Urban Issues

What Is a Global City?

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We hear a lot of talk these days about so-called “global cities.” But what is a global city?

Saskia Sassen literally wrote the book on global cities back in 2001 (though her global cities work dates back well over a decade prior to that book). She gave a definition that has long struck with me.  read more »

Separation of Church and Urban Planning

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Recently, the Journal of the American Planning Association (JAPA) published research that directly challenged prevailing views in urban planning. In an article entitled Growing Cities Sustainably, Marcial H. Echenique, and Anthony J.  read more »

The Blue-State Suicide Pact

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With their enthusiastic backing of President Obama and the Democratic Party on Election Day, the bluest parts of America may have embraced a program utterly at odds with their economic self-interest. The almost uniform support of blue states’ congressional representatives for the administration’s campaign for tax “fairness” represents a kind of  bizarre economic suicide pact.  read more »

No Reservations Cleveland

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There is a new video out marketing Cleveland and a new slogan: “Downtown Cleveland: It’s here”. Now, I struggle with critiquing it. One the one hand, I get its energy and optimism: the energy in Downtown is palpable, real—there is a bit of a youth movement to the core—and hence the compilation of images, sounds, and narratives that are trying to capitalize and communicate what is going down.

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The Expanding Economic Pie & Grinding Poverty

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A review of data from the past 200 years indicates not only a huge increase in the world's population, but an even more significant increase in real incomes. This is illustrated using the data series developed by the late Angus Maddison of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that included historic estimates of economic performance by geographical area (nations and other reported geographies) from 1500 to 2000.  read more »

Where Americans Are Moving

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The red states may have lost the presidential election, but they are winning new residents, largely at the expense of their politically successful blue counterparts. For all the talk of how the Great Recession has driven people — particularly the “footloose young” — toward dense urban centers, Census data reveal that Americans are still drawn to the same sprawling Sun Belt regions as before.  read more »

Millennials Ready to Play Key Role in Housing Market Recovery

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Recent data from a survey commissioned by Better Homes and Garden Real Estate (BHGRE) suggests a pent up desire among 18-35 year olds to own a home of their own that could easily fuel a real estate boom for at least the rest of this decade.   read more »

Detroit: America's Whipping Boy Needs a Second Chance

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Every so often, Detroit seems to pop up in our popular consciousness in a negative way.  Ever since the ’67 riots, a steady stream of bad press has altered the national perception of the Motor City.  Right now the city’s efforts to prevent state takeover because of its fiscal problems seems to shape discussion about Detroit.  The most recent demonstration of this is the State of Michigan’s proposal to make Detroit’s Belle Isle Park, the jewel of the city’s park system, into a state park through an extended lease agreement.   read more »

What is a Half-Urban World?

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Within the last couple of years, the population of the world has become more than one half urban for the first time in history. By 2025, the world's urban areas are expected to account for 58% of the world population, rising further to two-thirds in 2050. This represents a huge increase from the 29% that was urban in 1950, or estimates of approximately 10% (or less) in 1800. (Figure 1).  read more »

Faking It: The Happy Messaging of Placemaking

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Picasso said “Art is a lie that tells the truth”. Nowadays, there’s less truth to that, as the creative process is increasingly about prettying up and papering over what’s broke.

More on that shortly, but first, about the breakage: it’s legitimate. Said Nobel laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz in a recent NY Times piece that plain-talks our economic conditions: “Increasing inequality means a weaker economy, which means increasing inequality, which means a weaker economy.”

That assessment—from a very smart man studying the problem—isn’t good. But in the American feel-good milieu you wouldn’t know it: “We’re coming out if it.” “Tomorrow is forever.” “Start-ups will save the U.S.” Etc. And while tone deaf, this kind of brushing off of problems isn’t new, but part of what social critic Barbara Ehrenreich refers to as America’s “cult of cheerfulness”, and it’s a “cult” that has spawned a longstanding and growing American feel-good industry.  read more »