Urban Issues

Lost City

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We agreed, last time, to meet at the corner of Yonge & Bloor – Toronto's busiest subway stop.  read more »

Report from Orlando: The Spirit Rocks On

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By Richard Reep

“In hard times, people turn to God or alcohol” jokes Bud Johnson of Constructwire, a database that tracks planning and construction projects nationwide. Johnson, 50, is an industry veteran and has never seen a recession like this in his career. “This is an exceptionally broad-based downturn,” he says, “and Orlando has been hit harder than most in the South, what with your only real industries being housing and tourism.” Both industries have been trapped like mammoths in a glacier as the credit market stays stubbornly frozen in a modern banking Ice Age.  read more »

Property Owners Pay for City’s Dysfunction Under L.A.’s New Graffiti Ordinance

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Graffiti is a bane of urban life, a form of vandalism that demoralizes entire neighborhoods and invites worse crime.

Graffiti is an art form and an outlet for expression amid the jumble and obvious strains of urban life.

You’ll hear arguments from both of those viewpoints, depending on who you talk to about graffiti.  read more »

The Limits of Transit: Costly Dead-End

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The proposed Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) fare increase and service cuts for next year are indicative of transit’s recurring budgetary problems, and not only in Chicago but nationwide. But in the Windy City, these moves have elicited an understandably negative public reaction since the city of Chicago depends on transit about as much as any city besides New York.  read more »

Southern Piedmont: Where NASCAR Meets the NASDAQ

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When Andrew Jackson roamed the hills of the Carolinas, northern Georgia and eastern Tennessee, it was still frontier, and for generations the southern Piedmont remained economically and culturally isolated.  Today, however, Old Hickory might be surprised to learn what this area has become.  read more »

Stimulate Yourself!

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Beltway politicians and economists can argue themselves silly about the impact of the Obama administration's stimulus program, but outside the beltway the discussion is largely over. On the local level--particularly outside the heavily politicized big cities--the consensus seems to be that the stimulus has changed little--if anything.

Recently, I met with a couple of dozen mayors and city officials in Kentucky to discuss economic growth. The mayors spoke of their initiatives and ideas, yet hardly anyone mentioned the stimulus.  read more »

The White City

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Among the media, academia and within planning circles, there’s a generally standing answer to the question of what cities are the best, the most progressive and best role models for small and mid-sized cities. The standard list includes Portland, Seattle, Austin, Minneapolis, and Denver. In particular, Portland is held up as a paradigm, with its urban growth boundary, extensive transit system, excellent cycling culture, and a pro-density policy. These cities are frequently contrasted with those of the Rust Belt and South, which are found wanting, often even by locals, as “cool” urban places.

But look closely at these exemplars and a curious fact emerges. If you take away the dominant Tier One cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles you will find that the “progressive” cities aren’t red or blue, but another color entirely: white.  read more »

The Compromise by the Lake

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Toronto is a nice city.

If that seems like faint praise, then so be it; I'm not a great Toronto fan. Don't get me wrong. It is a wonderful city for the tourist, and temporary residents I know swear by the place. But it's not my kind of town.

I spent much time in Toronto in the 1980s and 90s. My first visit must have been in 1970 or so, and I was last there on a very cold, January day in 2003.  read more »

E-Government: City Management Faces Facebook

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Does a City Manager belong on Facebook?

Erasmus, the Dutch theologian and scholar, in 1500 wrote, "In the country of the blind the one-eyed man is king." I feel this way in the land of social media — at least among city and county managers.  read more »

Eros Triumphs…At Least in Some Places, Mapping Natural Population Increases

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As with other advanced capitalist societies, the US population is aging. About 30 percent of US counties experienced natural decrease – more deaths than births – in the 2000-2007 period.

Nevertheless, the most exceptional feature of the United States remains its unusually high level of natural increase, and significant degree of population growth.  read more »