Dow Jones dropped 2,399.47 points, losing 22.11% of its value and trillions of investor equity. The Federal Government pushed a $700 billion bail-out through Congress to rescue the beleaguered financial institutions. The collapse of the financial system in the fall of 2008 was likened to an earthquake. In reality, what happened was more like a shift of tectonic plates.

History will record that the tectonic plates of our financial world began to drift apart in the fall of 2008. The scale of this change may be most evident in housing.


Britain's Labour Lessons For Obama


LONDON - The thrashing of Britain's New Labour Party – which came in a weak third in local and European Parliament elections this week – may seem a minor event compared to Barack Obama's triumphal overseas tour. Yet in many ways the humiliation of New Labour should send some potential warning shots across the bow of the good ship Obama.  read more »

The Gambler King of Clark Street, the Origin of Chicago's Political Machine


Long before Chicago sold off its assets, made plastic cows parade and outlawed goose guts, there was Michael Cassius McDonald, Big Mike. Where the Chicago Machine now grinds the citizen with Progressive idiocies, Mike McDonald and other Machine Mavericks like the Lords of the Levee appeared to actually help people. Vice and Government have gone hand-in-hand since Solon tried to reason with Croesus – Hesiod tells us that political corruption sparks political thought. The life of Michael Cassius McDonald was active and thought-provoking.  read more »

The Real Mayor of Chicago


Most Americans living outside the Chicago area identify the city with Oprah, Obama, or Michael Jordan. When the subject of who really runs Chicago comes up, most people would say Mayor Daley. Chicago's lack of term limits and persistent political machine have kept Mayor Daley in office for over 20 years.

Those who know Chicago politics know there's one man who's more powerful than Mayor Daley, Alderman Ed Burke. Mayor Daley may be the identifiable public face of Chicago's political system and act as a lightning rod for criticism, but the lower profile Alderman Burke wields the real power.  read more »

Salinas and Self-Governance

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“Man is the only kind of varmint who sets his own trap, baits it, then steps in it.” — John Steinbeck

Though probably not intended as a political commentary, Steinbeck’s utterance perfectly describes the current California budget crisis. And, given the revenue and service delivery relationship between cities and the state, traps can be set and baited in Sacramento, leaving mayors, city councils and city managers to step in them.  read more »

North America’s High Tech Economy: The Geography of Knowledge-Based Industries


Almost ten-years ago, the Milken Institute first released America’s High-Tech Economy which cataloged technology’s central role in propelling economic growth in high-wage jobs and value-added economic activity. Shortly thereafter, the dot-com and high-tech bubbles popped, leading many to conclude that the era of tech-driven economic development was over.  read more »