Driving Farther to Qualify in Portland


Portland has been among the world leaders in urban containment policy. And, as would be predicted by basic economics, Portland has also suffered from serious housing cost escalation, as its median multiple (median house price divided by median household income) has risen from a normal 3.0 in 1995 to 4.8 in 2014.  read more »

Some Progressives Grow Disillusioned with Democracy


Left-leaning authors often maintain that conservatives “hate democracy,” and, historically, this is somewhat true. “The political Right,” maintains the progressive economist and columnist Paul Krugman, “has always been uncomfortable with democracy.”

But today it’s progressives themselves who, increasingly, are losing faith in democracy. Indeed, as the Obama era rushes to a less-than-glorious end, important left-of-center voices, like Matt Yglesias, now suggest that “democracy is doomed.”

Yglesias correctly blames “the breakdown of American constitutional democracy” on both Republicans and Democrats; George W. Bush expanded federal power in the field of national defense while Barack Obama has done it mostly on domestic issues. Other prominent progressives such as American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner have made similar points, even quoting Italian wartime fascist leader Benito Mussolini about the inadequacy of democracy.  read more »


A Fix for California Water Policy


Critics of California’s current water policy advocate more infrastructure spending on things like dams, canals, and desalination plants.  Many would also curtail water releases for the benefit of fish and other wildlife.

Certainly, infrastructure spending would be better than wasting money on the governor’s high-speed-train fantasy.  However, California cannot spend enough money on water infrastructure to prevent water shortages.  And, solving California’s water shortage does not require an end to “dumping water” to save fish.  read more »

America’s Cities Mirror Baltimore’s Woes


The rioting that swept Baltimore the past few days, sadly, was no exception, but part of a bigger trend in some of our core cities towards social and economic collapse. Rather than enjoying the much ballyhooed urban “renaissance,” many of these cities are actually in terrible shape, with miserable schools, struggling economies and a large segmented of alienated, mostly minority youths.  read more »

Silicon Valley: Jelly in the Jam


My last post was about how Silicon Valley is evolving into an urban form that’s not quite leafy and open enough to be a suburb anymore, but not really vibrant and compact enough to be a proper city either. “Too thin to be jelly. Too thick to be jam.” The story got an unusually large number of visits. I received some well informed comments that touched on the reality that Silicon Valley is a big place and I shouldn’t generalize. Palo Alto is very different from Fremont and so on.  read more »

Building a New California

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The Golden State has historically led the United States and the world in technology, quality of life, social innovation, entertainment, and public policy. But in recent decades its lead has ebbed. The reasons for this are various. But there is one area of decay whose story is a parable for California’s other plights—that area is infrastructure.  read more »

America's Mid-Sized Metropolitan Areas


The United States has 53 mid-sized metropolitan areas, with populations from 500,000 to 1 million. These metropolitan areas together had a population of nearly 38 million in 2014, according to the most recent Census Bureau population estimates (Table). In number, they match the 53 major metropolitan areas (over 1 million population), though they have only one fifth of the population (178 million).  read more »

When it Comes to Technology Privacy, the Eyes Have It


Back when integrated circuits were safely ensconced in missiles, spacecraft and machine tools, information technology could take us to the moon or build better cars, but – as long as they didn’t blow us up – they didn’t seem destined to strip away the last of our humanity. But as information technology has emerged as a factor in everyday life, the threat to our autonomy and privacy as individuals has mounted.  read more »


Global Cities in the 21st Century: a Chicago Model?


As America’s “third” city, Chicago competes for international attention against the usual rivals: New York and Los Angeles. Even San Francisco, next to Silicon Valley, claims prominence for its cutting-edge industries and progressive culture. Ultimately, though, Chicago’s domestic peers have global status through definitive leadership in industries with visibility and impact (New York in finance, Los Angeles in entertainment, Houston in energy, and San Francisco in technology and innovation). Chicago has dim prospects of replicating such undisputable competitive advantages, but it may not need to.  read more »

The Simulated City Vs The Urban Downtown


While the city’s star is rising in popular literature, it has fallen in popular usage. Where have our sidewalks gone—and why is sidewalk activity disappearing?  read more »