Urban Issues

Island of Broken Dreams


A The New York Times editorial wonders why foreclosure rates are so high in the two Long Island counties it rightly calls the “birthplace of the suburban American Dream.” After all, the area has “a relative lack of room to sprawl.” which in Times-speak should be a good thing, since “sprawl” is by definition both bad and doomed.

Yet it is precisely the constraints on new housing that has served as a principal cause for Long Island problems.  read more »

Influence of 'Creative Class' Ideas in Sweden


By Nima Sanandaji, Johnny Munkhammar, and Peter Egardt

The American academic Richard Florida has gained international attention for his theories about the “creative class”. According to Florida, the key to urban success lies in attracting certain groups of people, such as artists, scientists and twenty-something singles. Florida insists that this can be accomplished through nursing a specific type of culture within a city: hip cafes, art galleries and other manifestations of indigenous street-level culture.  read more »

Orlando: The Limits of Form


By Richard Reep

To date, luminaries of the New Urbanist movement such as Andres Duany and Peter Calthorpe have done little to change Orlando. The central Florida city remains balkanized, market-driven, and vaguely cosmopolitan in nature. Orlando’s vitality does not depend on the physical form of the city, but rather the spiritual involvement of its citizens, the safety and security that they gain from their urban choice as well as the unique mix of jobs created by the employment of Orlando. These three intangible factors drive the form, and a healthy city planning process will not ignore this in favor of a rigid dress code.  read more »

Washington Wins…Everyone Else (except maybe Chicago) Loses


What could prove to be the worst economic decline since 1929 may also have the unintended consequence of creating a booming real estate market for the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area over the next few years. Ironically this has been brought on not, as one might expect, by Democrats – traditionally the party of Washington – but by the often fervently anti-DC Republicans.  read more »

Toronto: The Action is Where You Make It


You get mean-spirited when you feel left out of joy. Somebody else’s joy raises envy when you haven’t had any yourself. Cities are like that, jealously eyeing other cities as if there were more fun and delight and oh, “buzz,” to be had elsewhere.

In fact it’s an illusion that the party is going on somewhere else. The action is where you make it, and in a city you have lots of help doing it. In fact that’s what justifies city life – the signature of any great city. Self-rejoicing. It’s something more than plain pride, or confidence or superiority, or a call for “buzz,” excitement, or (yech) prosperity.  read more »

Sundown for California


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


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


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


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


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 »