Urban Issues

America's Biggest Brain Magnets

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For a decade now U.S. city planners have obsessively pursued college graduates, adopting policies to make their cities more like dense hot spots such as New York, to which the "brains" allegedly flock.

But in the past 10 years "hip and cool" places like New York have suffered high levels of domestic outmigration. Some boosters rationalize this by saying the U.S. is undergoing a "bipolar migration"--an argument recently laid out by Derek Thompson in The Atlantic.  read more »

Australia's Housing Affordability "Outrage"

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There is mounting concern in Australia about the nature and extent of country’s housing affordability crisis. Expressions of distress are not limited to the middle income households who are locked out of the Great Australian Dream of home ownership. There is heightened interest from advocates of low income households and an opposition political party. Moreover, Australia's overvalued housing is receiving renewed attention in international circles.  read more »

Super Bowl XLV: The $10 Billion Bag of Chips

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I am raining on the big parade by equating the Super Bowl with trade deficits, budget shortfalls, state bonds on the edge of default, and unemployment close to ten percent. But if thirty-second ads that cost $2.7 million or The Black Eyed Peas at halftime can’t lift the economy out of its doldrums, how can we expect the same miracles from Troy Polamalu or Aaron Rodgers?  read more »

Orange County Vantage Point: One Eye on Egypt as Little Saigon Rebrands Tet

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Scenes from Egypt, Tunisia and other places in the Middle East provide a stark reminder of the chaos that can consume entire nations. The scene on Bolsa Avenue in Little Saigon last week offered evidence that chaos can be overcome.

Don’t get me wrong—chaos had a place along Bolsa as streams of drivers sought rare parking spaces, crowds gathered around impromptu fireworks displays on the streets, and shoppers elbowed their way among dozens of flower merchants who set up shop in parking lots.  read more »

The Death of Earmarks

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Record deficit spending in Washington has many faces: Defense, Medicare, Social Security. But none has received more criticism in recent months than the infamous and notorious earmark. Conjuring up images of “Bridges to Nowhere” or “Teapot Museums”, earmarks, or Congressionally Directed Funding, have become the poster child for irresponsible, out of control, big government spending. But is the earmarking practice by Congressional representatives really pushing our country to the brink of bankruptcy?  read more »

The Midwest: Coming Back?

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Oh my name it is nothing
My age it is less
The country I come from
Is called the Midwest

–Bob Dylan, “With God on Our Side,” 1964

For nearly a half century since the Minnesota-raised Robert Zimmerman wrote those lines, the American Midwest has widely been seen as a “loser” region–a place from which talented people have fled for better opportunities. Those Midwesterners seeking greater, glitzier futures historically have headed to the great coastal cities of Miami, New York, San Diego or Seattle, leaving behind the flat expanses of the nation’s mid-section for the slower-witted, or at least less imaginative.  read more »

Regional Exchange Rates: The Cost of Living in US Metropolitan Areas

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International travelers and expatriates have long known that currency exchange rates are not reliable indicators of purchasing power. For example, a traveler to France or Germany will notice that the dollar equivalent in Euros cannot buy as much as at home. Conversely, the traveler to China will note that the dollar equivalent in Yuan will buy more.  read more »

Pimp My Stripmall, Please!

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If anything characterizes the face of Florida’s landscape, it is the proliferation of shopping malls of all types. Generation by generation, as population swelled, country roads widened into highways and each intersection seemed to blossom into four parking lots framed by strip centers decorated with small, freestanding stores and restaurants. These malls represented the prosperity of the American middle class. Now that consumerism has slowed and been rechanneled online, new malls aren't being built and the existing ones are looking a bit dog-eared, with shuttered stores, empty parking lots, and aging facades. Repurposing the American mall is a huge opportunity waiting for the right moment, and represents an opportunity to heal much of Florida’s economic stagnation.  read more »

Shrinking City, Flourishing Region: St. Louis Region

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Throughout the high income world, in this age of cities, many urban centers continue to shrink. This is particularly true in municipalities that have been unable either to expand their boundaries or to combine with another jurisdiction, subsequently running out of new developable land.  read more »

Chicago: The Cost of Clout

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The Chicago Tribune has been running a series on the challenges facing the next mayor. One entry was about the Chicago economy. It described the sad reality of how Chicago’s economy is in the tank, and has been underperforming the nation for the last few years. I’ll highlight the part about challenges building an innovation and tech economy in Chicago:  read more »