Urban Issues

New Index Estimates New House Cost Impact of Land Regulation


In recent decades, an unprecedented variation has developed in the price of new tract housing on the fringe of US metropolitan markets. Nearly all of this difference is in costs other than site preparation and construction, which indicates rising land and regulation costs.  read more »

The Real OC: Diverse, Dynamic and — Dare I Say — Progressive


I recently returned to Orange County after a decade’s absence, fully aware that a stereotype of all-white, card-carrying-John Birchers still exists among many who remain unfamiliar with facts on the ground here.

I never bought that old saw in the first place.

And now, on a second venture into OC, I’m amazed by how deeply those old stereotypes have been buried under the accumulated accomplishments of everyday folks.  read more »

The Privatization-Industrial Complex


“I think this is just the latest way for people to make money off state and local governments. This is the new way the investment banks, their lawyers, and consultants squeeze the taxpayers....They’re going around making these deals, and it’s very lucrative. It’s like a circus coming to town.” - Clint Krislov

Privatization has long been advocated by many conservatives as a good government measure. Traditionally, privatization was used a tool that subjects government monopolies to competition from the marketplace, driving down costs and improving quality of service. Privatization pioneer Steve Goldsmith, former mayor of Indianapolis and now deputy mayor of New York City, used to apply what he called the “Yellow Pages test.” If he could open the Yellow Pages and find several companies providing a service, he wondered why government should be in that business.  read more »

Suburban Nation, but Urban Political Strategy


Ideologues may set the tone for the national debate, but geography and demography determine elections.

In America, the dominant geography continues to be suburbia – home to at least 60 percent of the population and probably more than that portion of the electorate. Roughly 220 congressional districts, or more than half the nation’s 435, are predominately suburban, according to a 2005 Congressional Quarterly study. This is likely to only increase in the next decade, as Millennials begin en masse to enter their 30s and move to the periphery.  read more »

Portland's Runaway Debt Train


Tri-Met, the operator of Portland's (Oregon) bus and light rail system has been in the news lately, and in less than auspicious ways. For decades, the Portland area’s media – as well as much of the national press – has been filled with stories about the national model that Tri-Met has created, especially with its five light rail lines.  read more »

A Price on Carbon: the New Greenmail


Hidden from view during the Australian election, a carbon price is back on the political agenda. This comes as no surprise. Anyone following the debate, however, will see that it has nothing to do with the environment. For some time we have been urged to “act now”, but the grounds keep shifting and changing. Early on it was the drought. Then the Great Barrier Reef. After that the Bali Conference. Then the election of Barack Obama. Next came the Copenhagen Conference. Then being “left behind” in clean technology. Now, apparently, “inaction will cost more in the end”.  read more »

Living In Denial About Transportation Funding


The reaction of various advocacy groups to President Obama’s recent call for a $50 billion stimulus spending plan for transportation infrastructure was predictable. They applauded the President’s initiative and thought that Congress should promptly approve the spending request. The benefits of investing in infrastructure are undisputable and the need for funds is urgent and compelling, they (or their press releases) proclaimed.  read more »

Who’s Racist Now? Europe’s Increasing Intolerance


With the rising tide of terrorist threats across Europe, one can somewhat understandably expect a   surge in Islamophobia across the West. Yet in a contest to see which can be more racist, one would be safer to bet on Europe than on the traditional bogeyman, the United States.

One clear indicator of how flummoxed Europeans have become about diversity were the remarks last week by German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying that multi-culturalism has “totally failed” in her country, the richest and theoretically  most capable of absorbing immigrants. “We feel tied to Christian values,” the Chancellor said. “Those who don’t accept them don’t have a place here.”  read more »

Chicago’s Eroding Competitive Performance (Chicago vs. New York)


A lot of my thinking on Chicago has been shaped by an overarching view of its performance. Believe it or not, I used to be a huge Chicago cheerleader. I don’t think there’s any doubt that during the 1990’s, Chicago rediscovered its mojo and was really tearing up the charts of performance for big cities. But something changed in the mid-2000’s. I date it to the opening of Millennium Park. Millennium Park was a huge home run for the city, and obviously a key positive part of Mayor Daley’s legacy, no matter what the cost over runs.  read more »


The Future of a Hub: Can Singapore Stay On Top of the Game?


Viewed from a broad, historical perspective, Singapore’s position as a hub is far from inevitable or unassailable. History shows that hubs come and go. Malacca used to be the centre of the spice trade in Southeast Asia. Venice was the centre of East-West trade throughout the Middle Ages. Rangoon, now Yangon, was the aviation hub of Southeast Asia before 1962.  read more »