Are Special Service Districts a Boon or a Bane?

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America’s cities have been under fiscal pressure for an extended period of time. To cope with this, and better manage assets, they’ve increasingly turned to various forms of special purpose districts or entities for service delivery. Traditional independent service districts such as sewer districts or transit districts were often designed to circumvent bonding limits or to deliver services regionally, so were larger in scale. These newer service districts are much smaller in scope. They consist of two basic components:  read more »

High Speed Rail Decision: Victory for Rule of Law

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California Judge Michael Kenny has barred state bond funding for the California high speed rail system, finding that “the state's High-Speed Rail Authority failed to follow voter-approved requirements designed to prevent reckless spending on the $68 billion project.” These protections had been an important in securing voter approval of a $10 billion bond issue in 2008. Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters suggested that without the protections in Proposition 1A, the measure “probably would have failed” to obtain voter approval.  read more »

Silicon Valley is No Model for America

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Its image further enhanced by the recent IPO of Twitter, Silicon Valley now stands in many minds as the cutting edge of the American future. Some, on both right and left, believe that the Valley's geeks should reform the nation, and the government, in their image.  read more »

The Revolt Against Urban Gentry

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The imminent departure of New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and his replacement by leftist Bill DeBlasio, represents an urban uprising against the Bloombergian  “luxury city” and the growing income inequality it represents. Bloomberg epitomized an approach that sought to cater  to the rich—most prominently Wall Street—as a means to both finance development growth and collect enough shekels to pay for services needed by the poor.  read more »

Moving to the Heart of Europe

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Europe's demographic dilemma is well known. Like East Asia and to a lesser degree most of the Western Hemisphere, Europe's birth rates have fallen so far that the population is becoming unable to replenish itself. At the same time, longer  life spans have undermined the poulation’s ability to withstand a growing  old age dependency ratio, challenging the financial ability (and perhaps even willingness) of a smaller relative workforce in the decades to come.  read more »

Los Angeles: Will The City Of The Future Make It There?

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When I arrived in Los Angeles almost 40 years ago, there was a palpable sense that here, for better or worse, lay the future of America, and even the world. Los Angeles dominated so many areas — film, international trade, fashion, manufacturing, aerospace — that its ascendency seemed assured. Even in terms of the urban form, L.A.’s car-dominated, multipolar configuration was being imitated almost everywhere; it was becoming, as one writer noted, “the original in the Xerox” machine.  read more »

From Balkanized Cleveland to Global Cleveland: A Theory of Change for Legacy Cities

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Legacy cities have legacy costs, including disinvestment from the inner city, as well as regional economic decline. The spiral has been ongoing for decades. The new white paper by consultants Richey Piiparinen and Jim Russell entitled “From Balkanized Cleveland to Global Cleveland”, funded by the Cleveland-based neighborhood non-profit Ohio City Inc., examines the systemic reasons behind legacy city decline, all the while charting a path to possible solutions.  read more »

Is Economic Development Dead?

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When Bill De Blasio won New York’s mayoral election a few weeks ago, it came as no surprise to anyone. His impassioned analogies to New York’s “Tale of Two Cities” and his call for a city that provided not just for the wealthiest one or two percent, but for all, appealed to the growing sense that New York is an increasingly unfair and unequal place.  read more »

Progressive Policies Burden the Yeoman Class

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Obamacare's first set of victims was predictable: the self-employed and owners of small businesses. Since the bungled launch of the health insurance enrollment system, hundreds of thousands of self-insured people have either had their policies revoked or may find themselves in that situation in the coming months.  read more »

Biking New York City: The Handlebar Tour

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In case it has been a while since you have ridden a bicycle around Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn or Queens — as I have in recent weeks — here is a shortlist of some developments around New York City: midtown sidewalks are overflowing with tourists and too narrow for the pedestrian flow (especially around the many Elmos posing in Times Square); the South Bronx, while still very poor, has an emerging middle class; cruise ships dock in Red Hook, Brooklyn, on the same piers that were once the provenance of gangland; potholes and deteriorating asphalt are everywhere, despite Mayor Michael Blo  read more »

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