Urban Issues

Think Globally, Regulate Locally

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It was during a recent tour of a sun-baked Los Angeles schoolyard that theories on state regulations developed by the latest Nobel Prize-winning economist came into focus. The Da Vinci Design Charter School is an oasis in an asphalt desert. Opened this year by the appropriately named Matt Wunder, the school draws 9th and 10th graders from some of the most difficult and dangerous learning environments in the country, and introduces them to a demanding, creative atmosphere.  read more »

California: The Housing Bubble Returns?

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To read the periodic house price reports out of California, it would be easy to form the impression that house prices are continuing to decline. Most press reports highlight the fact that house prices are lower this year than they were at the same time last year. This masks the reality of robust house price increases that have been underway for nearly half a year. The state may have forfeited seven years of artificially induced house price escalation in just two years but has recovered about one-fifth of it since March.  read more »

Predicting the Future of British House Building

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People are expecting British house building to pick up. Sadly they will be disappointed, even as the housing market inflates into another bubble.

There have been declines and recoveries in British house building before the 2007 collapse in construction activity. Data is in abundance. The total number of homes built annually has more than halved since the late 1960s, as successive governments withdrew from publicly funding the post-war welfare programme of council house building.  read more »

A Canadian Autobahn

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Canada is the largest high-income nation in the world without a comprehensive national freeway (autobahn, expressway or autoroute) system. Motorways are entirely grade separated roadways (no cross traffic), with four or more lanes (two or more in each direction) allowing travel that is unimpeded by traffic signals or stop signs.  read more »

Reducing Carbon Should Not Distort Regional Economies

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A pending bill in Congress to reduce carbon emissions via a “cap and trade” regime would have significant distorting effects on America's regional economies. This is because the cost of compliance varies widely from region to region and metro to metro. This is all the more important since such legislation may do very little to reduce overall carbon emission according to two of the EPA's own San Francisco lawyers.  read more »

Bowling Alone or Bowling Along?

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It has long been cultural sport to mock or to misunderstand the social life of suburbs. More recently, however, sport itself has been identified as a major arena for social decline in suburbia.

In his Bowling Alone, published with an almost apocalyptic sense of timing at the beginning of the present century, the esteemed social scientist Robert Putnam focused upon the decline of the American bowling leagues as symptomatic of a lost America.  read more »

Obama Still Can Save His Presidency

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A good friend of mine, a Democratic mayor here in California, describes the Obama administration as "Moveon.org run by the Chicago machine." This combination may have been good enough to beat John McCain in 2008, but it is proving a damned poor way to run a country or build a strong, effective political majority. And while the president's charismatic talent – and the lack of such among his opposition – may keep him in office, it will be largely as a kind of permanent lame duck unable to make any of the transformative changes he promised as a candidate.  read more »

A Slow Job Recovery in Silicon Valley

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Although job growth is gradually returning to Silicon Valley, don’t break out the champagne quite yet.

Lucia Mokres moved to the area five years ago. Last year, when she was working at a contract engineering and manufacturing firm, she saw several clients lose their jobs, as well as both large and small companies go under in the economic crunch. She remembers one conference vividly. While manning the event booth, instead of seeing people pitch work they had for her firm, they instead passed out resumes, asking her team for work.  read more »

It's Crowded Out Here

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Do you know that where I'm sitting right now, the population density is 2,787,840 people per square mile?

And here are two other numbers (from Wikipedia) that you shouldn't believe: The population density of Manhattan is 71,201/sq mi. And of Australia: 7.3/sq mi.

And now a number that might just be credible: Hong Kong has 2,346.1/sq mi.

My personal population density I got by allotting myself 10 square feet, and then extrapolating to a square mile. True, as far as it goes, but this must be what Mark Twain meant by "lies, damned lies, and statistics."  read more »

Police Pensions and Voodoo Actuarials

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A key argument that public-safety officials use to justify their absurdly high pension benefits –- i.e., “3 percent at 50” retirements that allow them to retire with 90 percent or more of their final year’s pay as early as age 50 -- is this: We die soon after retirement because of all the stresses and difficulties of our jobs. This is such a common urban legend that virtually every officer who contacts me mentions this “fact.” They never provide back-up evidence.  read more »