Urban Issues

Baseball Goes For Broke

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Other than the banking business, is there an industry more dependent on government handouts, sweetheart tax breaks, and accounting gimmicks than major league baseball?

What other than a baseball depletion allowance explains the economics of a team like the New York Yankees, which is paying Alex Rodriguez $275 million over ten years while building a new $1.3 billion stadium and charging front row season tickets holders $800,000 for a box of four seats?  read more »

Losing Touch With the Changing Definition of "Community"

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Mathew Taunton opens his review of “The Future of Community – Reports of a Death Greatly Exaggerated” (Note 1) with the observation that:

“Community is one of the most powerful words in the language, and perhaps because of this it is frequently misused. A profoundly emotive word, it is also a coercive one, and a key political buzzword in modern times. That community is being eroded in modern Britain is a matter of cross-party consensus, and it is also widely agreed that one of the state’s roles is to devise means of counteracting the decline of communities.”  read more »

Traffic Congestion, Time, Money & Productivity

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It is an old saying, but true as ever: “Time is money.” A company that can produce quality products in less time than its competitors is likely to be more profitable and productive. An urban area where employees travel less time to get to work is likely to be more productive than one where travel times are longer, all things being equal. Productivity is a principal aim of economic policy. Productivity means greater economic growth, greater job creation and less poverty.  read more »

California Golden Dreams

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California may yet be a civilization that is too young to have produced its Thucydides or Edward Gibbon, but if it has, the leading candidate would be Kevin Starr. His eight-part “Dream” series on the evolution of the Golden State stands alone as the basic comprehensive work on California. Nothing else comes remotely close.  read more »

Olympics the Chicago Way

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Most American cities chose not to bid on the 2016 summer Olympics and with good reason. With the exception of the 1984 Los Angeles games, the Olympics has proved a big time money loser in city after city. More often than not, it has been staged more for the prestige – think of Berlin in 1936 or China in 2008 – it brings to regimes, particularly autocratic ones.

In Chicago, prestige is important, but graft is the real king. In Chicago, one of the most corrupt big cities, the Olympics represents, more than anything, a grand chance for a giant heist.  read more »

Cap And Trade And The Smog Market Ripoff

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Now that Senators have reconvened from summer hiatus, one of their first tasks will be to contemplate the greenhouse-gas cap-and-trade carbon market that President Obama would like to institute to blunt global warming. Their necks better be limber. Partisans of Keynesian, market-based regulations will undoubtedly point to the Midwest's federally run "acid rain" program to reduce harmful power-plant emissions as proof that giving industry profit incentives in cleaning up their operations can be successful.  read more »

Vertical Urban Farming? Pull Your Head from the Clouds

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Dickson D. Desposmmier, in a recent op-ed in the New York Times, argues that the world, faced with increasing billions of mouths to feed, will soon run out of land. According to Mr. Despommier, “the traditional soil-based farming model developed over the last 12,000 years will no longer be a sustainable option.”

Despommier’s answer to this ‘problem’: “move most farming into cities, and grow crops in tall, specially constructed buildings.” Such vertical farms, argues Despommier, would “revolutionize and improve urban life,” while also addressing issues such as agricultural runoff, air pollution, and carbon emissions.

To sophisticated urbanites with little or no exposure to agriculture, vertical farming may seem to present a sort of utopian panacea. But first one must look at the underlying problem Mr. Despommier claims to address: land shortages.  read more »

Hard Times In The High Desert

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The High Desert region north and east of Los Angeles sits 3,000 feet above sea level. A rough, often starkly beautiful region of scrubby trees, wide vistas and brooding brown mountains, the region seems like a perfect setting for an old Western shoot 'em up.

Today, it's the stage for a different kind of battle, one that involves a struggle over preserving the American dream. For years, the towns of the High Desert--places like Victorville, Adelanto, Hesperia, Barstow and Apple Valley--have lured thousands of working- and middle-class Californians looking for affordable homes.  read more »

Smart Growth Must Not Ignore Drivers

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For the time being, battles over health care and energy seem likely to occupy the attention of both the Obama administration and its critics. Yet although now barely on the radar, there may be another, equally critical conflict developing over how Americans live and travel.

Right now this potential flash point has been relegated to the back burner, as Congress is likely to put any major transportation spending initiative on hold for at least a year, and perhaps longer. This also may be a symptom of mounting concerns over the deficit. Financing major changes in transportation, for example, would probably require higher federal fuel taxes, which would not fly amid a weak economy.  read more »

The Costs of Climate Change Strategies, Who Will Tell People?

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Not for the first time, reality and politics may be on a collision course. This time it’s in respect to the costs of strategies intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Waxman-Markey “cap and trade” bill still awaits consideration by the US Senate, interest groups – mainly rapid transit, green groups and urban land owners – epitomized by the “Moving Cooler” coalition but they are already “low-balling” the costs of implementation.  read more »